Hour of Code – 2017


How about spending an hour with your class coding during your practicum?  The Hour of Code for 2017  is set to go the week of December 4th to the 10th to align with Computer Science Education Week.

A quick introduction to coding is a great way to appeal to students and have them learn logic and the step-by-step process that leads to great coding. Laying a foundation of skills needed to code can be done using games like Robot Turtles  or an app like Daisy the Dinosaur.

Do you need to know how to code? No not really.  You need to have a general knowledge of the outcomes that you see for your students.  You will want them to have an awareness of coding, what it looks like, the cause and effect of click and drop coding like SCRATCH and SCRATCH Jr.  Overall, you will want them to have a positive experience getting to know how the computer “knows” how to do things.

Of course, the Doucette Library has your back on this one.  Visit the Research Guide about Coding in the Classroom to find links and resources to help you out.

No tech in your classroom?  Start with a simple writing exercise.  Challenge your students to write down all the steps it takes to do something.   Or build low tech robots and have students record individual movements needed to make the robot walk.

Look to include coding in your classroom as you head out on practicum. Many students and your peers will be happy that you did.



App of the Week – Osmo Coding


Cost: Free*

Size: 83.2 MB

Version: 1.1.0

Updated: August 23, 2016

*Keep in mind that because it is an OSMO product, the app is free but you must purchase the initial OSMO genius kit for $129.99Cdn with the base camera deflection equipment and the OSMO coding manipulatives for $69.99Cdn.

I am a real fan of this product.   The genius kit, as mentioned in an earlier blogpost, contains the camera deflection equipment and base for your ipad as well as the tangram, and word set.  The number set is purchased separately.

And, although I love a free app, the continually innovative products that are coming since the OSMO base kit are good value for the 5-12 age group.

For a quick how-to video, my favourite is Antonio’s World, even though the OSMO CEO has also had a kick at the can with a YouTube video on the subject.  Antonio’s script and editing is much tighter than Pramod Sharma’s video and he gets you the information you need to start using your kit fast with a “just the facts” approach.

Now for the app and manipulatives.  I’ve included pictures in order for you to see them rather than have to describe them to you.  Each magnetic instruction card directs Awbie, a strawberry munching monster, to move in a direction at the turn of a dial, walk, jump or grab and pause for second sober thought.  As your directions help him gulp up strawberries singly or from various treasure chests, you gain strength and rewards to acquire items to make the levels easier.  It is very fun to play and I’m sure most 5 year olds would concentrate on the game aspect and not the coding knowledge they are acquiring.  Once you or your students are ten and up, I think the logic of coding languages would be hard to miss.

I am considerably older than the intended audience and the play was fun and engaging even for me.  My coding age is probably six and I am no digital native.  The trial and error way of moving Awbie around is very fun.  It has a very “try again” sense about it without any negative screens  even if Awbie is going in the wrong direction.  If you allow him to step on a  lily pad he does dunk in the water and pop up, unharmed, so you can try again.

I would recommend the whole package of Osmo again as I did in this blogpost.  It is a great investment for a learning centre in your classroom.  There are lots of different processes to work through that focus on a variety of skills.  Learning coding is becoming a new literacy for students and this kit balances learning and fun, especially for the K-6 crowd.




App of the Week – Lightbot Jr.


Name: Lightbot Jr.

Price: $3.99

Size: 51.8 MB

Version: 1.6.7

Age: 6-8

Although I am not in the age group suggested for this coding app, I must admit I did enjoy it.  I am also not a gamer but a technology user for education, work and social purposes.  I never thought I really needed to know how to code and I’m not sure Lightbot Jr. will get me coding in any real sense but it does have value.

It is a very highly recommended app for introducing early grade levels to the logic of coding.  It took me a little more than an hour to work through the first of 5 levels of lighting up various squares with increasing complexity and I will admit that my only coding experience is with Daisy the Dinosaur. Lightbot Jr. seemed to be easier. Not as much reading was necessary and trial and error was the name of the game.

In a classroom, this app would be a great addition for all students but I can see it especially attracting the student who is very logical and can whip through each stage successfully.  The kind of student (more like me) that is not all about linear thinking and logic would also enjoy this game. There are no wrong answers just chances to try again.  And the logic of coding is built into the fun.

Download and try it on your own and share it with your class.  Make it a Friday afternoon option for some of your students to work in groups.  It would be a fun activity and it will build the capacity for the logical thinking so critical in coding.

Also included in a more expensive app package is Lightbot.  I’ll let you know how I do…


Quick Note about Mix on Pix


Our favourite person who comments on this blog, Francois Robert  has agreed to make the Mix on Pix app available for free for a little while longer for you students or teachers who would like to get it on the iPads in your school.  Again, it is a great way to have students capture the process of their learning and to comment on it.  Or for you to comment on it for them.  A fun and useful app.

App of the Week – Update Mix on Pix


Cost: Free until May 8, 2016

Updated: April 27, 2016

Version: 1.0.1

Size: 35.5 MB

In-app Purchases

On the advice of Francois Robert (see the comments from yesterday’s blog), who kindly suggested the Mix on Pix app by Pixtolab, I will review it as an upgrade or more versatile app than A+Signature.

I did really like the simplicity of A+Signature but many digital natives would like more fonts, more borders and more variety in typography.

And Mix on Pix is free until Mother’s Day, just like A+Signature.  And you know how I love a free app.

Mix on Pix certainly gives you more choices in the amount and way you add more information to your photos, especially attractive in the middle and high school environments where students are immersed in social media.  “Mix texts, quotes, artwork, handwritings, drawings and much more.” Again, as a teacher, you have a great opportunity to show various uses for photography as part of the learning process, images as metaphors, and how to have a respectful digital footprint.

The second screen as you enter the app shows you possibilities including video tutorials and a FAQs in the “How to” screen.  I very much like the video tutorials for visual learners because it shows ways to create embellished images that give you more than just a simple overall listing of words.  The first video visually captures many possibilities.

As I have been maintaining from the beginning of this blog, embracing the technology that the students are using will reward you with engagement and great opportunities to meet them where they are comfortable.

Use A+Signature or Mix on Pix depending on the age and digital knowledge of your students and enjoy the outcomes.  These images remain a great way to capture student progress in any unit.

And thank you, Francois Robert for your comments and further information.

App of the Week – A+ Signature App


Cost: $2.29 but free from May 4 – May 8, 2016 (AppsGoneFree)

Version: 4.3, updated April 19, 2016

Size: 8.3 MB

A+ Signature – The Photo Annotation App is a time sensitive app if you don’t want to pay the $2.29 Cdn.  Getting an app for free is just icing on the cake to me.

This app is a “photo annotation app” that has many educational applications.  It is very easy to use and there is a very short video to show you the icons.

Taking a photo of the process of any student’s learning is a valuable way to capture information for formative assessment.  Adding words to the photo gives a teacher more information and a student more latitude to demonstrate a deeper understanding.

In the elementary classroom, taking photos of math problems with manipulatives and adding the number sentence or the student’s understanding of the problem would be a great use of the app.

In middle school, having students photograph images to demonstrate their metaphorical understanding of readings, poems or prose, would be an interesting use of this app.

And in a high school, having students look at authentic physics problems by photographing them or finding representations on the web is a great way to start conversations about how physics figures in their own environment.

This app has its limitations but it also has possibilities for any educator to introduce fun, conversation provoking images into any classroom.  And it is a very easy app to learn and teach.  Students would quickly pick it up and, perhaps, use it in other settings.

And, if you know me, you know that I will also say it is a great way to model responsible and respectful digital citizenship and that is a lesson that fits in the K-12 classroom everyday.





App of the Week – ThingLink


Cost: Free

Version: 3.3.1

Size: 13.5

Category: Photo and Video

This app is fun to work with and could be useful in a classroom as another tool for students to display their learning. While I was investigating this app, I downloaded a photo from my photo library of a recent learning opportunity in the Library focused on Bridge Building. In less than 5 minutes, I had added 3 links to the photo to explain various areas of interest.  In two of the boxes, I added text to bring attention to hand-outs and links to curriculum.  My third link was to a bridge building YouTube video.

Text links appear as red and white target icons and the YouTube link appears as a white triangle within a red circle.  Although you wouldn’t miss any of the icons, they are not hugely distracting from the photo.  In this free version, up to 5 links can be added.  These links, along with the photo, would be an adequate amount of information from a student for an assessment of learning.

Tutorials are available from the website and also on YouTube.  Students from grade 2 to middle school would find it a very easy and approachable app and would have quick success at including information as part of the photo.  This blogpost shows teachers the potential use for photos and videos as a backdrop to ThingLink.

While ThingLink is not a great learning experience for students, it is another way for them to display their learning using embedded technology.  Another tool in the toolbox.

Social Media in your Classroom

imagesSome classrooms have already made the move to include social media as part of their learning but others are more reluctant.  There is, certainly, a fear factor that students photos and names will be published for all to see but there are also ways to allay these fears.

MediaSmarts in Canada and Common Sense Media in the United States are great sites to begin to look at digital citizenship, showing students how to create a responsible digital footprint.  Both sites contain teacher and student resources to work through on-line scenarios appropriate to elementary, middle, and secondary students.

Take the idea to administrators in your school first for input on FOIP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) in Alberta and other policies they have already put in place.  Start simply with a Twitter account in an elementary classroom where the rules are no student faces and single first names, no tagging of photos.  Or use other platforms made for school environments that cater to closed social media domains.  Look at Edmodo, Remind or SeeSaw  to see if these apps and websites suit your needs.

Social media has a place in most classrooms to educate students about their digital profile, to connect globally with other classrooms and to meet parents where they spend at least some of their time.  The best social media in classrooms creates conversation in homes connecting students and parents with classrooms.

One of the most inclusive uses of social media in the classroom comes from Kristen Wideen in Windsor, Ontario.  She appears fearless in her use of educational technologies and, therefore, students seem to make good choices and showcase their learning using various media.

Start small in consultation with others on staff.  Curate all the postings that come from your students and have the tough discussions about creating a student’s digital footprint.

App of the Week – Dinopedia by National Geographic


  • The Ultimate Dinopedia by National Geographic Society
  • Version 1.2.3
  • $5.79 Cdn
  • 542 MB
  • Grades 2-6

This app provides about as much dinosaur information as a body could want.  Divided into Meat Eaters and Plant Eaters, this app provides information dino-stats, fun facts and pronunciation guides.

Students can access encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaur experts all in one place.  The app allows for wonderful browsing opportunities and also research specifics. Instead of computer generated “photos,” pictures are “animations” of dinosaurs, pictured for relative size and some habitat.  Some bonus video is included that show computer animated dinosaurs in battle. “The Story” can be read to the student as well read by the student for research notes.

A big app for those concerned with space and a little expensive but the book would be more money.  All in all I would purchase this app for an elementary school.

App of the Week – Robots

Robots from IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers


  • Free
  • Version 1.6
  • 521 MB (big)
  • Grades 6-12

Robots is available for download on iPads from the App Store.  Beware of the large app size.  That being said, it would be a worthwhile download for all grades – not just the grade 6-12 range that is associated with the app.

Robots contains specs and video or moving photos of 150 robots from 16 different countries.  Students have input through the ratings system, up to five stars, questions like would you want to have this robot, and an appearance rating based on relative creepiness.

Robot “News” requires an internet connection but updates recent inventions and developments in technology that are important to robotics.

“Play” is not very exciting.  It mostly pits robot against robot and students pick the one they think would win.

“Learn” begins with what a robot is, and documents various pivotal inventions that contributed to the development of modern day robots.  There is also a Timeline and a Glossary of Robotics.

This app would be great to have on ipads that students use to learn but also for them to browse for information.  It would appeal to those with robot knowledge but even to those without much robot knowledge.

Robots has a very attractive topic but does it justice with the information contained within the app.