Reflecting on what I learned

My first post contained 4 goals for this course. Did I meet them?

1. Helping me develop my general technology skills and therefore be more EFFECTIVE

Flickr image – by williamallthing

 I have to say this goal is rather broad and never ending. I feel learning technology is a bit like being on a hamster wheel. It is a never ending race – just as you think you can do something, the technology changes. Having said that, I don’t feel stressed by this idea (do the hamsters get upset that they never get anywhere?) And I also know that I have to keep getting on that wheel so I don’t get left behind. This course kept me on the wheel; I enjoyed thinking, talking and trying out different technologies. Goal 1 achieved.


Flickr CC by Kevin Conor Kelley 

2.Providing opportunities to practice my video making skills so I can be more EFFICIENT in sharing learning with children and families

I initially wanted to make an audio podcast; boy am I glad we made a video one. It was FUN to play in the video and then play while we edited it. I loved editing that video and I really look forward to making one for my class. Goal 2 achieved.

3. Finding new ways to document the learning in my classroom so I can be more EFFECTIVE

The blog post on using different apps for my documentation really got me thinking about which one to use to be more efficient. I made the screencast for another Preschool teacher who wanted to know how I used pages – so it prompted me to explore the Pages. And now I really like this software. And the finished product looks GOOD! Goal 3 achieved.

4. Practicing blogging skills so I am more EFFECTIVE and EFFICIENT

I am a little envious of how easy it is to insert videos and images into vs., but that aside, it was good to explore a different way of blogging. Oh and I learned how to change my theme appearance – which I did a lot! (Imagine if I changed my school blog often!)  I actually don’t think I achieved this goal but I am not sure it is as important as my others. Especially since I was challenged to try other new technologies.

What other skills and understandings have I developed?

– Twitter – I know have my twitter account open and I have been reading the feed.

– iPhoto – Whether as a result of this class, or result of a need to know, I have discovered some very cool things about iPhoto.

-Infographics – I learned how to make my own infographic. Now I need a real topic to make one about. Or fake data.

– Pecha Kucha – How to keep my presentations simple.

– Screencasting – Then I can screencast my pecha kucha.

– Collaborative Learning – I really enjoyed reading all the other blogs – sometimes I found that I didn’t have a comment, just enjoyed the reading.

– Challenge of being honest – I love to grab images from places. Keeping it ‘CC” is tricky!

Future Usefulness?

Was there anything not useful? Seriously. As I said above, I think keeping up with technology is like being on a hamster wheel. When my children were babies, I had two years off from teaching. And lived in a place with terrible internet. So I felt like I fell off the hamster wheel. I was really worried when I went back to work, so I started reading all these blogs and panicking. Since then I try to read various blogs and articles, and try new technologies. From this course, I now have new resources and new things to try. I know I am not an expert but I never want to feel left behind again.

Never stop learning! Thanks Steve!

(All images from Creative Common Flickr)



The Preschool teachers and I were talking about using pages to be more efficient with documentation. One teacher asked how I used it to create and individualize a piece of documentation that could be used for whole class activities (responding to literature; cooking) or events (Sports Day; first week of school). The idea for this screencast was born!

Well this took a while!

Here was my script – easy to start using but then you need to make sure you know what comes next. Not as easy as I thought!

Screencast – Using Pages (Script)

1. Intro – Hello I am going to explain how I use pages to make documentation pieces that can be used for all students. This is helpful when I want to have a piece for each child’s portfolio for common events such as sports day or for responding to literature. I will make a page about gymnastics for each student.

2. To begin – open pages. Choose a template you are interested in using.

3. Change the text. I have already written a common piece for at the bottom, so I just copy and paste it in.

4. Add the common photos from iphotos. These can just be dragged and dropped. Make sure the photo is yellow in iphoto and the placeholder is blue.

5. Once I am happy with my format, I highlight the page on the left side and then use the shortcut keys to copy and paste – voila ! It is ready to now personalize for each student.

6. Normally, I would then just each child’s individual iphoto album to find the photos I want to add. But because this is public, I will just grab a photo from the PE folder and add a fake name. I like to add comments by the child as well.

7. Then I again copy and paste to make the next student’s page.

8. Continue until one has been completed for every student!

Zero Inbox???????????

Is it really a fallacy to end each day with ZERO emails? Like Ezra Bulter says in this essay, “No one cares if you have any emails in your inbox. They only care if you’ve seen – and replied to – the email from them. Can’t we at least agree on that?”  So instead of aiming for ZERO, I will use this advice to make a plan to manage my emails better.


Using the time management tool ‘Urgent/importance matrix’, I made my own matrix and filled in how I see my messages:

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 4.38.30 PM


Important/urgent = deal with before I go home

Important/not urgent = deal with asap but can be left

Urgent/Not important = see step 2 below

Not urgent/not important = archive for a rainy day when I have a million hours to read online

2. Does this email need to be sent?

We are all guilty of this one! I love the flow chart. I think many emails can be discussed in person rather electronically. The effect of NOT sending emails means less in your inbox!

































































































































3. Set a time for email

I cannot check my email between 7:25 – 12:10 while the children are in the class. Therefore, when I do check my email, I devote 20 minutes to get through what has accumulated in the morning. But then I spend the afternoon pingponging between work and email. Shawn Carolan on Gigaom suggests blocking a set of time to attend to the emails. So my plan to focus on my urgent/important for a set time afternoon, then attend to the rest once I have cleared these time-heavy emails out of the way.

4. PAUSE your email

Lifehacker suggests pausing your email using boomerang.I think I can do my ‘own’ pause by stepping away from email or closing my email window. Interesting idea though!

What other tips do people use to be more efficient with their emails?

Which app for documentation?

There is an app I love that I use for making quick documentation pages called ‘PicCollage.’ I have tried to convert encourage other Preschool teachers to use it, and they have the done the same with a few other apps on our ipads. SO I decided to be a little more open minded and try them.


The great app comparison involves these 4 apps. For my purposes, I want an app that:

-allows me to choose photos as I create the document

-some photo editing/changing of ‘mask’

-I can add text and speech easily

-I can email directly to my school account so I can print it quickly

1. ComicStrip

For this app, you need to know how many photos you are using before you choose the template. You can then add speech bubbles or caption boxes of different shapes. I found adding the bubbles to be time consuming, although it is clear who is saying what.


When you are finished, you can save it to your library. I couldn’t find a way to directly email it myself.

Overall impression: finished result looks good, but adding the speech bubbles and the extra step of having to email it form the photo library was a detraction. However, I could NOT email it and just download the finished product later.

2. Frametastic

This app was quick and easy. You decide on the frame and add the photos. However, I realised that I needed to add another photo after starting on a frame, but changing the frames looses any work already done. Photos can be adjusted in the frame so you can show only a portion. The frame width and colour can be changed.


You cannot add any text, but you can email it yourself when done.

Overall impression: App was easy to use – very simple and no nonsense. But not having a text option means it is not useful more my purposes.

3.Pic Collage

You already know this is my favourite. Why? Because I can choose a number of photos to import (up to 12) ,  look closely at them once they are imported, trash the blurry/bad ones and then create a frame for the ones left. This means I don’t have to look closely at the photos in iPhoto before making the document. The frame can be changed and photos easily shuffled. Text can be added in boxes but there are no speech bubbles. Editing the text/colours is quick. It has ‘stickers’ to add but I never do.


The program works in ‘portrait mode,’ so I end up turning the photos into landscape, but then the program remains portrait when adding text or changing the frame. You can email the finished product or save it to the photo library.

Overall impression: Because I use this app the most, I find it easiest to use. Framing after you decide on the number is photos is so handy but the photos don’t always fit the frame as well. And I sometimes use too many photos. It also doesn’t have the option for speech bubbles.

4. Strip Designer

I realised this app was new to me when I opened it. I liked how the templates included room at the top for text. Tis means I can write a summarization and interpretation in that spot! Once you decide on the number of photos, you can choose the frame, add the photos and speech bubbles.


I loved all the options of how to save and share the finished product!

Overall impression: Easy to use and easily well-suited for my purposes. Met most of my criteria for what I want in an app. I was pleasantly surprised!


PicCollage has new competition! Strip Design is my new…2nd choice! I really like how quickly I can get one piece of documentation done with PicCollage, but I want to focus on adding speech, then I will use Strip Design.

Want to get started with Strip Design? Check out this tutorial:

Using IPhoto for my Classroom Photos

In Preschool, we take a lot of photos…thousands! In the past we sorted photos into files on the server. Last year I decided I wanted to use iPhoto instead during the SY 2013-2014 year. After thinking about it procrastinating,  I decided I just needed to go for it and started to use iPhoto in August. I am NOT an iPhoto expert but I have really enjoyed exploring and finding out how to use features as problems have arisen. Here are three features that have helped me.

1. Smart Albums

I learned about this at an Early Years conference last April so it took a bit to get it working. I began by creating ‘Keywords’ – one for each student, plus a few for different subjects (PE, library, circle time etc). Once a group of photos have been imported to iPhoto, I use the keywords to tag each photo. Each photo can have multiple keywords applied.

Next, I made a smart album for each student and each area with the keyword category for the student being their name.

This photo shows my imported photos and my group of keywords in the corner.  You can also see my smart albums on the left. The photo highlighted in yellow is the one to which I want to apply a keyword. Each keyword has a shortcut, so I can use the shortcut instead of typing the whole word. If I want to put this photo in Sam’s album, I type ‘s’ and it is automatically sorted into his album.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 1.04.01 PM    Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 1.05.59 PM

Here you can see the photo has been moved into Sam’s album. I can put the same photo into multiple albums.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 1.06.47 PM

I also have albums for places and special events. This shows my library folder. I find these albums so much easier to use when I am creating documentation.

2. Making a SlideShow

A few weeks ago, Flickr was not working and I needed to make a blog post for my class. I created a slideshow and dropped photos from the week into the folder. This was made easier because the photos were sorted into individual files so I knew that each child would be represented in my weekly overview slideshow.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 1.07.22 PM

Next you can choose a theme and music. FUN!

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 1.08.06 PM

Finally, I export it youtube.

I am impressed with my results! I hope the parents are as well.

3. Exporting Photos

I often want to send one photo to a parent with a little story about what their child was doing. This week I discovered the photos from iPhoto were too big and I was feeling frustrated. A short cut saved my day- Shift – command-I to the rescue!

What next?

iPhoto has helped my efficiency. I was able to sync the library to the classroom ipad mini for easier use in making documentation. I can find photos quickly and move between albums easily. As a beginner to using iPhoto, I know I may be making some errors and there are probably a ton of features that would make my life even more efficient. But for now, I am pleased with what I have learned and how it has helped me so much – most importantly with the amount of time my team spends on sorting photos. I look forward to finding out more this year! Does anyone else use iphoto and have a tip to help me?