Technology Instruction

For ICT teachers who are just starting out…

In a perfect world I would like to see the use of technology woven through the fabric of our students’ education but in reality many schools continue to have a computer lab that students visit each week. Often this is a way schools provide preparation time for their teachers. Here are some ideas for productive ways to use this time with our students:

Developing Routines:

I spend the first few weeks simply working on routines so that they are very clear – basically when they get logged on (which takes a long time for the little ones!!) they are free to explore the available software. This frees me up to assist those who are struggling to figure this out, and gives me time to concentrate on routines. I very much encourage my students to be up and looking at what their classmates are doing but what this looks like must be taught directly or it is more chaotic than it needs to be.

Learning and Creating:

I tell the kids there are two things that always have to be happening in the computer lab at school – learning and creating. I tell them that there is never “free time” when they are using the lab at school. I explain that I like to play games on my computer at home just because they are fun (things like solitaire, pac man, and tetris  – really dates me doesn’t it…) . I don’t, however, play these type of games at work because I have a job to do and that would be an inappropriate use of my time. Their job at school is learning and creating and while some games are great fun they are not an appropriate use of their time at school.

Learning new software:

I think one of the tasks we can take on is to give kids the chance to explore, play with, and discover things using a variety of software. I call these lessons “Explorations”. They are great lessons and take very little planning. They have the fringe benefit for teachers new to programs of providing them with time to see what the program can do via the students’ discoveries. The structure of the lesson is:

  • Demo of how to launch the software (especially for younger students)
  • Discussion about exploration – what did the explorers do?
  • Free discovery time with the program – during these lessons students are free to wander to see what others are doing and when they find something cool they are encouraged to show their discoveries to their classmates. I am circulating looking for these discoveries to highlight to the class. I have learned so many new things even about programs that I am very familiar with by watching what the kids are doing.

I like this structure not just because it take very little planning :-), but also because I believe it is the best way for kids (and adults) to figure out a program – just to have time to mess with it. I often hear colleagues complain that they wish they had more time to play with the programs on their computer in order to figure out how they work – our students need this time also. I explain that getting up to check out what their classmates are doing is called “collaboration” not “copying” and it is an important part of the learning process.

Internet Safety

I believe that one of the best things I can do for my students is to help them understand how to protect themselves while interacting in an online world. It is imperative that we are introducing our students to online environments during their elementary years so that they learn to be safe while they are still listening to us. I believe that many of the negative incidents we have heard about in the news recently can be avoided if we arm our students with a better understanding of the dangers and pitfalls, and the importance of portraying themselves online in a positive way. Many of our young people are finding out the hard way because we have not been able to provide them with guidance because we were unprepared for this new reality. Take a look at Brian Kuhn’s blog post: Privacy Living and Learning Digitally. One great Internet safety activity for young students is The first adventure of the three Cyber Pigs.


Another great thing to do is to get them started on blogging. In Coquitlam we can set up blogs for them within the My43 (sharepoint) protected environment. My43 provides us with a safe place for them to begin to develop an online presence with  our guidance and support. Pose questions for them to answer on their blog and have them read and responding to their classmates’ blogs. Whether we like it or not,  our students will soon be (if they aren’t already) setting up Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. They will benefit greatly from any coaching we can provide them with so that they have a better understanding of the impact of their online actions.

I hope this helps! Please share any other recommendations you have for teachers working with students in a computer lab setting.

Useful Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) Sites

I frequently update this blog with information about technology that is useful with Interactive Whiteboards (IWB) such as Smart boards. Take a look at the “Post Categories” on the left hand side of this page to find information that might be useful to you. You can subscribe to email alerts using the dialogue box in the right hand column of this page if you want to receive alerts when I post new information on the blog. Most blogs include this feature so that you are alerted when new information is posted.

IWB Training Resources:

Great IWB Sites

You can also check out the Smartboard Forum site where Coquitlam teachers are working to post internet links they find useful with the Smart boards and various files teachers have made for use with their classes. Coquitlam teachers are encouraged to post resources here to share with their colleagues to help this forum grow!


I keep an ongoing list of links to sites that I find useful with IWBs here: Diigo is a social bookmarking site similar to I also have hundreds of other bookmarks related to activities in a variety of subject areas on my Diigo site:

Google Search Tip

When doing Google searches for Smart board activities add the words Smartboard and Notebook (ie: “simple machines” notebook smartboard) and you will get more results that have files other teachers have created that you can then modify to suit your needs rather than building things from scratch. For more tips on powerful Google searches go to: Google Search Basics and Google search basics: More search help.

If you have any questions or more IWB or Notebook links people should check out please post a comment!

Creating a PowerPoint class book

I made my first video tutorial!! This is a method for making a big book using PowerPoint. You can follow the instructions as you watch by pausing the video to follow the instructions and then play to continue watching. At the end you will have your own PowerPoint Book!! Please note that the background I selected seemed like a good idea at the time but didn’t video well – it was very plain but comes out quite Psychedelic… Oh well, here goes:

SMART Notebook – adding hyperlinks

Here is a quick tutorial about how to add hyperlinks in Smart Notebook Software:

For many more great video tutorials go to: Technology Tips by Marcia Jeans and enter “notebook” into the search bar on the RH side of her page. You could also do a general search on YouTube. Try using the search terms: “smart notebook“, “tutorial“, and a word or two to describe what you are looking for.

Subject Area Weblinks

There are hundreds of great subject specific Websites on the internet. I have bookmarked great sites I have found on the social bookmarking Site Diigo. To look through my slides go to my Diigo site and enter your search terms into the box beside “My Library” then hit “Enter” on your keyboard. When I bookmarked these sites I tagged them with simple search terms such as science, biology, math, etc.

Diigo Instructions

I have also created slide shows that take you on a tour of the sites I have bookmarked so you can have a quick look at them. Click on the thumbnail of the slides below to take you to full-screen mode. If you click on any of the slides once it is in full screen mode you will be taken to the site for a closer look.





Project-Based Learning:


Technology in the Primary Classroom

The video below is a fantastic example of the use of technology in a primary classroom. One of the concerns I hear the most from teachers is that technology will reduce social interactions within their classrooms. This video is a great illustration of how social a classroom using technology can be…

Here is another video in which Kathy Cassidy, the teacher of this classroom, is interviewed about her classroom…

Merry Christmas!!!

Christmas GiftsI created this SMART Notebook file as a fun activity at Christmas. I have the kids come up, put a check mark on the gift they want to open and then touch a gift to open it. Each gift is hyperlinked to another page in this notebook file with a picture of the activity. When they touch the activity it takes them to the website where they can do the christmas activity. This file can be downloaded here: Merry Christmas – have fun!!!

Horizons 2009 ~ CUE BC Conference

Craig, Darryl, Nancy & I made two presentations for the Horizons 2009 CUE BC conference.

I posted our slides and notes for our first presentation on my other Blog: Thinking UDL What is UDL (Universal Design for Learning)

I posted notes and web links for our second presentation “Resources and Tools for a UDL classroom” on this blog. To see all posts for this conference click here. Below is an outline of this presentation with links to more detailed information.

Resources and Tools for a UDL classroom

Into the Book

Into the book Into the book is an engaging way to review and reinforce various reading comprehension strategies teachers are teaching in their classroom. I introduce it as a large group activity on the SMART Board or using a projector. The strategies it includes are:

  • Visualizing
  • Summarizing
  • Synthesizing
  • Making Connections
  • Prior Knowledge
  • Inferring
  • Evaluating
  • Questioning

Students love these activities and will be motivated to repeat them in the computer lab following a class introduction.

UDL Tip…

When using this as a large group activity the teacher can move out of the spotlight soon after the activity begins rolling. Station yourself in proximity of a student who will need more direct support to be successful.

Use Nancy, Darryl, & Craig’s “phone a friend” strategy so that all students can participate without anxiety. Students can either try the answer they choose, or they can ask for a volunteer from the class for a suggestion.

A Classroom Story…

One day I was using this activity with a Grade 3 group. One of the students was especially eager for her turn – her teacher had indicated that she had some special learning needs and had very beginning reading skills. I had been circulating the room while the students ran the program when it came to her turn at the computer. I moved closer at this point to assist if necessary. She ran the program with a few tips mostly because she was new to a mouse pad. She decided to “phone a friend” in the process of selecting a response – in fact she selected three friends who together provided her with two possibilities. She chose the most popular and was excited when the game confirmed her response.

When the school Principal came in to ask the class what they were learning from this game I was thinking that I had probably not provided enough information to the students about why we were playing this game. The young lady in this story provided a very detailed response which showed a very good understanding of the point of the activity (whew!!!).