What is the role of Technology?

Today was an exciting and interesting day at the Canadian International School, to say the least. Just a few short weeks after
opening the doors to our new state of the art campus in Singapore, we hosted a live radio show on the role of technology that was broadcast on the Campus Radio Show on 93.8 FM Singapore.

An enthusiastic studio audience of high school students watched and listened to the show live in our new auditorium while many others, including Mr. Little's MYP 10 Technology class, demonstrated the modern art of multi-tasking by listening to the live stream of the show over the Internet in their classroom, while continuing with their studies.

The panel discussion included students Meg Cavanagh and Gabriella Reeb, teacher Rick Butler, and a panel of experts from the field of technology representing companies like Microsoft and other industry leaders. Others making significant contributions through their insightful comments included students Tanya Phillips, Shayna Haley, Grael Miller, Elena Tsvetkova, Jennifer Li and Ken Montgomery, to name but a few.

Conversations circulated around topics that included the perceived threat that technology poses, the need to broaden our use/understanding of technology beyond using the Internet for social networking, and knowing how to make sure we maintain a balance in our lives between technological and human interaction.

Ultimately, the panel surmised that technology does have the ability to de-humanize human interaction and that users of technology need to make a conscious choice to use technology in a humanizing way that adds more value to our lives, our relationships and our way of doing things.

Glogster EDU - Poster Yourself

Glogster EDU is a 21st Century tool for creating multimedia "posters' or "glogs' that include text, photos, graphics, drawings and embedded videos and sounds.

It has an easy to use interface that can be used to create inspirational projects that allow for student creativity and increase multimedia presentation skills.    There's also a nice student management piece which can be used to create private classes which can be monitored by the teacher administrator throughout the learning process.

There are 2 versions available.  The free basic teacher version allows the teacher-administrator to create a single class while the premium version gives you the ability to create multiple classes and subjects for  $99/yr.  There's also a school version for $2/student that allows you to add an unlimited number of students.  Of course, the best place to start of is with the free basic version to see if it's right for you and your students. I used the free version this year with a single class and based on the success I had with GlogsterEDU and student feedback I've decided to get the premium version for next year, which will allow me to create 200 student accounts.

The first assignment that I had my students complete on Glogster was to demonstrate their understanding of the seven motivators behind why people travel.  I presented the expectations of the assignment to them through a Glog in which I attempted to demonstrate some of the functionality Glogster has.  Some of the elements that I included in my original assignment included the addition of a variety of text features,  photos and embedding audio/video.  You can check out these features below......

Once we had learned the button pushing elements of Glogster,  students went on to use it in more meaningful ways, including the completion of Glogs on an adventure tourism or eco-tourism destination.   Students then shared their Glogs with one another by participating in an electronic travel fair whereby students circulated throughout the class and investigated each other's presentations.
My principal, Ted Cowan, came in for a visit and wrote about our experiences in his blog.

Students enjoyed using this method of demonstrating their understanding because of the easy incorporation of a number of different multimedia elements into their finished product.  From a teacher's perspective, the students remained on-task and engaged in their work and it allowed them to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in a different way.

Here is a student sample:

In conclusion, I would recommend Glogster  as another tool you can incorporate into the classroom learning environment to offer enriched learning opportunities to your students.

Skype in the Classroom

With all the talk lately about Microsoft's acquisition of Skype, it got me thinking about how we use this communication tool in the classroom.  Of course, educators are always looking for ways to connect what they teach to the 'real world'.  Whether it be bringing in guest speakers, taking our students on field trips or taking virtual trips through the use of the Internet, we are always looking for ways to connect with the outside world and bring meaning to what our students learn.  The use of Skype is an additional tool to help bridge this divide.

Imagine having a remote book talk with an author or collaborating with another classroom on the other side of the world.  The possibilities are really endless.  Looking for where to get started?  Check out 50 Awesome Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom for resources on getting started with Skype and ideas for teachers and parents and finding others using Skype.

Looking to use Skype in a meaningful way that explicitly defines learning objectives at every (pre-during-post) stage of a Skype conference?  Then, look no further than this document shared by educator Silvia Tolisano.

Skype was recently used by teacher Ben Grundy at the Canadian International School in Singapore to communicate with the PIO School in Cambodia as part of a performance arts unit.  Students from each school demonstrated cultural dances to one another and used the technology to create a unique multicultural learning experience.  See all the details here.

Looking for your own opportunities to collaborate?  Take a look at Skype in the classroom to find collaborative projects, like-minded teachers and a wide variety of resources including videos, links and tips.

Check out this video on Skype in the classroom, as reported by Kara Tsuboi, a CNET reporter for CBS Newspath.

Want to get started but don't know where to begin?  Get Skype and check out New to Skype? for everything you need to know to get started and let the communicative learning begin!


As I stated in my previous blog post, as good as Wordle is, it does have limitations.  That's where Tagxedo comes in.  Tagxedo offers all the functionality of Wordle and so much more.  Just how much more?  Well, unlike Wordle, the user/creator is presented with a number of publishing options including saving the Tagxedo in both .jpg and .png formats in various sizes ranging from 125kb-16 mb and in a number of different formats including thumbnails and .html.  There's also the ability to publish to the web in a number of different formats and embed a Tagxedo player into a web site, blog etc.  All of these options are currently free in the beta version of this web app but may become premium options that will only be available in the future for a fee.

Ada Lovelace - Computer Pioneer

The best feature of Tagxedo is that it allows you to organize your words or tags in order to create an image or shape.  This is much better than Wordle,  which only allows your words to be organized horizontally, vertically or any which way.  In creating an image with words, you can select an image from the Shapes menu or best of all, you can choose to upload your own image .  A word of advice:  In selecting an image, choose one that does not have to much detail, like a clip art type of image.

But, wait a minute. I've kind of put the cart in front of the horse here.  You'll need to decide what the subject of your Tagxedo will be.    You could create a Tagxedo based on the content from a web site, your tweets, blogs or your tags using your Del.icio.us ID.  Other ideas include using a news story or an RSS feed.  Looking for something more educational ?  How about a biography, movie reviews, book reviews or a novel character/plot analysis.    Want even more ideas?  Check out the link to 101 Ways to Use Tagxedo.  Ideas featured on this page include using your name to create a Tagxedo or using the lyrics from a song.  They're are tons of other great ideas as well.

Sample - student work

 Once you have selected your words and decided on a shape/image, you can use a number of different tools to modify the look and feel of your work.  These include changing the color, theme, font, orientation and layout.  The possibilities are truly endless.  Once you've finished your product, you can save it locally in the different sizes and formats I mentioned earlier or you can publish your work on the web.  Once again, you've got a number of options for publishing your work to the web including saving it as an image or as an interactive Microsoft Silverlight interactive application ( see example).  Speaking of  Silverlight,  Tagxedo works seamlessly in a Windows environment.  Mac users on the other hand,  will have to download the Microsoft Silverlight Plug-In before they can use Tagxedo. 

Other features of Tagxedo include that it supports a number of languages including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Finally, there's a gallery that's under construction which eventually will allow users to submit their work. According to developer Hardy Leung, the gallery will be, "moderated to make this a kids-friendly place."

So what are you waiting for? Give Tagxedo a try!

Walking on a Word Cloud

My first introduction to the creation of  "word clouds" or word art  using Wordle was about a year ago.  At that time, I would have to say that I was pretty impressed with the potential  of this Java based app as a tool for visual learners.  And if a picture tells a million words, a Wordle tells ten times that number.  How does it work? Wordle gives the user the ability to organize and emphasize words on a given subject vertically, horizontally or randomly using different font colours, styles etc.  Of course, the quality of your work is not a result of the tools you have, but what you create with them.  So, some suggested applications might include doing things like creating book reviews, movie reviews and poetry, analyzing character traits,  examining an historical event etc.

Wordles in the Classroom

20 uses for Wordle
Top 10 uses for Wordle

Here's a brief tutorial on using Wordle from YouTube:

The Last Word

As good as Wordle is, it has considerable limitations.   The most significant of these, is what to do with your Wordle when you have completed it.  The only on-screen options the user has is to either 'save to public gallery' or print.   There is no on-screen save option .  Of course there are ways around this inconvenience, but it requires additional steps, time and/or expertise, which you may or may not have. Be that as it may, I would still recommend Wordle as an appropriate introduction to the world of word clouds. After all, you gotta walk, before you can run.  

Next blog post: Running on air through the world of word clouds.