Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Global Maker Day / Cardboard Carnival

Global Maker Day / Cardboard Carnival

in Mrs. Sidi's Grade 3 Class

** this blog post has been written by Mrs. Sidi's Grade 3 students**

We were doing genius hour one Friday and we watched Caine’s arcade video.  We thought that was pretty cool. We decided one day in November that if you make a game or toy out of cardboard you could bring it in and everybody would go around and get to try your game.  We set the date for November 24th.

In the meantime Mrs. Clement came in to visit and tell us about Global Maker Day.  Mrs. Clement brought in about a million boxes and we got into groups and made games out of them.  

My game started out to be a creeper but the green paper wouldn't cover it so we made the a random game covered in green paper.  You had a tape ball in the top.  It was three levels and you had to get your ball through 2 holes and if you made it to the third level you would win.  I liked that sometimes if it goes through the first hole it might not always go through the other holes.  If I could improve one idea about that original game I would try and put the hole on the side a little so it would be harder.    (Written by: Eamon, Grade 3 student at St. Rose Catholic Elementary School)

Now back to carnival.

After Global Maker Day we went back to making our own games at home with our families help.  I got my idea from an actual arcade.  They have ball tosses called Skeeball so I decided to make a ring toss.  When my dad showed me a box we could use I thought it was too big because my friends told me how small their boxes were.  The next day me and my dad started making my game.  My dad said that box was good because if you build a big game kids will go crazy.  So we decided to use the big box.  

We cut holes and put toilet paper rolls in to make the ring toss and we taped them down.  Each post was a different colour and a different point value.  My game was so big I could climb inside.  My teacher and five other students could probably fit in there as well.  

After students played my game there was a little slot and I pushed 2 or more tickets out.  The number of tickets depends on where your ring toss landed.

Today we finally got to bring our games in.  Once I set up my game everyone lined up to play.  I could not believe that many people would want to play my game.  People kept coming back to play again and again.  That made me so happy!

This morning when everyone came to school it was so exciting.  We were all going crazy and telling Mrs. Sidi that they were so excited they could not sleep last night.   When I looked around I was really proud of my friends for making such great games.  We all did really good.   The best part of the game was playing each others games.  (Written by: Vanessa, Grade 3 student at St. Rose Catholic Elementary School)

Student Reflections:

1. Do you think the cardboard challenge is a valuable classroom activity? Explain why.

  • Yes, it gives kids a chance to be creative and be excited and learn. ~ Neil
  • I think the cardboard challenge is valuable because it allows us to do something freely.
  • Yes, because it gives every kid a chance to make their mind creative.
  • It's a good way t use cardboard instead of recycling you can reuse. You get to be creative and it can give you more ideas. You are also reducing waste. ~ Tate
  • I think it's valuable because it's really fun when you get to try other games and other kids who do cardboard carnival will like it. I learned how to problem solve when I was making the game. ~ Eamon
2. What are all the things you learned by doing the cardboard challenge?
  • I learned that it might be easy on a piece of paper but it is harder with your hands
  • The first thing I learned about doing it was that it looks good in your mind but it is really heard to make in real life. Also it takes a lot of work. ~ Lindsey

3. What reasons would you give to convince another teacher to have a cardboard carnival?

  • I would tell them that it's really fun and it gets kids to learn when they don't realize it. ~ Neil
  • I would tell him/her that the brains will work more and maybe their students are going to turn genius. ~Fady
  • I would tell (him or her) that their having so much fun they don't even no they are learning. ~ Lila

Monday, November 28, 2016


Facebook, Google, and Twitter have recently been accused of promoting fake news stories. Depending on your sources and who you believe, fake news played a role in the 2016 presidential election. However, fake news is misused in a number of ways: Propaganda, trying to influence opinion
Direct attacks on a political opponent
Stock manipulation scams
Shock people into clicking and infect their machine with malware (celebrity deaths)
Sell advertising So, how do you protect yourself against this type of scam? The very first thing you need to do with any kind of internet message you see is this: CONSIDER THE SOURCE. Meaning you ask yourself the following questions: Where did this come from? Who wrote it? What is their agenda?

There are a large number of false, misleading, clickbait, and/or satirical “news” sources you need to watch out for. Here are 8 Tips to analyze news sources and make sure you do not fall for their scams: Avoid websites that end in “lo”, for example Newslo. These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts”.

Watch out for websites that end in “” as they are often fake versions of real news sources, and strange or unusual domain names are a big red flag.

If other known and reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story, that is a red flag.

If it is an anonymous story and there is no known / trusted author, it's suspect.

Some news organizations are letting bloggers post under their banner, but many of these posts are opinion and not facts, make sure you note the difference. (Examples are: BuzzFeed, Forbes blogs.)

If you are in doubt because of bad design or grammar/spelling, check their “About Us” tab or look them up on Snopes for verification of that source.

If the story makes you upset or angry, it’s a good idea to keep reading about the topic using other sources to make sure the author wasn’t doing that on purpose (with potentially misleading or false information) to generate shares and ad revenue.

It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and perspectives, which allows you to spot bias in reporting and confirm information with other sources before you decide to take action. To summarize, consider the source, double check if the data is correct using other reliable sources, and especially with "fake news"... Think Before You Click!"

Posted with Permission from:

Stu Sjouwerman
Founder and CEO, KnowBe4, Inc.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Hour of Code is coming during Computer Science Education Week: December 5-11!

** The latest information from Hadi Partovi at

Have you signed up your event yet for this year? In a world where technology is changing everything, you’ve helped the Hour of Code introduce over 100 million students to computer science. Help us reach every student in 2016 with critical 21st century skills.

What’s new for this year?

We’re very excited to announce that our list of Hour of Code activities has just been refreshed with new content, an updated look, and a filter tool that will allow you to find the best activity for your classroom.
Some cool things about this refresh:
  • We’ve expanded our selection to include over 200 tutorials and lesson plans that introduce students to computer science in a variety of ways. Have fun exploring!
  • Has your class done the Hour of Code before? Maybe they’re even experts at certain puzzles. No problem. Use our new filters to discover more challenging activities that fit all grade and experience levels!
  • There are tons of other ways to filter activities, too: find offline tutorials, and activities that work with robots, iPads, Androids, and whatever other hardware your class has!
  • Want to connect computer science to social studies, math, or another subject? Use the new topic filter to find subject-specific activities. And encourage other subject area teachers at your school to sign up and try it in their classrooms too.
  • There are more updates to come through November, including a few surprise activities that your students will love. Follow @teachcode to get the latest!

For those who have never done the Hour of Code before, the basics of the campaign are still the same: Anybody can learn, no experience required, and it only takes an hour. But for veteran teachers, there are now lesson plans that let you guide students through more complicated activities.

We hope that our broad selection of activities will enable both newcomers and veterans to get the most out of their Hour of Code. This year, make an Hour of Code that is truly your own!

Monday, November 7, 2016

New Comic Creation Tool

The Ministry is pleased to announce that Pixton Comics has been licensed for use by all publicly funded schools across the province. Similar to Bitstrips, Pixton is an online comic creation tool that serves as a digital storytelling tool for students. 


  • Students and teachers can make comic strips, storyboards, character maps, and more. 
  • Presets include 3000 backgrounds, 2000 props, 700 characters, 300 poses and expressions. 
  • Teachers can access a library of lesson plans and activity templates for all subject areas.
Click this link - Pixton for an overview. 
To register, click “Try Pixton Now” and follow the onscreen instructions. 

Student Accounts 
You can add your students by one of two methods: 
  1. Input a list of usernames and passwords. The “auto-complete” function makes username and password generation quick and easy. 
  2. Share your group-specific Activation Link with students. Students choose their own usernames and passwords. 
Click the (?) button at the bottom right corner of Pixton to open the Help Centre. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The New Google Sites

The New Google Sites - UPDATE

Google sites has been completely redone!  For more information on the New, Google Sites click HERE.

The OLD Google Sites will now be known as Sites Classic.

What will happen to the previously existing, classic version of Sites?

Classic Sites will continue to exist in parallel with new Sites as we add capabilities that are similar to those found in classic Sites. Classic Sites and the sites created with it will continue to be accessed through the Google Sites Link.

Please note:
  • In  2017, we’ll provide and recommend options to migrate your sites from classic Sites to new Sites.
  • Beginning in 2018, we’ll send a timeline and instructions regarding the gradual process to shut down classic Sites. The specific date for the shutdown of classic Sites has yet to be set, but we’ll inform you at least one year in advance of the shutdown

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

5 Ways to Avoid Project Based Learning Fluff #HackingPBL

In my constant quest to better understand inquiry based learning I came across Ross Cooper's blog, Cooper on Curriculum, one year ago.  Ross consistently publishes thought provoking posts that challenge my thinking as a classroom teacher and facilitator of technology.  I really enjoyed his most recent post, 5 Ways to Avoid Project Based Learning Fluff #HackingPBL, and am thrilled he agreed to allow me to share it here with all of you.  I encourage you to visit his blog and sign up to receive his emails when a new blog is posted.  Happy Reading!  

Cooper on Curriculum

Over the next few months I’ll be publishing 10 posts as teasers (not spoilers) for the 10 chapters in our upcoming book, Hacking Project Based Learning, which was written with Erin Murphy (@MurphysMusings5) and will be released this winter. For book updates, sign up for my mailing list (and also receive a free eBook)…This post is a sneak peak for Chapter 3, Identify What to Teach Based on Your Academic Standards. #HackingPBL
Previous posts in series:
When I taught fourth grade, I was initially met with skepticism from other teachers when I started to regularly engage my students in project based learning (PBL) and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). I think much of this apprehension existed because some of my practices did in fact perpetuate the myth that PBL was fluff and that the “real” teaching and learning takes place through more direct instruction. However, as I continuously reflected upon and refined my craft, many of these doubters went from, “That wouldn’t work with my students!” to “How can that work with my students?”
Looking back, I still think some of my original PBL practices were forgivable, simply because I had to begin somewhere (Don’t we all?). But, there are definitely some bits of advice I wish I had been given prior to getting started.
That being said, here are five ways to avoid project based learning fluff.
1. Focus on the Right Academic Standards: When planning a project it could be tempting to simply start with “cool” ideas, as opposed to first exploring what should be taught based on academic standards (or a standards-aligned curriculum). As a fourth grade teacher I participated in an elementary level STEM initiative. Following the initial professional development I went to plan my first STEM unit, only to realize my curriculum was a bit outdated. So, rather than wasting time designing learning experiences aligned to old standards, I first created an updated makeshift pacing guide to ensure any units I put together would be future proof (until a change in standards, which has still yet to happen).
So, start with the standards, but don’t stop there. The majority of a project’s content should be encompassed by standards that call for students to dig deeper, and looking at a standard’s initial verb tells us just how deep students should have to dig. For example, a Grade 7 Common Core English Language Arts standard reads, Analyze how a drama’s or poem’s form or structure (e.g., soliloquy, sonnet) contributes to its meaning. Since analyze is a verb that calls for higher-order thinking (Level 4 on Webb’s Depth of Knowledge), this standard could be worthy of contributing to the basis for a project.
2. Don’t Make It the Cherry on Top: A lot has been written on the differences between projects and project based learning, and this graphic nicely sums up some of the key discrepancies. A traditional project usually calls for students to create some type of product to demonstrate what they have already learned, and often times we cry “Differentiation!” or “Student choice!” when students are allowed to present their facts in various ways: PowerPoint, Prezi, infographic, etc…There are two problems here.
First, this approach sends the subtle message, “Now that you’ve alreadylearned everything, let’s spend valuable class time regurgitating the facts in a ‘fun’ way, even though the extra work won’t lead to a deeper understanding of content.” To put it bluntly, what’s the point? As a teacher, if I already know that ckckson has acquired the necessary knowledge about animal adaptations, why does he then have to prove to me another time, in another format that this knowledge exists? Second, more significant differentiation and student choice should take place during the learning process. There is really nothing special about having students be the ones to decide where they are going to copy and paste what they have already learned (information dump). But, I do think end products are noteworthy when they are leveraged in an authentic way (e.g., Madison wants to make an eBook, so she researches the effective components of this medium, incorporates them into her work, and then publishes her book for an authentic audience.).
3. Teach for Deeper Understandings: The alternative to the traditional project is project based learning, in which students uncover deeper understandings of content while they are working through their projects. And, ideally, by the time the project is complete, students will have had multiple opportunities to demonstrate this knowledge. So, what exactly leads to a deeper understanding? Two main factors are productive struggle and context.
Productive struggle: Students are learning about evaporation. Rather than memorizing a definition, they regularly observe a glass of water and they are provided with time to speculate what is happening to the diminishing amount of liquid. The definition is only provided after the majority of students have a conceptual understanding of what evaporation is all about. Context: This activity becomes that much more relevant and useful when presented within the context of a PBL experience, such as students creating their own ecosystems. Students can then use their knowledge of evaporation during the construction of their ecosystems while gaining a deeper understanding of how their ecosystems function…While traditional instruction often paints student acquisition of content in terms of black and white – they got it or they don’t – PBL allows for students to demonstrate understandings that allow for them to go deeper than just “getting it.”
4. Set up Checkpoints: When I first started teaching fourth grade, I was fortunate enough to have a tremendously talented teaching partner right across the hallway from me. Needless to say, during my early years our classrooms looked entirely different from another. While I don’t think my instruction could have ever been called “traditional,” it was far more conventional than my counterpart’s, as her students were constantly engaged in projects, collaborative activities, and finding ways to incorporate the arts in their work…A few months into our time together we had a candid conversation during which she asked me for my honest opinion of her teaching approaches. At some point during my response I asked (in a nonaccusatory way), “How do you know your students are learning what they’re supposed to learn?” And, ‘till this very day, I still ask myself this very same question during PBL (or any type of activity).
Even so, if we are waiting until the very end of a project to find out who knows what, we are doing our students a disservice. To ensure students are learning what they are supposed to learn, and to dispel the myth that students can only learn through more direct instruction, we can build formative assessment checkpoints into our project directions. At certain points, students must conference with the teacher and get approval before moving on. And, as a result of these conferences, the teacher can adjust instruction accordingly.
5. Watch Your Time: When rolling out a project I have never been a fan of assigning a specific due date, as inflexible scheduling generally prioritizes shallow coverage of content while ignoring the individual needs of students (much like teachers being forced to follow a strict pacing guide). Instead, I would rather give an approximate project duration (e.g., 4-6 weeks), constantly gauge student learning, and ultimately assign various due dates as a result of individuals and/or groups learning and completing their projects at different paces. Nevertheless, problems arise when a project starts to drag on past its intended number of weeks, as was the case a few times in my fourth grade classroom. As a result, it takes much longer than it should for students to demonstrate a deeper understanding of content, and other material doesn’t get the attention it deserves or it is “forgotten” completely. Dilemmas like these are exactly what give project based learning (and inquiry-based learning) a bad wrap as teachers cry, “There’s no time!”
So, here are three tips. First, if you are starting out with PBL, start small, such as by having your students all create a similar product (e.g., a podcast), but give them some flexibility in defining the process and what the final product looks like. Second, lay out your project, week-by-week, and communicate this schedule with your students (and maybe, parents). Third, always watch your time, as you could easily be at least a month into a project before you know it.
In the End
Myths are perpetuated when we fail to learn from mistakes around us, including our own.
While I don’t think the idea of PBL as fluff is as pervasive as it once was, I do believe this myth is still out there, mostly because not all educators have a true understanding of what PBL entails (and I’m still learning as well). If we want to champion PBL and promote its growth outside of a few progressive classrooms here and there, a crystal clear picture of what it does and does not involve could go a very long way.
How do you think we can avoid project based learning fluff? What has worked for you?
Connect with Ross on Twitter.