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Loosely related to learning

13 Feb

I don’t know why I’m enjoying lame computer games lately, but I am. I’ve tried fighting it, it’s just no use. So I give in.

The latest game that I’ve found is Knoword. It’s nice because it is over quickly so it doesn’t take a huge time investment. The idea is simple: read a dictionary definition, think of a word that can fit it and type it in. If it’s right, it will give you another definition to try. Your time increases for every correct answer you type in. Brilliant in its simplicity and ultra-frustrating in its insistence that every word be spelled correctly (my achilles heel!).


Facebook as homework?

12 Feb
Students are very comfortable creating and maintaining Facebook pages. Apparently, in the district I work in, during every high school break between classes the available internet bandwidth in the district plummets because all the kids whip out their smart phones and log on to their Facebook accounts. So, let’s put this skill to use!

Fakewall is a site that allows students to create face Facebook accounts and walls. Students can include pictures, comments from other Facebook friend characters, include profile information and all of the other things that you can find on a Facebook page. This is a site that could be useful to teachers in almost any subject area. This would be great to allow students to make connections between characters, historical figures, chemical elements, parts of the body, people of interest, mathematical theorems etc.
This Fakewall Elizabeth 1 page may get you interested and allow your brain to percolate with ideas…

I am amazed that people can come up with this. An assignment like this would be a great way to have all students producing, but allow students who have a deeper understanding of the connections between characters, motivation, plot, etc. to demonstrate their knowledge. With an assignment like this, students may actually enjoy doing their homework!

My very own font…it is possible!

4 Feb

I thought I could wait to post this but I seem to be too excited. Font Generator has finally made my handwriting dreams come true.

I have very nice printing (that’s right, I’m bragging) and obviously I have spoiled myself because I have never been able to find a font as nice as my own hand. Now that problem can be solved. In the next few days, when I can find a spare moment, I will create my own font and love it forever.

There seem to be a few steps to create your own font (download a sheet, write out the alphabet, scan it back in and upload – Presto change-o) but it will be soooo worth it! I’m too excited!!

Weekend Website

23 Jan

In the past, I have only used Facebook to share photos. I know how to upload them, crop them and turn them so that they are not displayed sideways (and I only learned how to do this because my sister messaged me frustrated that she had to turn her laptop in order to view half of my photos). My skills with Facebook photo sharing are by no means extensive. I usually opt not to share photos online since I am my own worst critic and I tend to feel that I look fat or my smile is crooked. This seems to be getting worse as I get older (the big 3-0 hit me hard). I am becoming more critical and, as a result, I am less likely to share my photos willingly. I know someone who Photoshops every one of her photos before she shares them on Facebook, but seriously, who has the time for that?!?

I have previously looked at using Flickr as a photo sharing site and my experience this time wasn’t any different. It reminded me a lot of the photo sharing found on Facebook with albums (sets), sharing and very basic editing (rotate, rename, etc). In all fairness, Flickr is a good method for photo sharing between a group of people. I found the page of a quilting group I have been interested in joining so I saw some of the amazing talent that I would be joining into (though this was also somewhat intimidating).

But then Picasa came into my life. Picasa was like a breath of fresh air compared to the previous two photosharing sites! When cleaning my house the other day I realized that, while my husband and I have albums for our wedding and engagement photos, we have nothing to display our honeymoon photos. Picasa has remedied that – we now have a honeymoon slideshow! (WordPress won’t let me embed the slideshow so if you want to see it, check out

Picasa’s editing capabilities are easy to use and intuitive. Many of the photos in our honeymoon folder were overexposed and had harsh shadows but after dedicating some time to editing using Picasa, and Picnik, a linked photoediting service, when Picasa wasn’t enough, I have a series of photos that are a great reminder of the time that my husband and I shared.

The photos below are my favourite example of the editing capabilities of Picasa. When we were on the beach, a couple asked us to take a photo of them and, in exchange, they would take a photo of us. The gentleman made Matt take at least 20 photos with very specific instruction to get the perfect shot of them and then he only snapped one of us, assuring us that it was the perfect photo. I had my doubts and those doubts were confirmed when I saw the photo (see the image below on the left). You can barely even see us!! I was so disappointed because we have so few photos together. But Picasa saved the day. It took me quite a  while, and I became good friends with the Undo button, but I am so happy with the resulting photo (below, right).

When I showed my husband the honeymoon slideshow that I created, he had two favourite photos. He insisted that I email them to him right away because he has seen how I get distracted when I’m finding new things on the computer. No problem! The controls on the bottom toolbar are clear and easy to use and, before he knew it, the two photos were in his inbox.

Picasa allows much of the work to be done on your computer hard drive and then you can easily upload the photos that you would like to share. But wait, that’s not all! Once uploaded, the group of photos can be changed into a slideshow, posted to Blogger, made into a collage, made into a movie, emailed to friends, printed, purchased or further edited. How do you do all of those things? For someone like myself, who sometimes has difficulty understanding “computer-speak,” Picasa provides slides and detailed instructions with many of its program options. Using the prompts and instructions that Picasa provides, I have collaged some  wedding photos that were “saved” with editing that I was able to do on Picasa. These photos no longer need to be hidden in my digital files; they are now good enough to display proudly!

From Wedding

My mind is brimming with ways to use Picasa in my high school library. Over the past few months, I have been taking photos of the window art and library makeover that I have been working on. I would love to document the work that I have done and the exciting things that are happening in the library and a slideshow of these photos is the perfect addition for our library website! I will also download the slideshow to our library computers and have it run as the screensaver when the computers are not in use.

For classroom applications, Picasa would be a quick and easy way to document a classroom activity as a slideshow, create a collage for a special event or make a movie at the end of the term to document the moments and memories. In a high school biology or chemistry class, students could take photos of a lab as it progresses and create a captioned movie of what took place at each step. This would be a great way to have students demonstrate an understanding of the process and details of a lab. Picnik has a section in their Help pages called Picnik for Educators that provides ideas for how educators could incorporate Picnik into the classroom (and I see that they have a lab dissection listed there but I guess that great minds think alike because I had that brainstorm well before I found this resource). I will be using the lesson “Creating a Website Header” for myself. Stay tuned for a header update in the next week or so.

I am so excited to have found Picasa! It makes my photos look beautiful, allows me to share them easily and makes me proud of what I am able to create. My photos may not be Photoshopped but I think I have a few photos that I will be sharing on Facebook the next time I log on!

Weekend Website

16 Jan

Next month is Black History Month and this would be a good time for teachers to start thinking about scheduling this topic into upcoming lessons. I used to think that this was more applicable in the US but after reading Lawrence Hill’s book “The Book of Negroes” I knew that I had been completely wrong (for those of you who haven’t read the book I highly recommend it. One of my top ten favourite books).

The Dominion Institute has created a collection of resources for teachers to help plan a unit for Black History month.


They have also created a PDF teachers’ guide full of lessons.

Black History Canada Teachers Guide (PDF)

The National Film Board (also Canadian) has put together a collection of films for Black History Month. Many of the films can be watched on their site without purchase. This is a site that I highly recommend for the high quality of their videos and how applicable they are to discussion and critical thought in the classroom.

And again, if you haven’t read The Book of Negroes, that needs to be remedied asap!

Weekend Website

10 Jan

After my wedding I created photobooks for my wedding and engagement photos. They turned out nicely and I have always wanted to make another one but I did not feel inspired by anything.

This week I came across It is a site for printing your own book and I began to feel some inspiration. The prices are quite reasonable and the site allow you to create books in three different ways: through exclusive use of their layouts, through layouts that allow for modifications, or through Adobe InDesign (a program I use regularly! How perfect!).

My teacher-brain started going… How great would it be for students to publish their favourite writing at the end of the year? And a teacher could publish a book of class poetry. Soft-cover books start at only $2.95!

Moving on to colour printed books…. Kids could make a portfolio of their artwork by taking photos of their work and uploading them into a book with titles and artist blurb for each piece. These books start at $13.95 for 20-40 pages. As a parent, I would be more than happy to pay for a book of my child’s work. If that would be difficult for individual parents, this could be part of a fundraising initiative.

I don’t usually come up with New Year’s resolutions but this year, Blurb has inspired me to write my own cook book. I never thought I would want to do this because I don’t really love to cook. However, as someone who constantly has to modify recipes because of my ridiculous list of food allergies, my own cookbook is the perfect way to record the recipes that I come up with.

My first recipe will be for the wheat-free, corn-free, soy-free (no, not taste-free) pizza that I made the other night. Delish!

I can see many Blurb books in my future!

Weekend Website (a bit after the weekend)

14 Dec

So this post is a little bit late but I will make it worthwhile.

Today was a day spent finding great online resources and I found some doozies!

Thinking back to some of those atari-style cellular biology videos, they can now be supplemented with this amazing resource from the University of Utah. The view inside a cell is dynamic and has audio support but I found the interactive exploration of relative cell size unbelievable and a great way to put size into perspective.

This video shows the correlation between lifespan and wealth for the countries over the world over the past 150 years. Very interesting and entertaining. It also helps that the presenter (Hans Rosling) has a fabulous accent.
 David Suzuki has done an interesting short video called The Test Tube about finite resources and exponential growth. The video combines interactive video with live data pulled from Twitter. Also an applicable way to teach the concept of half-life and doubling.  

This Conflict History site allows the user to search conflicts by time period and place. It is a combination of Google Maps and Wikipedia data. Students can use the timeline on the bottom of the page to select and era and zoom in to the map to select a location to learn more about. There are multiple levels of information presented here. I must admit that looking at the conflict map of the present day was a little stressful. There is so much more going on than we read about in our daily newspaper.