Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Using iPads in Grade 10 Science Dissections

In Sue Di Laudo's grade 10 enriched science class at Cardinal Carter CSS, frog dissection was done using a slightly different mode than usual. Let's back up a bit. The math and science departments acquired a full class set of iPads, cart, projector Macbook Pro and a pile of PD through the TLLP grant and currently have one grade 9 enriched math, one grade 9 enriched science class and the above mentioned grade 10 class using these iPads every day.

When it came to dissect the frogs a slightly different approach was taken. Instead of the students doing the dissection, filling out a worksheet and having the teacher come around and interview their group about what they knew, they documented their dissections via video recording (uploaded to YouTube) and completed an online worksheet complete with images they took and links to videos they shot.

By all accounts the activity was "a huge success". Students "engaged more fully as they used video to document their understanding of the body systems and they paid greater attention to detail in their investigation of the various organs as they prepared them for photographs."

Click here to see a sample
If you have ever taught a science class when a dissection was happening you know that much of your time was spent moving from group to group assessing whether they knew what all the parts were. By doing things this way "this format also freed me from the time-consuming task of assessing the quality of their dissections and testing their knowledge of body systems during the lab itself and allowed me greater time to interact with the students and aid in the learning and discovery process."

Even the assessment was easier since the "Google Doc was much more efficient than the paper approach used in previous years and also allowed students to further develop oral communication skills."

There were glitches along the way as with any new endeavour. For example, not having YouTube Capture on the iPads slowed the process of getting each video uploaded to YouTube. With that App, uploads are super fast and easy to do. Regardless, one of the nice features of the lab was that students had to make a reflection on how they felt about doing the lab this way. Its always good to hear how students feel about what we do in our classes.

In the end, even though you don't need iPad's per se (ie any recording device will do), this was a really nice way to integrate the tablet technology with our students' Google Apps for Education accounts.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Free Desmos Online Graphing Calculator

So I don't know what is with me. How has it taken me this long to blog about the Desmos Online Graphing calculator? I have been using this for a while now and I keep using the word slick to describe it because I think that best describes it. Its not very complicated and it allows you to create graphs from functions (in both explicit and implicit forms),  use sliders, plot moveable points, construct tables and more. Check our more "How To" videos on their YouTube channel.
Check out my quick tutorial here:
As I mentioned in the video, one of the neat things that the Desmos people have done is to create some interactive tutorials. In these you actually work right in the graphing calculator and get prompts to show you exactly what to do. Right now there are only two, one for creating tables and one for creating sliders but hopefully they will create more.

Keep up the good work Desmos, the math-o-sphere loves you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Mr. Spurdza's Grade 7 Class at St. Pius X Catholic Elementary School uses Google Apps for Education and the Provincial Virtual Learning Environment, or vLE, to learn and communicate, anywhere, anytime. Mr. Murphy, the Computers in Education teacher, is also part of this great learning environment. One of the fun things they did as a class was to create a collage of their names using a Google Drawing

This "live" drawing allowed each student to add their name to the wall, complete with their own colours and font! This drawing started with one name and evolved into this cool image. 

One of the great features of Google Apps for Education, or MyTools2Go, is the ability to "publish" files,  to the web.  Any file that is "published to the web" is "live"!

So, think of the possibilities:

  • student presentations (slideshows) can be posted, and every time the student updates the presentation, it is updated on the website, or vLE
  • teachers can create and post live "LEARNING GOALS" documents, that are updated as they build
  • classes can create and collaborate on mindmaps and timelines that can grow as they read a novel, introduce a new concept, or review a lesson
  • teachers can create a Google presentation of class photos, post the presentation, and every time they add a photo, it is updated live for students and parents to view anytime, anywhere
This is a great use of Google Presentations in Ms. Côté-Montminy's Aboriginal Voices class
at Holy Names School. This "live" presentation is updated every time any member
of the group of students adds/modifies a slide.
    Mr. Murphy (Sparty) is a fan of a certain Michigan-based football team. Can you tell which one?
    This is also a Google Drawing posted live on the vLE

Sunday, November 3, 2013

If you build it, they will come

I recently received this message from a teacher in our school system, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board:


My students are using their Google Apps for Education accounts and sharing documents with me. I'd like to take it to the next step and create a class group where I can post documents for easy access... an online classroom space.

Please send me some ideas and/or suggestions.

As the e-Learning Contact, my role is to coordinate and lead the use of the Provincial Virtual Learning Environment, or vLE. This type of message is so refreshing to receive because it shows the need that teachers have for an "online classroom space". It is a natural progression as teachers and students use more cloud-based computing models. 

Now, this teacher has the ability to make class announcements, post course content, and receive & assess student work anytime, anywhere... in a safe, secure, and private environmentThe vLE allows teachers to use multimedia (video, images, audio) and display student work for the class to access from any device that has an internet connection.

The WECDSB, like many other Boards in the Province of Ontario, has performed many integrations that make the vLE the perfect place to serve as a learning hub for all. 
Some important integrations include:

  • Google Apps for Education - students can submit digital creations seamlessly
  • The Ontario Educational Resource Bank (OERB) - teachers can direct students to interactive learning objects without logging in
  • Trillium (Student Information System) - classlists are created automatically and updated every day
  • Turnitin - Teachers and students can check for originality on submitted files

Please take a few moments to learn more about the Virtual Learning Environment