Category Archives: Inspiration

Videos and articles to inspire the creative teacher.

Apple’s App makes it possible for teachers to publish their own e-texts

Apple has made a foray into the realm of e-texts, setting traditional textbook publishers squarely in their sights. In addition to including a number of advanced digital digital resources for students and educations, they have just released an ebook publishing app that will allow teachers to publish their class materials as books on ibooks.  In fact, any author can self-publish there and sell their books.

Check out this article on the subject.

There have been some criticisms already however, a key one being the proprietary nature of the app and the books it will produce.  In order to use the iBooks Author app, you:

  1. Must have an Mac (it isn’t available for any other platform)
  2. Must be willing to sign over exclusive distribution rights to the iBooks store (your book will never be available on other devices or ebook sellers).
  3. Your readers must be using an Apple device to read it (the final books will not be accessible to users on the Andriod, Kobo, Nook, Kindle, and other platforms).

It can be a high price to pay, but make it very clear that Apple is not doing all of this for free – if they can convince schools to get on board with the program and begin making their own resources using iBooks Author, then they will effectively gain a monopoly on sales of eReaders to schools – a stated agenda of many boards, including the TDSB, is to reduce dependence on physical textbooks in favour of etexts and digital readers – and gain a strangle-hold on a lucrative market.

The proprietary nature iBooks Author, and the intense restrictions, have led me to investigate other ebook creation tools.  I stumbled across a number, but am most interested in Sigil, an open source, multi-platform tool.  I’ll update you on what I discover about the program after I’ve had some time to play with it.

To see the iBooks Author app in action, check out this Gizmodo article.

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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Inspiration


Zombies Run – Augmented Reality Game

A game that is just about to come out in the new year combines the ideas of Gamification, as expressed by Gabe Zichermann in his TED Talk, with augmented reality.  While Zombies Run may not be a good educational tool itself, it does demonstrate tremendously well the motivation and engagement factor that game-like environments can bring.  Games are looking to become integrated with our lives in ways we never expected even just a few years ago, and there are ways to cash in on the benefits of game-like environments in education.  Games add a motivation and engagement factor that teachers dream of having in their classes, but not every concept can be taught through a game.  That’s where exploring the principles of games come in.

Zombies Run is not a video game, at least not in a traditional sense.  You aren’t on a couch, with a controller, trying to “level up” a digital character.  It uses the concepts that make games compelling to turn the user into the character – allowing the individual to level themselves up through self-improvement rather than expend that energy on an digital avatar.

Take a look at what is planned for the 2012 release of the game:

If you’re thinking, “yeah, so?  How will this help my class?”, you need to expand you vision to the bigger picture.  You may not be trying get kids to run more (though obesity statistics suggest this might not be a bad idea either), but if you consider how we could translate the successful ideas of this game into more educational contexts the potential is endless.

Consider the possibilities:

  • A grade 9 orientation app that detects where a student is in the building and helps them to locate supports and resources in the building.
  • A living museum app that teaches kids about the heritage of their community by using GPS to alert them to the history of locations in their community.
  • An eco game that encourages students to recycle by giving them points each time they use a receptacle.
  • A social media game that encourages students to help each other with homework for digital rewards.

With so many possibilities, it seems almost criminal not to explore at least a few.  Some ideas for the programming club anyone?  🙂

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Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Game-based Learning, Inspiration


Literacy & Your Future
(sorry the embed code isn’t working and circumventing using gigya is breaking my template, so we’re going to have to do with a dull link.)

I put together a quiz prezi on the importance of reading based on The Value of Words: Literacy and Economic Security in Canada (1998).  One of the charts is taken from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, because I couldn’t find the comparable Canadian data.

It should drive home the importance of establishing good reading habits at an early age, and hopefully encourage grade 9 and 10 students to step up their efforts to ensure good education and careers in the future.

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Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Inspiration



My wife sent me a video yesterday of a TED Talk by Gabe Zichermann, of the Gamification Blog, talking about how educational games may be the best way to teach the stimulation-craved generation “G”.  Zichermann gets rather excited about the possibilities here and may stretch his argument a little at points, but the overall message that the “kids are alright”, and are capable of learning with the right techniques, definitely inspire.

Check out the talk, get inspired, and maybe try out an educational game in one of your classes:

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Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Game-based Learning, Inspiration


2011 Horizon Report K-12

The 2011 Horizon Report K-12 has been posted to the New Media Consortium’s Website, and it has the writing that’s on everyone’s wall in education these days: Cloud Computing and Mobile Devices are imminent in K-12 education, listed as 1 year or less to implementation.

I happen to know that the TDSB is experimenting with moving the load for office applications and even the OS itself off of the individual computers and into the “cloud”, which will surely be a test of our network infrastructure, but might save enormously on the cost computers.

I, for one, am excited about the possibilities and potentials of both these developments, but they are not without their causes for due concern.  With so much now riding on our network, will the infrastructure be able to handle it?  I know from speaking to elementary colleagues, that moving to web-based reporting has been a nightmare – slow-downs and hanging connections being the major headache, as thousands of teachers try to complete reports at the same time, straining the network capacity.

Cell phones are another very contentious issue.  While I feel I am easily able to adapt my pedagogy to suit the new TDSB direction, I know there are others who will be disappointed by the decision to allow cell phones in school.  There are a number of excellent teaching opportunities that come from this, but there is also a great deal of trepidation, fears of increased distraction amongst an already distracted and disengaged student body, and risks of cheating on traditional tests and assignments.

My personal belief is that we have already been dealing with these fears, as students have been widely ignoring the old board ruling that forbade the devices in the first place.  The new board ruling still allows teachers the discretion to ban the devices whenever they feel it detracts from student learning, but it also allows teachers such as myself, who have been dying to exploit these valuable resources for all they are worth, to do just that.

Everything must begin with teaching appropriate use – this is a teachable skill, and a very necessary one if what I’m hearing from university experiences are any indication.  Our students will graduate, go on to own Smart Phones, and if we don’t teach them about appropriate use, there could be major ramifications for their post secondary achievement and/or future careers.  Let’s teach our students how to be polite phone users, engaging and paying attention when appropriate, and using their phones only when it is acceptable to do so.  We can teach the good habits our students lack, and in my opinion, we have an obligation to do so.

One part to getting students to buy in is to allow them to use their devices – as dictionaries in English class, to reference Google Earth for geography, to pull dates and figures from the web in a history class, to record the results of an experiment in science.  We can even use these devices to conduct multiple choice diagnostic tests using websites like Poll Everywhere, share calendars with due dates, and (god forbid), tweet or text reminders to the class for field trips and special events.

If we leverage everything that students are bringing to school in their pockets, we stand a much better chance of getting to that coveted 1:1 ratio of students to devices needed for paperless classrooms, e-texts, and full integration of IT throughout the school curriculum.

Let’s take from the report the positives of these changing times, and approach our challenges as necessary to reap the extensive rewards in the end.

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Posted by on May 25, 2011 in Inspiration


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I was cruising the ICT conference today for new articles and ideas to use with my IT and Innovative Learning students, when I came across a fascinating article about a lego-style network multiplayer game called Minecraft.  A teacher by the name of Joel Levin has effectively used the game environment as a teaching tool with Grade 1 and 2 students.  I applaud his courage in implementing this, especially with such young children.

You can read the Ars Technica article here.

Levin has his own blog as well, The Minecraft Teacher.

Finally, I checked out the minecraft website, to see that there is a free version of their older software, along with server software to allow you to host your own games in a controlled environment (essential for education).

Following Levin’s own advice, I am not about to try to adopt this in any haste – I’ll take a look at it over the summer to become comfortable and confident before leaping into a classroom application of the software.

Exciting things are afoot in game-based education.


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Popplet – Web 2.0 Graphic Organizers

There’s some absolutely fantastic stuff being done with Popplet right now, and accounts are free.

Popplet is a web-based collaborative mind-mapping software capable of creating flow charts, graphic organizers, and other visual aids.  It incorporates the best of the Web 2.0 world – it allows for collaborative editing, can be shared easily, and pulls in rich content from Youtube and other websites.

It is to softwares like Inspiration and Smart Ideas, what Prezi is to Powerpoint.

I have some examples here. I’ll post a warning to other wordpress users trying to do the same thing: you need to use gigya code to embed them, the embed code that popplet uses won’t work in wordpress.

Instructions are here

At any rate, some work my ICT students did in 20 minutes today:

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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Inspiration, Resources


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