Student Photo-essays Capturing Learning

We always ask ourselves “what does learning look like?”.


Puppets and EdMettle

Unique names for modern classroom tools.

EdMettle is a learning skill (or soft skill) portal for teachers, students and parents to receive and give feedback based on the report card.  Kids can reflect on their own performance and ‘endorse’ themselves on a learning skill.  Or they can endorse a classmate if they catch someone demonstrating the life skills we try to foster at school every day.  Much like Facebook or LinkedIn, you get a thumbs up and a short sentence about what you did that earned you the endorsement.  This is a neat tool that definitely needs modelling and monitoring by the teacher.  The big value add for this time investment is that students will hopefully leave room 205 with a better understanding of what those learning skills on the front page of the report card actually mean.  This program was developed by a cool teacher in Chatham named Mr.Aspinall.  If you truly want to see the future of education, check out his website.

Shadow Puppet is my new favourite app.  This award seems to change weekly, but trust me, this free app is a keeper.  It allows students to collect photos and videos on the iPad and then use that media as a visual backdrop as they narrate their learning.  Music and annotations give the student reflections a sense of professionalism.  It exports as a video that can easily be saved on our Google drives. It’s slick.  While great for making home vacation journals, its real power is when students explain their thinking while showing their work.  They can redo the narration until it’s “just right”.  Their reflections become a rich media product that I can assess.  Process is what we’re most interested in.  A student that can clearly explain their learning…that’s our goal as teachers.  It’s journaling for the 21st Century and it sure beats pulling out the ratty green workbooks that hide in most desks!

I asked a student to use Shadow Puppet to demonstrate how to use EdMettle to endorse a fellow student. Click below to check out the results.

Endorsing a Learning Skill





I was fortunate to go to a session today that looked at pulling some futuristic gadgets into our classrooms.  iPad controlled robot balls and human body circuitry, all connected to coding and creative programming.  Promotes small group problem solving skills.  I wish I was a student in 2016!  Maybe coming soon to a school near you…

Google DRIVE

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Google has been a bit of a revelation for me this year.  Google Drive is the command centre for all the apps we use daily (docs, forms, drawings, maps, chrome, youtube).  It is how we access the “9 dots” (ask your child) and our Google Classroom environment.

Here’s my ultimate list of why I am a fan:

  • Once something is opened or created, it AUTOMATICALLY saves!  You will never lose a digital document ever again.  This is a big deal in a classroom setting.  It’s changed how I use technology.
  • Everything in Drive can be shared with one click with anyone in Thames Valley (or external people with gmail accounts).  Students are sharing and collaborating.  And they can send their work to me for online commenting and editing : )
  • Students will never need a USB memory stick.  Ever.  We never connect anything with wires.  Every image, document or link can be uploaded to Google Drive from any technology device in the classroom.
  • I can work on things in my Drive anywhere in the world on any web-enabled device.  I did my blog post last week at the arena on my iphone using saved images in my Google Drive that students took with the classroom iPad the day before. I still can’t really believe this is all possible.  Letting go of wires and slow uploads is taking some getting used to!
  • History:  as a teacher I am thankful that I can easily peek at any document in Drive and see who edited the document and when.  The revision history allows us to problem solve.
  • Finally – kids get it.  They can easily find all the documents they’ve created.  They are not stressing about forgetting about which ‘hand-in folder’ they need to access or following the 8 step directions on how to save somewhere where I can find their work.  They just start typing.  And how awesome is that?

Why Chromebooks?

I adore the chromebooks being used daily in the classroom.  Many people scratch their head when they learn that these laptops don’t have much of a harddrive (about 9 gigs) and really only access online tools or a small handful of Google apps.  But that’s exactly why it’s so effective.  It boots up in less than 10 seconds.  Every time.  Kids are instantly working and learning with these tools and are not bogged down with a slow login process.  Basically a chromebook is a tablet with a keyboard and a few usb ports.  They are super lightweight and I purchased one on amazon for less than $230.  It holds a charge for a whole day.  So far we have had zero tech hiccups with the chromebooks at school.  Sign me up!

Chromebooks run Google’s software, so it goes without saying that Chromebooks are most effective in a classroom environment where Google Classroom and Google Drive is used primarily.  So there is a nice fit with room 205.  They speak a bit of a different language than our iPads and hardwired PCs, but through Google Drive they can all talk to each other and share data.  As for the lack of storage, that’s what Google Drive is for.  More on that later.

Coding and Programming

Putting this out there as a rhetorical question.  Should 9 and 10 year olds know how to animate via programming and coding?  Maybe.  Should we try?  ABSOLUTELY!  Coding = problem solving.  Programming = creatively building something digital.  If thinking about your coding experience involves turing or lots of failed ‘ifs’, ‘ands’, and ‘ors’, don’t fret. has made programming very accessible and visual and is successful with kids all over the world.  Students can use their Thames Valley Gmail account to get started.  There are lots of ways to take baby steps into this world.  I can definitely think of some students who would flourish with a few hours of coding.  And if MIT says it’s cool, it’s cool!

Stay tuned…