Archive | February, 2011

A world of pod-abilities

26 Feb

I’m starting to develop a slight inferiority complex because it seems that every post I write for the course I’m currently registered in starts with “Since I didn’t know anything about  (insert topic of the week) , I had to do a lot of research.” And, yet again, this is how my post starts. Sigh.

This week, Twitter came to my rescue riding on a white horse! At the beginning of the week, Steven W. Anderson (aka @web2.0classroom) tweeted Kit Hard’s education and technology related blog (Hard, 2010). On November 15, 2010, Hard wrote A Teacher’s Guide to Using Audio and Podcasting in the Classroom. This post is complete with a helpful chart of the audio and podcasting resources available and videos demonstrating the use of each one! After viewing each of the videos, I chose to spend this week exploring Audacity as a recording and editing program.

I enlisted my husband’s help to create my podcast. One of the things that I love about him are the accents that he can do; they always manage to cheer me up when I’m feeling down. In order to keep things somewhat educational, I asked him to record himself reading Sandra Boynton’s “The Going to Bed Book” in his Three Little Pigs accent (yes, the accents all have names). I used Editing for Beginners: Part Two Cut, Copy and Paste to select the areas that I wanted to keep and take out the audio where some impromptu Ernie from Sesame Street happened (though I kept that in a personal file for myself to listen to when I need a pick-me-up).

I was left with a simple audio file that would have been good enough until I started to reminisce about the good ol’ days of my childhood. I used to sit for hours with my little red record player and accompanying books and play them over and over again. Each time the page needed to be turned, there was a lovely chiming noise. That was what I needed for my audio file! Jeff of suggests using Microsoft Clip Art for simple sound effects. I found that their selection was satisfactory but a little bit frustrating because the titles for some sound effects are not an accurate description of the audio. For example, they classify this as a lullaby. I don’t know who puts babies to sleep with that!

I was ready to attach the mp3 or wave file to my blog but first I needed to upload it to a hosting program. I was unsure about where I wanted to put it so I turned to Learn It In 5 (2010).

Audioboo is a simple and easy to use program. After only a few clicks I had an account and had uploaded my file.

Step #1: Create an account

Step #2: Add a boo

Step #3: Upload a file

Step #4: Get the embed code (It is also easy to tweet the file, share it with Facebook or add it to iTunes)

So… drum roll please… here is my final product!

Now that I’ve had experience with creating my own podcast, how can I use podcasting in my personal life and in my teaching? Well, I’ll be honest, I think I will use it more in my teaching than in my personal life. I have a very hard time with auditory learning, so listening to podcasts does not really appeal to me. I prefer to see videos of topics that I am learning about (ex. using Adobe InDesign, sewing zippers, starting vegetables from seed) and I will probably continue to use that mode for my own learning.

However, I think podcasting is a fabulous resource for classroom teachers! While doing this research, I have found some fabulous sites that I have sent to the teachers in my school: The Education Podcast NetworkCBC PodcastsEducation Podcasts and Podiobooks. These sites have some amazing content and they cover all of the subject areas that are taught in high school. Teachers can find a podcast that fits their area of interest and subscribe to it through their iTunes account. Choosing to automatically sync their iPod to their iTunes means that every time they plug their iPod into their account, the new podcasts will automatically be added for them to listen to at their earliest convenience (Richardson, 2010).

If I have a classroom again I will definitely be podcasting with my students! I can only imagine the creative things that they would come up with to show their learning through this mode. Kerilee Beasley (2009) has a list of ways to use Audacity in your classroom like recording a radio show or taping the kids as they read aloud. I can imagine having my intermediate class create a tailored listening lab for a kindergarten or grade one classroom based on the books that the teacher owns. I would also love to record the read-alouds that I do in class when I’m teaching or put readers’ theatre productions up on a classroom blog. It would be exciting to have a student-created podcast of our classroom events each week.

I wish that I had known how to use podcasting and audio recording last year when I was teaching a student with serious reading difficulties. I would sit with him, read the instructions and questions, and then scribe his responses. Hard’s blog (2010) outlines the steps to embed audio into a Microsoft Word document. Recording the instructions for the student and enabling him to record his answers would have made things so much easier! I’m glad that I will have this knowledge under my belt for the future.

Other sites to check out:



Beasley, K. (2009). 10 great ways to use Audacity with your students. Retrieved on February 22, 2011 from

Caddick, J. (2008). Free music and sound effects for podcasts. Retrieved on February 21, 2011 from

Hard, K. (2010). Ed tech kit: Be the change. Retrieved on February 20, 2011 from

Learn It In 5. (2010). How to video: Using the all-in-one podcasting application Audioboo. Retrieved on February 22, 2011 from

Ovadia, M. (2010). Poducate me: Practical solutions for podcasting in education. Retrieved on February 23, 2011 from

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.


You need enough light to read

25 Feb

After our library reshuffle, the addition of the couch and the movement of the fiction spinners, there was a large (ugly) cream wall that was an eyesore. It is the first thing that you see when you walk into the fiction area. Not super inviting. It had to change.




So, of course, it has been driving me nuts. I started searching on Craigslist and found some chairs for the space. It was very Goldilocks; some were too big, some were too small and some were uglier than the bare wall. Then the perfect chair came along – and it was only $15! A steal!


Comfy without stealing all of the space or blocking the books.


But a chair wasn’t enough. I hit up IKEA and found a lamp stand on sale. So now the chair has a friend.


"Friends laugh together, ha ha ha ha. Friends make graphs together, la la la la." -Flight of the Concords


Unfortunately, I wasn’t done. I’ve had visions of a book lamp for weeks now so I wanted to make it happen. Today, I lugged in my husband’s drill and drill bit set, my dad’s clamps, and some old books. Mission: drill holes through the books.


Drill bits

Plus clamps

Plus drill

Equals mess

Plus book with hole


I reassessed after this first book was done. The drill had a faint burnt odor, the table was full of little bits of paper and I had students in the study area glaring at me every time I started up the drill. Time for Plan B.

I borrowed a glue gun from one of the art teachers in our school (the same one who helped his kids create the art that went up in the library. Don’t remember it? Check it out here) and pulled out all of our weeded books. The books looked like a  hot mess in the box. There were too many different colours on the spines. I noticed that we had a ridiculous number of books with black spines and that the title and author names really popped.

I started stacking and, once the glue gun was introduced into the story, I was committed.


Here goes nothing

Mess-maker, mess-maker, make me a mess!

A work in progress

On the way up!


It took awhile but here is the final product. I love it!


Yessir. That is a nice looking lamp. Very "library appropriate".

A chair surrounded by books. Heaven.


Now for that space above the chair. I feel like it is just screaming for some custom artwork….

Sometimes my eyes just glaze over

23 Feb

I’ve been thinking about my reading habits lately – mostly just because I haven’t had much time to read lately and I miss it. Upon reflection, this comment is strange since I read all day every day for the Web 2.0 course that I’m in. I actually spend way too much time on my computer with multiple windows open at all times. I consider myself to have accomplished a large feat when I only have 3 windows open at any given time. So even though I am constantly reading, my reading is different. I find that when I read online I am loath to read a full paragraph. I am easily distracted and forever checking Facebook, Google Reader or the weather forecast.

Reading a book is the opposite of this. I read a book to escape. I can sit for hours curled up on the couch in front of the large picture window in my living room while my dog naps beside me. Or I read while I enjoy a walk (also with my dog).

Last week I put aside some time to enjoy a novel. I have a stack of novels from the library that I keep putting off. So I took a walk and read.

Books I enjoyed:

4 STARS (Open endings kill me!)

3 STARS (Took a long time to get going but has some great language)

4 STARS (Some great quotes and had me thinking about it afterwards)


Next on my list are:

I am fascinated by other people's brains and how they work so I am really looking forward to reading this one.

I’m listening to this as an audiobook in my car. It makes driving around the city a lot more bearable.
I also have some books that I’ve read that I want to read again. Soon.


Better Bookmarks

22 Feb

This is how I keep track of websites that I like:

I love being able to file away a snapshot of the website in my “important papers” binder under the corresponding topic. To atone for the waste of paper, I say a small prayer for each tree that has been sacrificed for my enjoyment of this organizational system.
For my Web2.0 course this week I had to learn all about social bookmarking. To learn about the topic, I watched Social Bookmarking in Plain English.

It was a good starting point and inspired me to create a Delicious account. However, after a few days of use, I was still printing out screenshots and filing them away in my binder because Delicious did not agree with my predominantly visual learning style. 

Delicious allows users to save websites with a series of user generated tags (keywords). The bookmarks are  then filed by tag and date. My difficulty with Delicious was that I could never remember the websites by name alone and I would have to reopen each of them. One way to remedy this is to create notes for each page, but that takes time, and time is what I don’t have a lot of these days. (I’m also nervous to invest more time in Delicious because of rumours that Yahoo is selling the site  (Tsotsis, 2009) and who knows what will happen to everything I have accumulated.)

I kept looking for more information about social bookmarking, convinced that there had to be a better way. I perused an overview of social bookmarking (Educause Learning Initiative, 2005), enjoyed a quick tour of other services (Jackson, 2009), and read Crane’sUsing Web 2.0 Tools in the K-12 Classroom (2009). Finally, while reading Richardson (2010), I found Diigo!

Since my learning style is so visual, I knew Diigo would be the perfect fit for me. I had bookmarked Diigo in Delicious (ironic) and I had intended to go back and check it out later, but this was my motivation – Diigo has a tab which opens a website preview without navigating away from your Diigo page.

To learn more about Diigo, I watched their clear and informative introductory videos and quickly felt like a pro at the site (an indication that the videos are very well done).

Diigo also made the transfer of my Delicious bookmarks easy with step-by-step instructions for exporting Delicious bookmarks in an idiot-proof process. But best of all, now when I save a site in Diigo it automatically links to Delicious and ensures that the same link is saved there as well! Genius. I am in favour of any site that does the work for me. 

In an attempt to seem invaluable to the teachers in my school, I have been putting learning links onto the website as shameless self-promotion. However, I have run into difficulty when linking to our EBSCO database and it is confusing to try to lead students to the location (and it takes way more than the suggested 3 clicks). Searching on Diigo allows me to find the sites behind the password and save them for kids to view. If students want to expand their search they can simply enter the school’s username and password and continue their search within EBSCO. Perfect! 

I set up a Diigo account for school use (separate from my personal account for the same reason that I have two Facebook acccouts) and bookmarked some sites for a teacher’s upcoming Humanities 8 project. Diigo was so simple to figure out that I easily created alist for the sites and exported it to Blogger. Within minutes I had the link posted on my school library site. I tried adding annotations but I didn’t like that other people’s annotations also show up when students access the site through the Diigo bookmark list.

It is also possible to set up an educator account in Diigo where you can create private groups and share bookmarks within the group (Wylie, 2010). This isn’t useful for me in the position I’m in this year but it is definitely something that I will look into if I enroll a classroom in the future!

Finally, I have to mention one thing that disturbs me – the sharing aspect of social bookmarking. Richardson (2010) and Crane (2009) both tout social bookmarking as an indispensable researching tool where you can save bookmarked sites (great!), search other people’s bookmarked sites (okay) and even get RSS feeds when select people add new bookmarks (and this is where I become uncomfortable).

I do understand how social bookmarking can help find research. I love reading bibliographies to find further references but these people have published their work with the intention of having it viewed, referred to and critiqued. I feel like my bookmarks should not have to stand up to the same sort of dissection.

I view my bookmarks as akin to my closet. I have some things that I want to have people see and other items that are more personal. Using social bookmarking and making any links public is just like inviting anyone and everyone to take a browse through your closet. I can just hear it now… “I’m sure that site makes her hips look huge” or “Who does she think she is looking at that site?” Who knows what people are thinking? Who knows who is traipsing through my bookmark closet? Creepy. 

Oh well, at the end of the day, the pros of social bookmarking greatly outweigh the cons and I have officially become a convert.

For further investigation (when time allows):


Crane, B. E. (2009). Using Web 2.0 Tools in the K-12 Classroom. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers Inc.

Educause Learning Initiative (2005). 7 things you should know about social bookmarking. Retrieved on February 8, 2011 from

Hendron, J. (2010). Developing info-seeking vocabulary. Learning & Leading with Technology, 38(2), 32-33.

Jackson, L. (2009). Sites to see: Social bookmarking. Retrieved on February 8, 2011 from

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Richardson, W. (2009) New reading, new writing. Retrieved on February 10, 2011 from

Tsotsis, A. (2010). Is Yahoo shutting down Del.ici.ous? Retrieved on February 8, 2011 from

Wylie, J. (2010). Teaching social bookmarking with Diigo education. Retrieved on February 11, 2011 from

The library’s mani-pedi

21 Feb

I think that signage is like a person’s fingernails. It is not something that you notice at first but it can seriously put you off when you realize that they are not as nice as you would expect. Well, our library has had a makeover this year so now it is time for a signage mani-pedi.

The signs needed to be recreated after our reshuffle but it was on the back burner while I completed other tasks. For quite awhile our signs were just pink post-it notes. Now, I’ll be honest – maybe I subconsciously didn’t want to change them because I love all things pink and post-it notes have a special place in my heart. Well, maybe it wasn’t really a subconscious thing after all. But the post-its have come down.

(I have a very dear friend who loves Before and After photos so, Des, this is for you.)

Here are the old signs…

In my haste to get rid of this hideous sign, I didn't remember to photograph it until it was already in the garbage can. It is just so gross. When I took it down I realized that the beige colour actually used to be pink. Shocking.

The signs were all simple type on a blue background. They were okay but not amazing.

Most of them were starting to curl up which made them look a little messy.

Here it is now…

The English non-fiction books all have green signs. They are nice and bright and easy to read from across the room.

French books all have orange signs and the French teacher resources are a lovely royal blue.

Here is a new pink sign for the English teacher resources (no more beige!)

The signs are clear, bright and help to make the library more modern and relevant.

I love "afters."

One more look at the change:



Much better!

Art in the Library

17 Feb

One of our art teachers is responsible for the gorgeous artwork posted on the bulletin boards in the library right now. It is so beautiful and the talent of the kids blows me away. The work that this teacher is doing with the kids is so impressive. You can tell that they are learning a lot from him. The assignment was to work with colour and pair a life-like image with a patterned background in opposite colours. The colours and the details in the resulting art pieces are stunning!

On the downside, I do blame the students for my lack of productivity throughout the day because I catch myself doing nothing but staring at the artwork. I have also entertained thoughts of making off with a few of the pieces because they would look great in my house. No one would suspect a thing.

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When Science makes you sick

16 Feb

Yesterday, while tutoring, I had flashbacks to the nausea I experienced during lab dissections in grade 8. The girl that I tutor whipped out her iphone and flashed me a photo of her latest dissection: an unsegmented worm. Even though I’m not the student, I did learn one thing during tutoring last night – my gag reflex still works.

I don’t know why I’m so squeemish. I used view operations on TV as a personal challenge. I would sit for as long as possible without flipping the channel and managed to make it through some very memorable operations. Thanks to my stubbornness I can still picture the process of breast implants (looks painful), a nose job (not too bad if you’re good at chiselling), and a face lift (never in my life will I have this done!). Even though I have stoicly sat through many operations, now I tend to feel faint when I see the littlest blood (yes, I have become that person). Because of my new found discomfort, I can fully sympathize with students who can’t stomach a real lab dissection. Also, my love for my dog makes it difficult for me to think about cutting into a once-living animal. It is a little harder to feel sympathy for a parasitic unsegmented worm, but I try anyway.

Well, thank you, Internet, for once again solving this moral, ethical and digestive dilema. McDougal Littell Biology 2010 is a great resource for students to do virtual labs and lab dissections without having to spend the time in a lab or cut into an animal. This could be given as an alternative to a real dissection or a lab could be given as extra credit or a homework assignment.

Classzone’s Virtual Dissections allows students to dissect a frog, cat, pig, sheep brain, cow’s eye, earthworm, squid, crayfish or owl pellet all without the nausea or emotions involved in a live lab. I don’t feel that the experience is diminished by doing such an activity online since I did most of my labs in high school biology on the computer and went on to get a Biology degree. A lab like this is a good alternative to the real thing.

Classzone also has other Virtual Labs such as testing antibacterial agents, insects and crime scene analysis, gel electrophoresis, and breeding mutations in fruit flies (and this can be done without a month old banana rotting away in a student’s locker!). In total there are 14 different labs to choose from.

To see more of what this site can offer (eg simulations, animations, interactive review, activities, quizzes, tests, links and resource centres), click here.

Maybe this post has sparked the inner scientist in you. Maybe you’ve always wondered about the digestive system of an earthworm. Maybe you’re interested in doing a lab dissection. And that would be no problem. Virtually cut away! Learn and discover! After all, it’s not like you’re hurting anyone.