Monday, February 27, 2012

SyncSpace - A Whiteboard App for iPads and Android Tablets

SyncSpace is a collaborative whiteboard app that I recently featured on my other blog Android 4 Schools. Since writing that post, I've had a couple of people ask if SyncSpace is available for iPads. The answer is yes. You can get the SyncSpace app for iPad here and the Android app here.

You can use SyncSpace to create drawings and documents on your tablet. You can create using free-hand drawing tools, using typing tools, or a combination of the two tool sets. Your drawings and documents can be sent to and synced with other users so that they can comment and edit your drawings and documents. Learn more about SyncSpace in the video below.

Applications for Education
SyncSpace could be a great app for collaborative brainstorming sessions across multiple devices.

How Twitter Helps Overcome Inequity With Rural Internet Access

Last week was guest post week here, but I messed up on the scheduling of one post by Tanis Thiessen. Therefore, I'm starting the week with one last guest post.

While it seems like “all the world” is accessing the internet freely and quickly these days, the truth is that there are still areas in Canada where high speed internet is unavailable. In our rural K-12 school in southern Manitoba, approximately 20% of our community has access to the internet only through dial-up, with the rest having access through high-speed connections. So how can we communicate in a timely fashion, using technology to reach ALL of our community, when dial-up is an obstacle? The answer--tweet!

Set up your school with a twitter account, and all your stakeholders--parents, students, board members, the community--can easily get up-to-date information on their handheld devices. We regularly use our Twitter account to send out calendar updates, school assembly information, articles on current topics in education, and “what’s happening in class now” pictures.

           Sports events, dramas, concerts, in-class projects, new equipment, guest speakers, monthly themes are all highlighted. Through short tweets and quick pix, community members stay connected to the pulse of the school.

We try to make our account easy to find, adding a “Follow Us On Twitter” button to our wiki page ( This is an easy way to guide people to our Twitter account, and bonus is that these buttons are free from many sources on the ‘net. (Ours came from Twitter Buttons,

Realizing that Twitter limits our interactions by the brevity of the posts, we try to make our communications with the community as multi-faceted as possible. We send email attachments of our newsletter and monthly calendar to parents who request it, while posting it on our wiki makes it accessible to those who prefer that venue. Teachers use Edmodo, Moodle, Google Docs, and the school’s wiki to provide various methods for students to stay up-to-date on classwork and utilize their tech skills to meet educational outcomes.

Twitter is a great way to keep stakeholders informed of your school activities. Parents appreciate the calendar updates; students appreciate the pictures and links to cool websites; businesses supporting our students through apprenticeship appreciate the free advertising given through mentions in tweets throughout the year. In an area where dial-up could prevent timely communication, Twitter helps overcome this rural inequity.

Elm Creek School, part of Prairie Rose School Division in south-central Manitoba, is a K-12 school of approximately 200 students and 16 teachers. Our building is nestled in the small but robust community of Elm Creek, 40 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, capital of Manitoba. Our school provides a wide variety of programming for students, utilizing interactive TV connections for some classes, online coursework for others, technical-vocational opportunities through Carman Collegiate just 15 minutes south of us, and in-house teacher-led coursework. We have three Smartboards, 1:3 computer-to-student ratio, a high school science lab with university-grade equipment, two computer labs, a gymnasium with mezzanine for weight training, and a canteen that serves homemade lunch specials daily.

Elm Creek School has a thriving daycare and preschool program run by a community group that uses our building, and we offer some adult coursework in the evenings. We have an elementary music program, a high school band and choir program, technology courses, career and technology studies with apprenticeships available through community partnerships, and an incredibly supportive Parent Advisory Council that has upgraded our outdoor play spaces and will soon be upgrading one of our two computer labs in the building.

About the Guest Blogger
Tanis Thiessen is a school administrator in Elm Creek, Manitoba. You can follow the Elm Creek School Twitter feed here

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Video - America's Briefest President

This evening while browsing the CBS News video section I came across a short piece about William Henry Harrison. The four minute video, narrated by Mo Rocca, tells the story of how William Henry Harrison came into office and why his wife never did make it to Washington, D.C.

Applications for Education
As I watched the video I noticed there were some striking similarities between Harrison's attempt to hide his aristocratic roots while campaigning and those same attempts made by politicians today. Show the video to your history students and ask them if they can draw any comparisons between the campaign practices of Harrison and of today's politicians. Then ask them to think about why some politicians may want to hide their aristocratic backgrounds.

Create a Virtual Volcanic Eruption

A couple of years I posted a list of five good resources for teaching about volcanoes. Last week, through Ask a Tech Teacher, I discovered another resource to add to that list. The Discovery Channel's Volcano Explorer provides a small simulation that students can use to design a volcanic eruption. Using the Volcano Explorer students choose the magma viscosity and gas content to create a virtual volcanic eruption. When students make their selections the Volcano Explorer provides a short explanation of how those settings will affect the shape of the volcano and its eruption.

Applications for Education
Discovery's Volcano Explorer could be a nice little simulation to use in an elementary school science lesson. While students won't experience the fun mess of the baking soda and vinegar eruptions that we did as kids, the Volcano Explorer does provide some direct explanation and visuals of magma and gasses in action.

Submissions Still Being Accepted for the Classroom 2.0 Book

Last month Steve Hargadon, Chris Dawson, and I put out the call for submissions to the Classroom 2.0 Fifth Anniversary Book. We have had a steady flow of submissions over the last month. And there is still time for you to make a contribution. Contributing to the book is a great opportunity to have your voice heard by a large audience of teachers, school administrators, and other stake-holders in the world of education.

If you're interested in contributing to the Classroom 2.0 Fifth Anniversary Book Project, you can read the call for submissions here. Here are some bullet points about contributing to the book.
  • All submissions will be displayed online on the Classroom 2.0 Scribd page. 
  • Some submissions will be chosen for inclusion in the printed version of the book. 
  • Our hope is that the printed book will be able to reach an audience that doesn't typically get involved in social media/ Web 2.0 and prompt that audience to investigate the benefits of using technology in schools.
  • As a contributor to the project you may be able to reach a wider audience than you could on your own. From my experience with other projects like this, all contributors end up reaching a larger audience due to the mutual sharing of content by all contributors.
  • Here again is the call for submissions to the Classroom 2.0 Fifth Anniversary Book Project