Posts Tagged ‘How To’

ToonDoo Tutorial

April 8, 2011 1 comment

I receive a lot of feedback on my article on comic strip creation, so I thought I would go the next step and provide a basic tutorial for creating cartoons. Please feel free to use, modify, edit, whatever. But, if you make a million dollars off of this, you owe me half ;).

If it is useful to you, please let me know. It’s always nice to know people appreciate the work.

Here is the ToonDoo Tutorial, titled: Getting Started with ToonDoo


7 Reasons, 6 Tips and 3 Uses: Wikis In The Classroom

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I’ve used wikis in a class (last May I believe), so I thought I needed to remind myself why I liked using them and how I made it work by writing a blog post. If you find this useful, please share  and comment below!
Reasons For Using Wikis
  1. Honor Each Student Using social media such as wikis helps you honor the ideas of each student. Engage your students and let them know that their ideas are valued – give them a platform to share their understandings, and they will.
  2. Make Understanding Transparent When using a wiki that is accessible with any web browser all students can access the knowledge of their classmates even if they are too shy to talk in class or those who miss a day or even weeks.
  3. Teach Your Students To Reference Ideas Wikis are a very easy way for students to begin referencing other work because they can easily put in links to other web based sources
  4. Learn Digital Citizenship Getting your students working on social media gives you an opportunity to teach digital citizen, and allow students to learn how to become effective ‘knowers’ in the 21st century
  5. Use Multimedia Students can add multimedia to their notes/work; links, video, pictures, interactive web applets, cartoons, etc.
  6. Engage Students similar to #1, but specifically focus on the fact that students will be doing work instead of teacher.
  7. Track Student Work Wikis are one of the few tools that allows you to see exactly which user has done what. Use the history function to track student work and edits to know who has been engaged.
Tips For Making Wikis Work In The Classroom
  1. Set Clear Expectations√ The best way to deal with problem behavior is to avoid it with clear expectations. Talk to your students about being good citizens online, and have clear expectations. Students respond well to candid discussions on this topic.
  2. Provide Descriptive Feedback 🙂 Take a few minutes early in the use of wikis to show students the type of ‘posts’ that are productive and effective, and tell them why. Point out ‘posts’ that are less effective, and tell them why.
  3. Structures Help! Using wikis will be very different, so think carefully about how you structure such a lesson in advance. Usually only one user can edit at once. I brought 25 people online to work on 13 wikis (representing 13 concepts). The first time I did this I made 13 bright yellow sheets of paper with the title of each wiki page on one yellow sheet. In pairs, users were told to only edit a wiki if they had the corresponding sheet. Every 5 minutes we switched sheets, until each group had the chance to add to each wiki/idea.
  4. Scaffold Skills If you want students to do research to find media or information, you need to show them how. You may also need to show them how to reference information, use a wiki, take turns, collaborate, share, respond to classmates, etc. If you don’t teach it, don’t expect them to know how!
  5. Provide Frameworks consider providing structures such as questions for them to answer (please don’t turn a wiki into a worksheet!), graphic organizers for sorting research findings, etc. – anything to help students organize their thoughts and get them started.
  6. Be Present The most important thing you can do for your students is be present while they are working. Circle around the classroom frequently, ask students to show you what they have so far. Question them, and have them question you. If you’re not a part of the learning process than why are you getting paid?
Suggested Uses of Wikis During Learning
  1. As a KWL Chart (what I Know, what I Want to know, and what I Learned) The first time I used wikis in class, small groups shared a wiki throughout a two-week unit of study. I posted over-arching questions on the wiki, and the individuals in the group added and updated it. At the end they had a nice document with pictures, text, links, videos and interactive applets that helped them understand the content.
  2. As A Unit Review I’ve seen a few teachers using wikis at the end of a unit to put together interactive multi-media based notes and questions. In these cases the community knowledge had been less of a focus but the simplicity of a wiki expedited student work.
  3. As The Knowledge of the Classroom It is important to honor the ideas and understandings of every student in your classroom. By using wikis you can give each student an opportunity to share their understanding on a topic; a picture, graph, video, experience, applet or other website/resource that helps them represent their understanding. I seen a math teacher once have students use wikis to explain a data set – at the end there were various types of graphs, links images and explanations which became a valuable way for students to gain the perspective of their peers.

I hope I’ve given you some fresh ideas for using wikis in school. These ideas have developed out of work I have done with my district and with my colleague, Susana Gerndt. I would be interested in hearing your feedback in the comments below! 🙂

This post is the third in a series of posts I call “Reasons and Tips”

Getting High School Kids To Talk “Math”

November 24, 2010 3 comments


Today I had the pleasure of working with a dedicated and gifted first year teacher. Tim is doing an impressive job teaching pre-calculus grade 11 and 12 math; he has well prepared lessons and examples, clear explanations and solid answers to student questions. Tim invited me into his classroom to work with him and his students to develop some mathematical discourse with the kids.

The unit of study for todays grade 11’s was circle geometry; students had to learn, prove and apply both the Tangent Radius Theorem and Equal Tangents Theorem

Equal Tangents Theorem: PA = PB

Tangent Radius Theorem: Angle OPQ = 90 degrees

The lesson played out as shown below. Keep in mind the focus is on student talk.

Part 1 – Modelling Teachers (Tim and I) stated the Equal tangents theorem for the students, and walked them through the logic of the proof

Part 2 – We Do Together Teachers stated the Tangent Radius Theorem and elicited ideas from the whole class regarding their understanding of the theorem, the diagram, assumptions, and conjectures. Students were encouraged to use relevant math terms and were probed with open ended questions to guide their thinking.

Part 3 – You Do Together (whole class) a) Students solved a problem that most students could easily prove. b) Then, as a class (this is the “do together” part) students brainstormed relevant terminology and theorems used to do the example proof.

Part 4 – You Do Together (Pairs) Students had 60 seconds to use a diagram and the terms from part 3 to explain/prove the problem to a partner – after 60 seconds they switched roles from listened to speaker.

During part one of the lesson no students used the language of mathematics verbally. During part two, students struggled to use the language (either they weren’t comfortable doing so or they didn’t know how). By part four of the lesson students were very talkative and on topic. The sentences formed by students seemed to be perfectly logical and mathematically correct. It was quite exciting for both Tim and I to see how quickly students became engaged in mathematical discourse when given clear structures and expectations. Tomorrow we will be trying out a write-around (recently called paper-blogging in the blogosphere) and I am quite excited to see the results. My personal agenda is to get students using social media to engage in discourse by the third lesson (approximately 160 minutes of lead up instruction time).

If you’ve been wanting to get students to talk more in your math classes – just give it a try. A couple of simple structures and a few minutes of planning seems to go a long way!

Become an Expert with Googles Similar Search

October 23, 2010 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I had a teacher ask me how I know about ‘every single website’ out there (her words).  Obviously I do not know every single site, but when I’m asked to do a presentation on a topic, like say creating cartoons, I look for as many sites as I can find.  As a technology consultant, I want to know which sites are favourites of my own and decide which one or two I will recommend to teachers (and for what reasons). So, I usually start with a few go to sites that I’m familiar with, and simply do a “similar” search in google.  Works great, and if you do a related/similar search for enough websites, you eventually find (almost) everything.

I started off looking for cartooning sites for my cartooning website review by searching for as shown below

6 Reasons and 3 Tips: Making Cartoons In School

October 19, 2010 3 comments

The most popular post in the short history of this blog was Get Your Students Stripping: A Simple Review of Online Comic Creation Websites back in May 2010.  I wanted to honour it by posting some practice tips for teachers on how to utilize these sites. I’m not going to get into extensive details on ‘how’ and ‘when’ to use comics in your classroom.  I’m simply trying to provide a little bit of inspiration here. I think that online comic creation sites are a great way to get students developing 21st century skills.

If you haven’t already found a site you love for creating comics, I recommend both creaza and toondoo.

Reasons To Get Your Students Making Comic Strips/Books

1) It’s Fast! Online tools such as creaza and toondoo are so simple to use that you barely even need to show students how the tool works.  It takes about 10 minutes to get a class logged in and show them the basic functions the very first time, and than they are working. If they have a good plan, it shouldn’t take very long to finish.

2) Students Have To Think! Science, Math, Social, or English, I can promise you students won’t easily find what you’re asking them to make.  Students are forced to synthesize information, and create dialogue from facts.  They also must be succinct, adding to the challenge.

3) Students Love It! I’ve gone into over a dozen classrooms to help out with doing cartooning in class. In both middle school and high school, kids love it! Now, if you make them do it all the time, I’m sure the appeal will quickly die, but it certainly is a different type of assignment for them.  Everyone likes cartoons, and these websites take the challenge out of having to draw.

4) Its Accessible! Students who might struggle with a writing-heavy assignment due to low levels of literacy can still thrive, and show off what they know!

5) They Live On! On most websites, students not only create their comics but they can get feedback from others.  It’s a whole new meaning for literacy, and a new challenge, to get people to rally around your message.

6) Rework and Reuse Old Assignments! You don’t have to come up with a brand new idea and toss out old assignments.  Sometimes the easiest way to start making change to your practice is a simple modification.  My first cartoon came from an old assignment, where I used to ask students to take on a historical figure in science and write a letter about their own thoughts/discoveries.  Now the assignment requires students to create simple dialogue that will portray the same knowledge. Students are creating new stories instead of old reports, and including a visual literacy element as well.

How To Make It Successful In Your Classroom

1) Plan In The Classroom! Get students to plan before you let them ‘play’ on the computer.  It is even better if you can give them a graphic organizer (table/chart) to help them.  Get students to consider, for each slide: the background, the characters, the prompts, the dialogue.  This is really where most of the thinking is going to occur, and so we want them to spend some time here.

2) Show Them How It Works, Before They Plan! I know, I just said planning has to happen first, and that is true, we want students to learn the value of planning ahead.  But the planning will be much easier for them if they know how the tool works, what kinds of characters they can choose, backgrounds, prompts, etc.

3) Make Them Explain! Actually, I have students do this for every kind of assignment.  When students justify choices they’ve made (and when they know that they will have to justify choices in advance of making them), they tend to put more thought into what they do.  They seem to become more conscious of their choices.

Good luck ‘stripping’ in your classroom.  If you haven’t tried it yet, I think you’ll really love it.  If you’ve used it before I hope I still have given you something to think about.  And don’t forget to check out my other blog post where I recommended toondoo and creaza to see why I liked them.


I would like to thank Susana Gerndt, who is my partner from 8am-5pm. This article was written on my own but the ideas have come from work that both her and I have done over the past year.

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