Webquest Resources

A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web. The model was developed by Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University. Well designed, grade appropriate webquests can certainly help students develop strong research skills and hone their ability to compare and evaluate information from different sources.

Today I am sharing a few resources that might fit your classroom plans and curriculum needs.

WebQuests for Engaged Learners


Quest Garden

Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators


Tech Treker’s QuestsOnline Technology WebQuest Practise Modules

Lastly, here is a webquest that might tickle your interest and problem solving skills:  The DaVinci Code Web Quest.

Happy learning.

~ Mark

Classroom: Twitter in Action

In my August 19th blog post, Classroom: Student use of Twitter, I ended my post with the following comment:

“Communication strategies and student engagement are often given as reasons for looking at Twitter use in the classroom. I believe the skillful teacher will find the right fit for Twitter as a curriculum support tool.”

Last night I found a good example of a skillful teacher using Twitter in the classroom. How appropriate that I found this example through Twitter!

In the video, The Twitter Experiment – UT Dallas, Dr. Monica Rankin, Professor of History at the University of Texas at Dallas, School of Arts and Humanities, who has been using Twitter in her classroom talks about her approach and initial observations of this new tool. Dr. Rankin acknowledges that Twitter use in her classroom is experimental, and that it is important to ‘play in the mess’ to figure out the most effective use for her classroom, students and subject matter.

While acknowledging the 140 character limit of a Twitter message, both Dr. Rankin and students interviewed identified a number of advantages to incorporating Twitter into the classroom setting. Comments included:

  • greater participation of students
  • accommodation of more input/comments than could have been spoken in class
  • shy students that may not have spoken in class were involved in the discussion
  • the discussion continued outside of class time
  • the instructor participated in ongoing discussions even when duties took her away from the university

I noted that students accessed Twitter with a variety of different technologies: desktops, laptops, netbooks and smartphones. Students that did not have access to technology were accommodated  by having their hand written Tweets entered on their behalf after class.

The YouTube video,  The Twitter Experiment – UT Dallas (apprx 5 1/2 minutes) is well worth the watch.

~ Mark

Smartboard Resources

Smart Board Links for August 29, 2009

A few ideas for the new school year.

Smart Board Templates by Grade groupings

Listing from MSK Computer Technology

K12 Smart Board Collection

Google Doc with resources from the Shenandoah Valley Smart Users Conference

Cybrary Man’s Educational Resources

~ Mark

A Victory for Process: Facebook Privacy Policy to Change

My July 18th blog post referenced issues with Facebook not meeting Canadian privacy laws. This week, announcements were made indicating that following the consultation process with the Canadian Privacy Commission, Facebook would indeed make changes to bring their practices in line with Canadian privacy requirements.

During the upcoming months, Facebook will make several changes to its privacy policy. This will include clarifying messages on the site that inform users about their control over their personal information when they join, deactivate or delete an account or sign up to use an application.

Specific changes Facebook will be making:

• Updating the Privacy Policy to better describe a number of practices, including the reasons for the collection of date of birth, account memorialization for deceased users, the distinction between account deactivation and deletion, and how its advertising programs work.

• Encouraging users to review their privacy settings to make sure the defaults and selections reflect the user’s preferences.

• Increasing the understanding and control a user has over the information accessed by third-party applications. Specifically, Facebook will introduce a new permissions model that will require applications to specify the categories of information they wish to access and obtain express consent from the user before any data is shared. In addition, the user will also have to specifically approve any access to their friends’ information, which would still be subject to the friend’s privacy and application settings.

My View:  To me, this represents more than a victory for privacy. It is a vote of confidence that the process works – and it worked through the identification of issues, consultation, collaboration and resolution. This is powerful and more effective than some ugly court case. The efforts of those involved in this entire process will positively impact the current 200 million Facebook users and all future Facebook users. Three cheers for a great process!!!

Related Reading:

Original complaint by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic

Original Findings and Recommendations

Facebook Press Release

Globe and Mail perspective

New York Times perspective


~ Mark

Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

Digital Citizenship is an important theme in today’s online world. Educational systems are actively developing strategies to weave this concept into the curriculum. Mike Ribble describes Digital Citizenship as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use.  He believes Digital Citizenship is characterized by 9 elements.

1. Digital Etiquette: electronic standards of conduct or procedure.

2.   Digital Communication: electronic exchange of information.

3.   Digital Literacy: process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology.

4.   Digital Access: full electronic participation in society.

5.   Digital Commerce: electronic buying and selling of goods.

6.   Digital Law: electronic responsibility for actions and deeds (ethical use)

7.   Digital Rights and Responsibilities: those freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world.

8.   Digital Health and Wellness: physical and psychological well-being in a digital technology world.

9.   Digital Security (self-protection): electronic precautions to guarantee safety.

The full details of the 9 elements are online at DigitalCitizenship.net.

In our Board, Digital Citizenship will handled as part of our Character Development initiative. While this is certainly a topic for most grades, we feel the greatest impact will be achieved working with students grade 4 through 9. We are in the midst of preparing classroom resources to assist with the delivery of this initiative.

To date, we have purchased reference books for each school library, shared some resources and teaching strategies with our Technology Steering Committee and designed a poster which will be distributed to all schools and also used for electronic media. Elements of the electronic media will be used as the background for the computer desktop display image.

The books we purchased for school libraries are:

Digital Citizenship in Schools by Mike Ribble and Gerald Bailey (ISTE) and

Raising a Digital Child by Mike Ribble (ISTE)


Digital Citizenship and Creative Content

Cyber Smart Curriculum

Safe Social Networking

Brain Pop: Spotlight on Digital Citizenship

Wired Safety

Safe Surfing, An Introduction to the Internet

Doug Johnson’s technology ethics

Stop Cyber Bullying

Web Awareness Workshop Series Note: This series is licensed for use in Ontario publicly funded schools by OSAPAC. OSAPAC priorities for 2009/2010 will include Digital Citizenship and Online Safety through online delivery.

Thank you for teaching, promoting and role modeling Digital Citizenship.

~ Mark

Clarifying 20c / 21c learning

This blog post is the result of connections made between a live event, Twitter, blogs and related commenting. This is a good example of technology supporting a focused learning session,  with an invitation extended for some participation by remote educators. 

Background: David Warlick was delivering a visioning and leadership session at Greater Essex County School Board. As part of the session, David had posed the question: What is the difference between 20th and 21st century learning? There is no doubt this is a great question to ponder and attempt to wrap your mind around. 

The Connections:

  • David wrote a blog article focusing on this question
  • An invitation to ‘weigh in’ on the discussion was posted on Twitter
  • Many active educators on Twitter would view the invite
  • Some would check out the blog post, while others would participate in the commenting as well
  • For those who commented, their writing was reviewed and posted if suitable

The original blog post and the comments are all well written and interesting to read. As an active member of the educational online community, I certainly appreciated the opportunity to ‘weigh in’ and participate. 

A few highlights from the ongoing discussion include:

  • positive traits of 2oth and 21st century learning
  • a decade into the 21st century, why do we still refer to 21st century learning?
  • student engagement – who owns this? and do teachers own it alone?
  • are education and learning the same thing? or different?

After reading the comments and decided to submit a comment, I was thinking about some connections to the Element by Dr. Ken Robinson. In his book, the Element, he discusses the need to develop ALL of the intelligences in a person. Robinson declares that you are in ‘the element’ when you hit the sweet spot of doing what you excel at and what you are passionate about. 

Helping students find their element, by using the best instructional strategies available while taking advantage of appropriate technologies to support student learning and success is the journey we are on together. Perhaps this is what we mean, at least in part,  by 21st century learning.

David Warlick’s original blog post:  What is the difference between 20th and 21st century learning?

My comment (now posted): I like your definition David. There are a few points that stick in my mind that I would like to share.

1. I believe the use of the term ’21st century learning’ is inclusive of embedding the technology tools that we have access to as part of the learning process. It is not about the technology itself, but rather strategic integration of the tools we have (now or at some future point) to foster the best possible learning environment and opportunities. Certainly, we have those that embrace, and those that do not and perhaps this comparison drives our notion of 21st century learning.

2. I also think that there is a potential to make today’s curriculum more individualized for the independent and collaborative learners we develop.

3. In some ways, we reference 20th century learning as if was all bad. This is certainly no so in my mind. I expect we could make a good case to revisit a few areas we excelled at before the ‘digital’ time began.

Our journey is all about the learner. Creating the best possible learning environment covers the ‘whole playing field’ – curriculum design, building design, teacher training, assessment, changing with the times, best use of technology and steady, reflective incremental improvement. After all, we are life long learners!

~ Mark

Blogging with iPods

In our Board, we have had many literacy and writing successes with students involved in the blogging process as part of their course work. Teachers indicate that students:

  • are more engaged
  • are more likely to participate in the class activity
  • demonstrate improvement in their writing skills
  • are more likely to enter into dialogue about their reading materials

All of these success indicators point to involving more teachers and students in incorporating blogging as a literacy strategy. In order to achieve growth in this area, staff and students need to have sufficient access to technology to facilitate the blogging process and at the time you need it. 

Possibilities: Meeting this need becomes a key ingredient in the success formula. Along with some other staff at our Board, I have been looking at affordable ways to do this. One option would be to use an iPod touch (with classroom wireless access). There are currently 3 applications available for the iPod – WordPress, Blogwriter Lite and Blogwriter.

Software Application Cost: WordPress and Blogwriter Lite are free applications. Blogwriter is $1.99 CDN.

Other factors: Of course, training, assessment, support and sustainability are components of this picture too.

I am going to spend a little time reviewing and testing each application to see how feasible this approach might be. I will share what I learn in a future post. Off to start experimenting and learning about blogging with iPods.

~ Mark

iPod Resource: iLearn 2

The great thing about traveling the ‘blogosphere’ is that you are constantly learning. The learning takes many forms: new resources, new sites to bookmark and revisit, new sources of information, new people to add to your PLN or RSS feed. There is constant reinforcement of the rich content, thinking, sharing and collaboration that occurs in our online world. 

During a recent blogosphere trip, I came across references to iLearn 2, so I bookmarked it and have gone back to revisit the site a number of times. iLearn is organized like an online book which can be viewed in magazine, presentation or paper views. Contents of iLearn 2  include:

  • a 21st century learning framework
  • ideas for choosing a particular iPod model
  • mobility in learning
  • podcasts
  • slideshows
  • video
  • text files & eBooks
  • internet usage (iTouch browser)
  • a comprehensive list of applications with brief descriptions organized by subjects
  • digital storytelling
  • lab management tips 

In my view, iLearn 2 is is an excellent resource and I recommend that you take the time to have a look if you are using or planning to use iPods in your classroom. Enjoy the learning.

~ Mark

What’s in a Digital Footprint

As we spend more and more time online, one leaves a digital footprint – digital connections to our name which are part of your online presence. 

Personas is a component of the metropathologies, currently on display at the MIT museum by the Social Media Group. It uses sophisticated natural language processing and the Internet to create a data portrait of one’s aggregated online personaliy. In effect, Personas shows you how the Internet sees you.

Here’s how it works:  You enter your name, first and last only, no middle initials, titles etc. and Personas will dig through the Internet to search for information and attempts to characterize the person by fitting the information against a predetermined set of categories that an algorithmic process created from the total data set found. Each step of the multi-stage process is visualized. The final result is the representation of the seemingly authoritative personal ‘online’ profile (based on the data set).

Personas is a great example of data mining to build profiles from extensive quantities of information. As amazing as this process is, it is also an example showing inconsistencies and inadvertent errors that occur, mainly due to the lack of ability to separate data from multiple owners of the same name. In other words, if I run the process using ‘Mark Carbone’ the final profile presented will be based on the collective data for all of the  people with the name ‘Mark Carbone’, not just me. 

The algorithm fits the collected data against 23 categories, so it’s fairly comprehensive.  The categories include one called ‘illegal’ and I would bet that this would make many of us squirm a little …  I road tested a few names, including my own and this category exists for all the names I tested. None the less, this is a great example a powerful data mining tool.

As an example the representation of ‘Mark Carbone’ looks like



This is a very interesting technology. Click here to try  your name.  I am sure you will enjoy checking out Personas.  Have fun with the profiler.

~ Mark

Tech and leisure time, what about Scrabble?

In a recent post, Technology enhances leisure time , I shared my experience of technology changing our approach, success and enjoyment of solving crossword puzzles. I shared this particular example because it is a good example (in my mind) of how technology can have a positive impact on something that is seemingly unrelated.

After dialoguing with a number of people after the post, I was surprised at the reaction and I thought I would share an update. I was anticipating comments about moving the puzzle solving away from the ‘pure’ form. The theme of the reactions boiled down to one common thread:  Scrabble – I did not mention Scrabble in my post.

I love playing Scrabble and Scrabble like games (Lexulous, Wordscaper etc.) and they are absolutely right. Technology has changed the way people can be involved in a multitude of online recreational activities. I do not get a chance to enjoy a face to face game of Scrabble often enough, but I can play online every day – and I do!  

The technology provides a way to enjoy daily interaction with friends whether they live next door, another city or country,  or are travelers on the go for that matter. Plus, the technology expands the options and opportunities of communication.

I can:

  • play multiple games at once
  • multitask while playing
  • send notes back and forth within the games
  • play independent of other people’s schedules (asynchronous)
  • play in real time with options to chat on and/or have a video conversation (MSN, skype etc.)
  • play any where I have an internet connection
  • play via a mobile device

Playing word games with family and friends is a high light in each day that I treasure and technology enabled this possibility. Lucky me! Now, I am willing to bet that one of my friends played a Scrabble move while I was typing this post. I better go check 🙂

~ Mark