Monday, 20 November 2017

O is for Office Lens

#NabloWriMo Day 15


A big shout out to my summit/conference pals Mario, Coulter, and Ammar from Microsoft for this one.

Office Lens claims having it is like having a scanner in your pocket - and it's right.

Office Lens trims, enhances, and makes pictures of whiteboards and documents readable. You can use Office Lens to convert images to PDF, Word and PowerPoint files, and save to OneNote,  OneDrive, or your local device.   (Not Google Drive...I asked 😆)

From an educational perspective, users can  scan handouts and annotate them.  The app even has the ability to crop out everything around it (including backs-of-heads!).  Cool feature: If you take a picture of something at an angle, the app will align and edit the image to appear as though it's directly in front of you.

The tool even has its own Twitter account!  Very simple to use, and very useful...definitely a tool to try out.

N is for Nuzzel

#NaBloWriMo Day 14


Keeping up with Social Media (or SoMe as I like to call it) can be time consuming and overwhelming.  I hate the feeling that I have missed something big, but I don't like to feel like I need to constantly be checking my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.  So when I heard about Nuzzel, I knew I had found the tool for me! 

Nuzzel offers personalized news discovery and curated newsletters for busy professionals, via web, mobile apps, messaging bots, and email newsletters.  In my case, I have linked my twitter account and every morning I get a summary of what my Tweeps are sharing. 

The first section is the top 5 stories trending on my twitter feed in the last 24 hours.  It also shows how many people I follow have tweeted it.

The second section is the trending stories from friends of friends.  There does not seem to be any method to how this is picked...but I have found some great reads and follows in this section.

The final section shares the top story from a (seemingly) random person I am following, that was not in the two sections below.

I have my daily digest scheduled for 7am and often start my morning reading the twitter headlines.

There is an app for Nuzzel for iOS and Android devices as well as a web-based tool that curates almost like a news agency.


M is for Mystery Skype & Hangouts

#NaBloWriMo day 13...1 day late...sorry!



Mystery Hangout/Skype is a critical thinking challenge that your class takes part in while connecting with another class somewhere else in the world.  The goal is to guess the other school's location (country, city, school name) by asking only yes and no questions before they guess yours!



Finding partners is as easy as Tweeting someone you know who is involved in these or searching the G+ or Microsoft community.

When preparing students, consider the following:
  1. Be sure students know about your area so they can answer the questions accurately.
  2. Practice question asking skills - general vs. specific.
  3. Practice Map use (atlas or digital maps).
  4. Consider a practice Hangout or Skype to ensure technology is cooperating.
  5. Prepare a shared document for note taking.  (Consider Google Docs,, Forms and Sheets.)
  6. Determine and assign roles for student during the chat.
  7. Co-create guidelines for video call etiquette (include don’t wear any clothing that could give away your location (i.e., sport team hat/shirts).
  8. Do a practice session with the teacher acting as the other class.  This allows for discussion and feedback.
The benefits for doing Mystery Hangout/Skype are plentiful, and include:
  • Authentic purpose for research
  • Challenge-based learning
  • Opportunities for collaboration & communication globally
  • Creates a global community of learners
  • Creates partners for future projects
  • Supports critical thinking practice
  • Opportunity to improve listening & speaking skills
  • Supports student-led learning
For more information, check out my one pager!



Wednesday, 15 November 2017

L is for List (on Twitter)

#NaBloWriMo Day 12...one day early - cause tomorrow is a LONG day.  BTW - I realise this is a little bit of a cheat in my A-Z theme.


I had a conversation with a colleague the other day who said he was going to take a break from Twitter. When I asked him why, he said that he was tired of the “noise”.  While I absolutely see the value in taking a break from social media, I sensed that he didn't really want the break but he felt forced to because of his feed. When I asked if he would unfollow certain people he said for political reasons he could not always do that. I then asked if he created lists on Twitter and he gave me a confused look. It was at this moment that I realized I needed to share this powerful Twitter use.


In Twitter you can create public or private list. You can add people to these lists, they can be people you follow or people you don’t (i.e., you can add someone to a list without having to follow them). Lists that are public are viewable by everyone and can be followed by other people. When you add someone to a public list, they get a notification. Private list are for your eyes only.


I use list for a variety of reasons. When I go to a conference I start a list and add people I interact with. This allows me to remember them if I want to reach out and pick their brains about conversations we had at said conference. It is also helped me out in times when I have run into them at another conference and can't remember their names. I can go back to my list to hep jog my memory. I also have a list called “love to follow”. These are the people I love to follow on Twitter and give me a quick snapshot of the things I really need or want to hear. I have a list that is populated solely of people who teach in my district. When I want to tweet about District initiatives I go to this list when choosing who to tag.


To see your list simply click your profile picture in the top right-hand corner and scroll down to List. From there you will see list you are subscribed to - these include those you created or those you followed that were created by other people. You will also see lists that you have been added to. I often find ones to subscribe to on this tab.


To create a list, or add someone to a list that exist, simply click the three dots beside the follow button on the person’s page. You will be given an option to “add or remove from list...”. From here you will be taken to a page with all of the list you've created. You can add people to lists here (you can choose multiple) and you can also create a new list by pushing the “create lists” button at the bottom.

Lists are really that easy and when used well, they can be very powerful in terms of how you use Twitter and how you seek information.




K is for Keep

#NaBloWriMo Day 11...it is #YRDSBQuest this week so apologies if I seem brief!


When Google Keep became a core app in the GSuite I decided to explore it some more and discover some uses for the classroom.  

Essentially, Keep is a virtual notepad, or sticky notes.  It is a small little tool but quite powerful if you roll it into your GSuite workflow.

Here are 9 things I like:

  1. Take a picture and save to Keep.  This is easy access for board notes you have written and might want to come back to at another time.
  2. The Google Keep Chrome extension!  You know those times you see something on the interwebs and you want to explore it and don't have time or want to come back to it later?  That's where the extension comes in.  Click the icon, type a title and some text and the link is automatically inserted.
  3. Mobile voice notes.  This is only available on mobile devices but it is great.  You can record voice notes that can then be imported into other GSuite apps like Slides and Docs - really great for giving feedback!
  4. Notes can be drawings.  You don't only need to types notes.  You can draw something (think small sketchnotes!) and then write notes underneath.
  5. Archive notes for future use.  I recently co-organized an EdTech camp.  We made all of our to do lists on Keep and then archived them when things were done.  Now we can pull them up next year when we do the camp again.
  6. As a former English teacher I found I often gave the same feedback again and again.  You can make notes of your common feedback comments and then use the Keep notepad in Slides and Docs so import them into student work.
  7. Colour code!  Keep offers a variety of colours (some new ones were just added a little while ago) for your notes.  I find this really helpful for visual cues.  I encourage students to keep notes for different units or subjects in different colours.  There are also labels to help with this.
  8. Although it can be glitchy, there is also a "Grab image text” option.  In this case you can import a picture and when you grab the image text it will convert the text into editable text in your note. Very cool.
  9. Reminders - for those of use with memory challenges! Keep offers location based reminders (remind me when I arrive at school) and time based reminders (remind me at the 1pm -  the beginning of period 3) which is very handy.  That said, I would love if a list could have multiple time based reminders.  (Hear that Google?!)

A lot of this I learned playing, but a lot I learned from Matt Miller, Kasey Bell, Alice Keeler and Eric Curts's blogs - thanks EduHeroes!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

J is for Jen!

NaBloWriMo Day 10



I was named after my grandmother, Jesse.  My mom thought about calling me Jessica but feared it would be too popular.  As a woman born in the late 70s - Jennifer was definitely not a unique name. 

So, to keep up with my A-Z theme, I thought I would pay homage some of the Jens in my professional life!


  1. Jennifer Casa-Todd, or JCT as I affectionately call her, is the author of Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership.  It is a wonderful book about the importance of digical citizenship and encouraging students to not only be responsible digitally, but also to encourage them to be leaders online.  She is an amazing educator and friend.  (She is also the other half of #CDNJens.)
  2. Jennie Magiera and I first met, albeit briefly at ISTE2016, and then connected again in Washington DC when she was a #WDC17 coach.  She shared her story about not letting the dragons get you down - and our cohort still talks about it.
  3. Jennifer Gonzalez - is the author of the Cult of Pedagogy blog and podcast.  I have yet to meet this Jen but I do feel like I know her as I listen to her podcast religiously.  Covering a variety of topics and with her soothing voice, The Cult of Pedagogy is a great resource for teachers of all subject areas and levels of experience.
  4. Jen Apgar and I met at ISTE in June but knew each other from Twitter before that.  She is passionate, inquisitive, and a genuinely friendly person.  We have brief but great convos when we see each other and it is always a treat to run into her at conferences.


Monday, 13 November 2017

I is for Ignite Talks

#NaBloWriMo Day 9


In April 2017 I was invited by Fair Chance Learning (Thanks Martha, Dustin, and Brian) to participate in the Connect 2017 Ignite Talk event. I nearly declined because my team was invited to  dinner that night, but I decided this would be a great opportunity and challenge so instead, I accepted.  Boy was I right!



For those who are unfamiliar, an Ignite talk is a talk where you are allowed to have 20 slides and they auto advance every 15 seconds.  You need to perfectly know your content and your timing.  Their tag line is enlighten us, but make it quick.  It is tricky in so many ways...but one of the best writing and presentation experiences of my life.  

I think it is a fantastic oral presentation activity for students.  It is only 40-80 sentences, there is little to no reading off the screen, and it allows for choice and flexibility to personalize.

When you do it with students, or do one yourself, here are my tips for success:

Writing 
I made a chart with the image on one side and what I wanted to say on the other.  I found that I could get 2-4 sentences per slide for the proper pacing and timing.

Slide Images
I am a firm believer that a slide should have no more than 5 words.  Let the image support your talk or you will be tempted to read off the screen.

Memorizing
First,  I took my notes (mentioned above) and highlighted a few words for each slide.  My friend Kim called these sticky note lines.  I associated these words with the slide image and would jog my memory for the slide.  Then, I recorded myself using voice notes on the iPhone.  Then, everyday I got in the car I listened to the speech and talked along as best I could.  Finally, after the week of listening was done, I would recite the talk every time I got in the car.  If I got stuck, I would review my notes when I arrived at my destination.  In two weeks I had it down pat.

I have been fortunate enough to give my Ignite talk at four events now: Connect 2017, ISTE 2017, MindShare Learning Technology's EdTech Summit 2017 and BIT 17 with the Ministry of Education (thanks Bernadette and Brenda).  Here is my Ignite.