Technify Your Teaching in 2013: PD Opportunity

As well as this blog and my class blog, I write Tech Tools for Teachers. This is a collaborative effort with my colleagues, Matt Limb and Simon Collier. Each fortnight we review an online tool and provide step-by-step instructions on its use.

In January of this year we ran a professional development day called Technify Your Teaching in 2012. 

We are now organising Technify Your Teaching in 2013. This one day PD will be held on Thursday 24th January at Leopold Primary School near Geelong in Victoria.

Kelly Jordan and I will be running sessions on educational blogging, while Matt and Simon will be conducting workshops on Google tools, YouTube, Evernote, iDevices and web 2.0 tools.

If you are interested in signing up for the PD or finding out more, visit the TeachinGeneratioNow blog.

 There are limited places so get in quickly if you’d like to attend!

Page Updated: Web 2.0 Tools to Embed on Your Blog

I have just updated my page about web 2.0 tools to embed on your blog.

Here you will find:

  • Tips for using and embedding web 2.0 tools.
  • A list of tried and tested tools from slideshows to videos and polls.
  • An embedded example of each tool so you can see what it looks like.

Please visit the page and leave a comment if you have any feedback or suggestions.

Five Steps to Starting a Class Blog

I have revised the posts I have written in the past to create a nine page, five step guide to beginning a class blog. Feel free to view, print or download the document to help you get started on your blogging journey.

Five Steps to Starting a Class Blog

If you’re having trouble with the Scribd document, you can access the PDF here Five Steps to Starting a Class Blog

Good luck!

Kids and Online Tools: The Legal Side

There are so many free online tools out there that are fabulous to use in the classroom. These tools can potentially allow your students to create, collaborate, communicate and express themselves in a multitude of ways.

To find recommendations of tried and tested online tools to use in the classroom with step-by-step instructions, visit my other website Tech Tools for Teachers. 

While the legal stuff can seem boring, it’s important to be aware that children cannot sign up for many online tools, even many of those that seem designed for education.

Websites based in the US are required to comply with Federal Trade Commission ( FTC ) Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  This act restricts the collecting information from children under the age of thirteen.

If you look in the terms and conditions of many tools, you will find that children under 13 are not allowed to create an account.

Some tools, such as PhotoPeach, state that “Persons under 13 years of age are required to have a parent or guardian review and complete the registration process.”

According to this article, there is currently a proposal in place to broaden the limitations in the COPPA act.

Australia has similar rules to COPPA and if you are working in a Victorian DEECD school, the same rules about signing up for 13+ websites apply. Find out more about DEECD’s social media policies here.

Ways I have gotten around these limitations with under 13s

  • Create a teacher account and work with the children.
  • Have students sign up at home with their parents when the tools allows this (eg. PhotoPeach).
  • Use tools that don’t require a sign up (eg. Tagxedo).
  • Use tools that allow teachers to create student accounts (eg. Storybird).

What this means for you

  • Be mindful that if an online tool requires users to sign up then there is probably a 13+ rule in place.
  • Check out the “terms and conditions” on the website to be sure. These can usually be found right down the bottom or up the top of a website.

I am certainly no expert on this topic. Please leave a comment if you have any further knowledge or advice.

What other tools have you used that don’t require sign up or allow the creation of student accounts?

Photo Slideshows in Blog Posts

Start small

When you start blogging it is important to start small and try to not be overwhelmed by what other people are doing. With time, support, perseverance and inspiration, your blog will continue to grow and improve.

When I first started blogging with my students in 2008, we wrote very simple posts containing text and images. From there we began to learn about different web 2.0 tools that can enhance posts by showcasing student work and creating a more interesting and interactive space.

Why slideshows?

When you are comfortable with using images in your posts, you might see the need to progress to a photo slideshow. A slideshow allows you to show more photos without creating a l-o-n-g post. It can also bring events alive by the use of captions, transitions and music.

The disadvantage of most slideshows is that they involve Flash so can’t be viewed on iDevices (I have found one solution to this if you read on).

Choosing a slideshow

I often get asked about the best and easiest tool to use for photo slideshows in blog posts. There are a number of options I use depending on what type of slideshow I’m looking for.

As most online tools are 13+, I generally just have a teacher account. This means I either have children help me make the slideshow, or have the students take the photos and I put the slideshow together.

Tip: if you want to use these sorts of tools for your personal photos, it’s best to have two separate accounts – a professional one and a personal one.

There are many options out there but here are just five free and effective slideshow tools:


This tool is very intuitive to use. You simply upload photos, add music and write some captions to create an effective looking video style slideshow. Find more detailed instructions on how to use PhotoPeach here.

This is a PhotoPeach that we made for our class blog last week after a visit from the Geelong Cats football players.


PowerPoint to authorSTREAM/SlideShare

If you want photos that readers can click through at their own pace, one option is to insert photos into a PowerPoint and upload it to a PowerPoint sharing website. You can find the instructions on how to add a photo album to a PowerPoint presentation on the Microsoft Office website here.

I like authorSTREAM because of its clean, uncluttered design but there are many hosting options. This is a photo slideshow we put on our class blog to show our classroom transformation over the Christmas holidays.


Flickr Slideshow

Flickr is a very popular photo storage and sharing site. The downside of Flickr is that you can only upload two videos and 300MB worth of photos per month, and only your 200 most recent photos are shown. Photos are also stored as lower resolution. Like many web 2.0 tools, there is a paid pro account available without these limitations.

I found out about Flickr slideshows from Shawn Avery, who often uses them on his class blog. Flickr slideshows are clean looking and easy to use. Sometimes you want a simple photo slideshow without music and transitions; this is a good option. Find the instructions on how to embed a Flickr slideshow here.

I made this sample Flickr slideshow to demonstrate what it looks like.



SlideMyPics uses HTML5 which allows you to create a photo slideshow that people can view on their iDevice. With a large number of people now using iPhones, iPods and iPads to access blogs, this is something to consider when putting slideshows in your posts.

To use this tool, you have to first upload photos to either Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa or SmugMug. You can add transitions and music from YouTube if you like.

I just made this sample slideshow to show what an embedded SlideMyPics slideshow looks like.


Animoto for Education

Animoto allows you to easily turn photos (and video clips) into videos complete with effective music and transitions. Animoto for Education gives teachers free access to premium features. Find an Animoto tutorial on Shawn Avery’s blog.

Animoto isn’t a tool I use overly often but my student bloggers love it. Here is an Animoto I made for our Ugandan Global Project in 2010.


Other options

Some slideshow options don’t allow you to view full screen photos within the blog. They direct you to the source website. Two of these are Smilebox and Picasa Slideshows.

If you are interested in a step-by-step description of how to use Picasa Slideshows, check out this post by Janet Moeller-Abercrombie on The Edublogger website. Her idea on how to integrate this tool in the classroom blog for parent access is excellent.

There are many more photo slideshow options out there. What would you recommend?

Quality Blogging and Commenting Meme

If you are interested in educational blogging, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano has written an outstanding series of posts on her Langwitches Blog.

It is called Learning About Blogs FOR Your Students and covers seven areas:

Part I: Reading
Part II A: Writing
Part II B: Student Writing
Part III: Commenting
Part IV: Connecting
Part V: Reciprocating
Part VI: Consistency
Part VII: Quality

This guide is ideal for both beginners and those more advanced with blogging. Silvia really articulates my beliefs about blogging so well. I wish I had have read this series four or five years ago instead of finding out the long way that this is the best way to blog! Click here to find links to the whole guide.



In Silvia’s latest post, she is requesting more samples of blog posts and comments for teachers to practice recognizing, evaluating and assessing various levels of quality work. She invited me to take part in a meme. If you haven’t heard of a meme before, you can read more about it here on Wikipedia. It is basically just an idea that spreads from blog to blog.

Last year, I wrote a guest post for the Edublogs Teacher Challenge about how I teach quality commenting. Teacher and blogger, Linda Yollis gets full credit for mentoring and inspiring me to instil a culture of quality commenting in my class.

I tend to use a process for classroom blogging as outlined in the diagram below. I start the year by doing a lot of working on explicitly teaching quality commenting skills. From there, students become more involved in writing blogs posts until they earn the right to have their own blog. This post explains my system for earning student blogs – another idea from Linda Yollis!

Blogging progression K Morris

During 2011, I focussed more on step one and four, than two and three, however, it still demonstrates a model that I have found to be effective.

In terms of what constitutes quality, Silvia published some useful blogging rubrics on her blog. As I have been teaching seven and eight year olds, I have found the poster below more useful as a simple guideline. Next year I am teaching grade four students so I might look into adopting a rubric for these older children, some of who have blogged before.

Commenting Poster 2011



One of the biggest points I’d like to make about quality is that higher quality comments and posts do not automatically come with age. Time and I time again, I have seen my grade two students write at a more advanced level, in terms of writing conventions, than students and adults who are much older.

Quality Writing K Morris

Every day in my class we look at some blog comments and talk about things that have been done well, as well as having “on the spot” mini lessons on a range of writing conventions. This depends on what comes up in comments.

In the images below, I have have annotated some comments from students who range in age, with some mini lesson ideas and some modelling points. Generally, when evaluating student comments, I like to give both positive feedback to reinforce and constructive feedback to help students improve.

Tip: click on images if you want to make them larger.

Grade Five


Grade Three


Grade One


Grade Two


Grade Four


Obviously, there is tact involved in creating mini lessons based on student errors. We don’t focus on the same student all the time and we don’t focus on every mistake that a certain student has made. The discussion is started in a positive way and if the comment needs a lot of work, feedback would be provided privately, rather than in a whole class lesson.

You can also find some examples of how some of my individual students have progressed with their writing over ten months, here.



I’d like to tag three teachers/bloggers to complete their own audit:

Sue Wyatt (aka Miss W, aka @tasteach). Read Sue’s post here.

Tracy Watanabe (@tracywatanabe). Read Tracy’s post here.

Stef Galvin (@stefgalvin). Read Stef’s post here.

Anyone else is very welcome to write their own post evaluating blog posts or comments. Check out the post on the Langwitches Blog here for more information.

Bec Spink (@MissB6_2) has written her audit here and Kathryn Trask (@KathrynTrask) has completed an audit here.

Leave a comment if you have some thoughts about teaching and assessing quality writing on blogs.

Are You On Twitter Yet?

Earlier this year, Kelly Jordan and I gave a few presentations on using Twitter for educators at various events.

If you’re not yet on Twitter, read this post to find out some reasons why you should be.

Confused about the Twitter language? Hopefully this brief explanation will help.

Need more tips? Check out my post of 10 Twitter Tips.

Twitter has certainly had an impact on my grade two students. Discover one example of how Twitter has impacted a student, here.

Finally, click here if you want to learn more about hashtags, which seem to be popping up more and more in a wide range of media.


New Blog by Shawn Avery: Tech Tutorials

One member of my PLN who I have formed a strong connection with is Shawn Avery (aka @mr_avery).

Shawn is a 6th grade teacher in Massachusetts and his class blog is

Shawn has some excellent ideas for integrating technology in the classroom and has done some inspiring work with movie making (check out his new Math Move Network).

Shawn is a big supporter of teachers and students around the world so please take a moment to check out his new blog, Tech Tutorials.

This blog reviews web 2.0 tools and provides screencasts (how-to videos) on how to use the tools.

You can subscribe to Shawn’s blog by entering your email address on the right hand side of his blog. You will then receive an email every time he publishes a new post.

Tech Tutorials

Enjoy Shawn’s blog and spread the word!

Looking Back 2004-2011

I finished university at the end of 2003 and started teaching in January 2004.

Like all graduate teachers, the beginning of my teaching career was a steep learning curve. Fortunately, I felt like I had a lot of role models around me on staff. As I embarked on my career, I remember thinking a lot about what makes a good teacher and what sort of teacher I’d like to be.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how much has changed in the past eight years. I know I’ve changed enormously since 2004 but have all teachers? Are those teachers who were role models for me in 2004 still roles models?

Sadly, in the majority of cases, the answer is no. The simple fact is, some teachers are teaching the same as they were in 2004 when the world was a different place.

There is no denying that technology has changed the way we live. So many of the tools I use now in my classroom, professional learning or administration have only come about in the last eight years.

Here are some examples:

  • Interactive whiteboards – I didn’t even see one until about 2007. Now most classrooms in our school are equipped with interactive whiteboards and I use mine for every lesson.
  • iPod Touch – Launched in 2007, I started using iPod Touches in 2008 and they’re regularly integrated into my curriculum.
  • iPad – Launched in 2010, I started using mine in the classroom this year.
  • Edublogs – Launched in 2005, I started blogging in 2008. Edublogs has now reached one million blogs.
  • YouTube – Launched 2005.
  • Twitter – Launched 2006.
  • Flickr – Launched 2004.
  • Facebook – Launched 2004.
  • Diigo – Launched 2006
  • Skype – Launched 2003.

The world had changed so much since I began. Who knows what the next eight years will bring. All I can say is I plan to ride the wave, embrace change, reflect and reinvent!

Image: 'The tube'

Image: 'The tube'

How has your teaching changed since you started in the profession?

Blogging and Students with Austism Spectrum Disorders

When I first started blogging with my class in 2008, I thought it would be a bit of fun and a good way to communicate with parents.

Over the years, I have come to realise that the benefits are much more than this and the more benefits I unravel, the more I am encouraged to make blogging a priority in my classroom.

I have written about the benefits of blogging here, but this diagram (which is not exhaustive) summarises just some of the key benefits.

benefits of blogging 2

I have recently been reflecting on another benefit for certain students, after a number of discussions with parents.

A parent’s perspective

Over the past few years I have taught a number of students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and observed how much a number of them enjoyed blogging.

One parent recently explained to me why she thinks blogging works for her son who has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Social Skills

Blogging has helped with his social skills, as not only does he interact with me whilst writing comments, replies and now posts he also has to think of appropriate ways to respond to questions, comments and the post. He also has a structure that he follows starting off with complimenting, which he struggles with due to his ASD, but since blogging I have seen an improvement. He then looks at the information they have written and tries to think of a way to engage the other person, this is also hindered by ASD, but again I have seen an improvement.

Pragmatic Language Difficulties

Blogging allows him to be social without having to take pragmatic language into account, it also allows him to practice his skills in a non-threatening manner (not in front of others).


Blogging has given him a way to engage with others as they speak to him at school about what he has written and give him praise about being a good blogger which helps with his confidence.


He has also been able to put social skills into practice when assisting others with blogging.


In a similar way, I have seen students without ASD but who are simply shy, quiet or lacking confidence really blossom through having a blog or working on the class blog. Students who have previously gone somewhat “under the radar” have found their voice and developed confidence by being a blogger.

While some people may be quick to say that blogging and online social media can inhibit social skills, I see blogging as a terrific starting point. It can help certain individuals to practice their skills and transfer them into the “offline world”.


There is no denying that they way we approach blogging in our class is highly structured and I think this works well for many students with ASD (and many other students). One example of this is the way we teach and encourage quality commenting which I see as contributing to the high standard of literacy skills my students are demonstrating.

Note – I am not claiming to be an expert with ASDs or suggesting all individuals with ASD would respond to blogging but for a number of students I have taught, I have found it to be an effective tool that is well worth pursuing.

Have you had any experience working with students with ASD and technology?

What do you think about using online technologies to develop offline skills?