Skype with Taiwan

Ms. Joy Strempack’s Chinese I students use Skype to practice oral language skills.

Posted in Middle School, Middle School World Languages, Skype, Video | Tagged , | 7 Comments

6th Grade Life Science Project

Wisconsin Fast Plant Project Part 1.

Every spring, Life Science instructor Susan Vicelli introduces 6th graders to the 40 day life cycle of the Brassica Rapa.      Seeds harvested from the prior year make a new beginning as students plant, fertilize, water, and track their growth into a fresh crop.

Wisconsin Fast Plant Project Part 2.

Students kept lab journals to record and graph plant data for the duration of the project.  Their final entry was to respond to the following:

“By using your graph and observations made, form a conclusion about the overall growth of your plant. Discuss the value of the entire experiment.  Tell what you found the most interesting/least interesting.  Did the experiment meet your expectations?”

Posted in Middle School, middle school science, Video | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

BP8: Communities of Practice

This assigment has been a challenge.  I’d never even heard of “communities of practice” until our recent ETC live session. Thankfully, I’ve had the link to Etienne Wenger‘s explanation and use it here as the basis for evaluating  SimpleK12,  The Educator’s PLN, Classroom 2.0 and for making my final selection.

The SimpleK12 Teacher Learning Community
is packed with courses, live webinars, and an impressive list of presenters from diverse educational backgrounds and expertise. The Forum is organized into Recent Posts, Members Meet & Greet, General Education Discussions, and Help Section Discussions. SimpleK12 currently has 364,343 members.

I subscribed to this site last year to take advantage of their course and webinar offerings.  It took a premium membership to have full access to the courses (there are 35 categories to choose from) and enabled me to document my learning with Certificates of Completion. Many school districts and independent schools accept in-service hours earned on SimpleK12 for re-certification.

The Educator’s PLN is a Ning, founded and maintained by Tom Whitby It is a smaller community (approximately 15,000 members) well designed to encourage users new to participating in collaborative communities.

Simple navigation and a subdued color palette, provides a more reflective environment for viewing and contributing to the Ning.  There’s a new feature since my last visit: the option to create and customize my own page with a selection of  templates and color schemes much like those offered on other blogging sites.

Members posts articles, add videos, join groups, start discussions, and make blog posts. There is page for joining discussions on EdChat.  The links on Twitter and Understanding PLNs improve help make sense of these tools and how to use them.

Classroom 2.0

The home page welcomes viewers with an explanation of it’s purpose and links on how to get started in Classroom 2.0.

I reviewed the information, but the more I tried to navigate and take in all that appeared on each page, I grew increasingly overwhelmed.  The site is packed with resources and connections. There are over 74,000 members. Yet, again it is the layout and navigation that turns me away.  Perhaps at a later date I’ll be more receptive.

Back to where I started…

So I’m back to SimpleK12 as my primary community of practice.  The interface is so easy, and the membership and content only continue to grow.  I like what I see happening in the Forum.  Undoubtedly, the layout makes it easy to follow discussion threads.  Whereas before I was an observer and content consumer in SimpleK12, I now feel  ready to actively engage.

Posted in Blogging, communities of practice, Web tools, Writing tools | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

BP10 – Action Plan Reviews

Check out the new E-zine under construction at PediaSynaptic.  Author, Rich Tarbox, has a plan to bring the latest developments in neuroscience, learning theory, and innovative learning techniques to teachers in an E-zine framework he’s building in Adobe InDesign right now.

The introductory video provides a convincing rationale for the project.  Why not design an E-zine for educators with the same sizzle and interactive features of GEEK magazine and other publications created for the entertainment and technology industries?

Why not offer an E-zine so informative and engaging that folks will download it to their tablets from iTunes or Amazon Kindle?  Sounds like a good idea to me.

I was interested in seeing what my classmate Jeffrey was up to on his Action Plan. It turns out he’s busy creating a website for his graphic design business using a tool called SquareSpace.  He gave us a sneak peek at his new site in the iMovie commercial he posted for an earlier assignment.

There were some dramatic, black white & gray images from his portfolio in that commercial. which I hope will be fully displayed once the site is ready.

Unfortunately, the link isn’t active yet, so we’ll have to wait to see the full display of his creations.  According to his timeline, April 1st is the target date for acquiring his own domain so let’s keep our fingers crossed that a big reveal is on its way.

Posted in E-zines, graphic design, online publishing, Website creation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

BP7: ETC Commercial

Music: Easy Breezy, Modern Comedy, Megatrax

Posted in Dashboards, promotional video, Video | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

BP6 – ToonDoo for You is a free comics creation tool that appears on all three of the Web 2.0 resource pages our professor shared with us this week.   I love cartoons and comic strips. Effective cartoons convey large ideas in tiny spaces.  Would ToonDoo deliver enough variety to keep students engaged?  I created an account to find out.

Registration and Account Options

Registration for a free account requires an email address; something to bear in mind if students will be setting up their own accounts.  There is a paid and private service called ToonDoo Spaces which some schools and teachers may elect if there will be a large implementation.  Usually the free accounts are sufficient for most classroom student projects.

Toon Creation & Editing

  • Click on the create button.
  • Choose a layout.
  • Wait for the tools and editor to open (which can take a while).
  • Click on the menus across the top of the page to preview the galleries of free clipart.
  • Drag and drop objects onto the page.
  • Click on each object to move, shrink, enlarge and activate all the editing tools.
  • Note that characters with Emotion and Posture icons offer alternate versions of themselves which works well in creating narratives.


Saving, Publishing & Purchasing

Click on the main menu (top left corner) to access the Save folder. Fill in the title, description, any tags for your Toon and check or un-check the desired sharing and privacy options. These are:

  • Publish to the World
  • Keep it Private
  • Share with friends
  • Allow others to Redoo your Toons
  • Allow others to purchase your Toons

I would recommend students keep their Toons private during the creation/revision process. Once Toons are complete, students may elect to Publish to the World.  At that point, if the options are checked, others may Redoo the Toons or purchase them from the ToonDoo Shop.

The ToonDoo Shop offers high resolution renderings of your Toons. Purchase them through PayPal for a minimum order of ten at $1.00 a piece.  Earn points or Tookens when others purchase your Toons.


To view the Toons you’ve created you’ll need to access the My ToonDoos page under the Toons menu on the Home page. All your toons are displayed as thumbnails.

  • Mouse over the Toon
  • Click go to page
  • Review the sharing options
  • Click on <> to grab the embed code for posts on blogs or websites


Create “graphic novels” using the ToonBook creator. A series of Toons that tell a story can be dragged into a template that generates a flash-based flipbook.  Students would enjoy creating an avatar or TraitR as it’s called on the site.  Add a title, publish, and share your flipbook on the web.


I enjoyed the variety of landscapes, characters, props and speech bubbles available on The editing tools were intuitive and it was fairly easy to download, email, print, and share Toons on the web.  To print larger Toons requires some adjustments to your printer options, but it can be done.

I did find the interface to be a bit cluttered and navigating the menus confusing at first.  The greatest challenge was being patient waiting for the creation tool and galleries to download. The site appears to be flash-based and blog posts from past users indicate sluggish downloads have been a problem.

Overall, the positives outweigh the negatives.  With the exception of dealing with the downloads, teachers and students should enjoy using ToonDoo.

Posted in Cartoons, Digital Storytelling, Middle School, Web tools, Writing tools | 2 Comments

BP5 – Meo My!


I’d never heard of Meograph until reading Cayla’s review yesterday.  She previews this unusual storytelling tool by creating her own meograph with the embedded Google map, video, images, text and narration. Four dimensions for self expression!
I see students creating meographs about authors, artists, explorers, and scientists  in addition to those “All About Me” stories we know and love.


Check out the Zap it to Me post on Teach Like a Mathinista.  There’s a wonderful review of Groupzap, a tool which allows users to create and share virtual whiteboards, filled with colorful sticky notes.  Once a whiteboard has been shared, participants sign in with an email address (no registration required) and real-time collaboration begins.  View changes made to the board by clicking on the names in the right panel.

Posted in Digital Storytelling, Middle School, Web tools | Tagged , | Leave a comment

BP4 – Mix it up with

wixlogois some kind of wonderful. You don’t need to be an artist or engineer, or have any knowledge of coding or web design.  Wix makes it possible for everyone to create beautifully polished, HTML5 websites for free. I signed up, got inspired by the templates, and found myself three hours later uploading vintage family photos into a website I never dreamed of creating.  To see my work in progress click here.

Wix has an inviting, uncluttered interface. Navigation between pages is effortless. The Explore page features a “Wix of the Day” to showcase subscribers’ sites.  Visitors like myself think, “Ooh! I can do that!”  and dive into the templates to start creating.


The View and Edit options under each template are tempting, so be prepared to lose track of time.  Once at work in a template the magic of drag n’ drop editing becomes apparent. Color schemes, font styles and sizes are all customizable. I began to see the importance of place holders when trying to upload images.  As a novice I found creating galleries for images to be a challenge.  Typing text into text boxes could be erratic as well with fonts changing size spontaneously from time to time.


Free Wix accounts have no “page” limits. The free account comes with 500MB of storage and up to 500MB of bandwidth. It is recommended that users keep the number of pages down and to avoid overloading each page with content.  Sluggish browsing is no fun for anyone.

Premium accounts have a range of monthly and yearly price options. As you might expect
the higher the price, the greater the storage and bandwith.  And the absence of Wix Ads. Free mobile ads, Google Analytics, Premium Support are among the features a Premium account will buy.

As I went through the website creation process I referred to the tutorial pages in the Wix Support Center.  I was impressed at how well organized it was and how truly helpful the videos were.   They were created with the visual learner in mind for sure!  Click here.


With the right project parameters, and guidance regarding copyright infringement, I can see Middle and Upper School student using Wix for projects in most any content area.  I will be testing this out soon with 7th and 8th graders for an upcoming Spanish project.

Posted in Middle School, Web tools, Website creation | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

BP3 – The Awesomeness Goes On


I just learned about another cool personal dashboard option: The Awesome New Tab Page on Google Chrome.  Read about it here.

protopageSymbaloo and  Protopage are both compelling options for setting up a personal dashboard. It’s interesting to hear what influences the decision to choose one over another. Read about it here.


The third and final dashboard review was from another Protopage fan.
The more I read about Protopage the more I think I may move over to it one day.
I love Dilbert, and the widgets for time,  weather, sports teams, and all those color coded tabs…

Posted in Dashboards, Middle School, Web tools | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

BP2: WordPress

wordpress_logoThe decision to select WordPress for my second post was an easy one.  I had to choose a technology I would be using for my capstone project and it had to be one with which I was unfamiliar.  WordPress met both criteria. vs.

The first thing I learned about WordPress was that there were two varieties: and I definitely was going with the .com option since I could create an account, set up my first blog, and begin posting content to the web for free. (Free is Good!) is the paid service which provides self-hosting options, full control over one’s website, and an array of customizable features I really don’t need.

Creating an Account
After clicking the sign up link I filled in my username, supplied a working email address, glanced at the terms of service (I know it’s wrong not to read them) and clicked Sign Up. I skipped most of the profile page since I knew I could update it later. The activation email arrived. I was ready to begin.

Creating the Blog

Once my account was created I had to log back into WordPress.  I had skipped the step of creating my blog earlier, so now it was time to come up with a unique name. What was my blog going to be about? How could I name it without knowing it’s purpose? With only two days in the course I had no idea.

For a week I called it HumorMe . I used to create cartoons and wanted a way to incorporate that into my project.  Today, after a week in the program, EdTechTurista popped into my brain.  I hope I can stay with it.  It connects me to the years I lived overseas and the students I’ve taught.

With a name selected it was easy to it to get started.  I had help from and the tutorial on the website: Master the Basics and Beyond.


Browsing free themes was fun. It was easy to preview and activate a theme, live with it for a while and then be able to activate another. The vision of my capstone project is just taking shape.  No surprise my theme has undergone change as well.

Pages and Posts

The dashboard is intuitive. Adding a new page or post opens a  text editor with basic formatting options.  To embed images or video files into your blog, you’ll need to upload them to the media library.  From there they can be stored and inserted directly into the post.  In addition, there is an option to select the desired justification for the image prior to inserting it in the post.


Depending on the chosen theme, there are areas on the blog page set aside to hold tiny programs called widgets. These widgets can be placed on the sidebar or in the footer and include items such as a list of recent posts, comments, and categories.  Given the number of widgets available I could see how tempting it would be to clutter my webpage.



The pane on the right side of the dashboard offers a preview button,  visibility options, a time/date stamp, an update button, and the option to move to trash.

There is much more to learn about WordPress, but I like what I see so far.

I’ve only just recently been able to view other students’ pages.  There is amazing work out there and I’m truly inspired. Hopefully by the end of the program I will be able to create more inviting and visually rich environments than I have the skills to do now.

Posted in Blogging, Web tools, Website creation | 3 Comments