Storybird- a change of mindset

I recently was preparing a workshop for teachers around Universal Design for Learning and student engagement and was doing some research. An article on TKI mentioned Storybird as a vehicle to engage reluctant learners in writing.

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I never like to recommend something without giving it a trial for myself. Fortunately I teach at a local school as well as being a LwDT Facilitator so had some willing learners to help me trial the tool.

I registered myself with a Storybird account and to keep things simple I manually entered the students names into Storybird and then set about changing the passwords that Storybird had assigned students and aligned them with the students’ Google Accounts.

This took a bit of time but paid off with fewer students having to be reminded of what their passwords were.

All of the writing activities we try need to be accessible on a variety of devices as I have Chromebooks, Mac Books and iPads to use and not enough of each to be exclusive. Storybird works well on all of these devices. To access the Storybird website on the iPad I made it into a shortcut on the home screen and on the laptops it was linked from our Moturoa blog.

Once all that was set up I made a practice picture book myself so that I would be one step ahead when we used it in class. In introducing the concept to my boys we said we will trial it for a few weeks and they can give their verdict on it.

We cracked into it. On first reflection I was underwhelmed. The idea is that you get a selection of images to use, select one and then use the images produced by that particular artist. You can search for images from a topic to get you started but my boys wanted to write of motorbikes and rugby and there were no images related to those sorts of topics to choose from. You cannot pick and mix the artist. Once you select one artist you can only use other images that that person has created.

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We pushed on as it was a trial. Although the illustrations were stunning some of the boys were reluctant to pick anything as none appealed. In the end they picked something and used that although it wasn’t a choice that initially engaged them. Few of the images lent themselves easily to building a narrative sequence so some of the boys just wrote  captions for the random images that engaged them.

Some however really engaged with the Storybird concept and managed to relate the images together to do quite a good semblance of a narrative.

After the writing and editing was done the boys pushed SAVE and PUBLISH and I was able to easily publish it with the provided embed code.


To spice things up a bit we also had a competition with voting via the blog to decide which stories we like best.

Please add your vote to the blog side bar to encourage the boys in their writing.

Our verdict

  • Stunning illustrations
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to embed
  • Intuitive interface
  • Works well across all devices
  • Limited mix of images- you have to use one artists’ images and cannot pick and mix
  • Limited range of images related to some of the things the boys wanted to write about
  • Once engaged some boys really involved with the process and showed an interest in working on it at home.
  • You can invite others to work on the stories collaboratively but we never really went down that track.
  • The teacher can leave notes on children’s writing as feedback on the process
  • You can read and reflect on other people’s writing by leaving comments which can be moderated.

As a final reflection I was thrilled when a parent joined in and made another book at home with her child and invited me to collaborate on it with her and she left a comment on the blog post.


Wonderful work and writing. This has opened up a whole new world of e-learning to me and I’m loving it I’ll be back for more!


Embedding You Tube Videos from an iPad

A friend who had got herself into a bit of a loop recently wanted to know how to embed an Explain Everything exported video into a Blogger blog and only use an iPad. I have found that if you just use Safari you can get caught in a loop of using the You Tube App and you can’t get to the embed code as you would be able to do easily on a laptop.

To make the original test video I used Explain Everything.

You will also need to have Chrome installed on your iPad.

To record the tutorial I mirrored my iPad onto my laptop using Reflector App.

To make the finger taps visible  on the iPad I used Mouseposé. Mouseposé is a Mac App so I tapped the Mac screen with one hand while tapping the iPad screen with the other hand at the same time to make it look like I was opening apps etc on the iPad. Any other ways of achieving the same affect would be much appreciated.

I also added this as a resource to Bling for Your Blog to make it easy to find. Hope people find it useful.

After making this tutorial and sharing Deon Scanlon from Australia suggested an even simpler way of embedding a You Tube video into Blogger that didn’t even need an embed code. It’s funny isn’t it. You always do what you’ve always done. I had used Deon’s method for photos but hadn’t noticed it for videos.

Adding Keyboards in iOS 8

This is cross posted from my Boys Writing Blog

Over the holidays I updated my iPad to iOS8 which allows for users to install new keyboards from app developers. I have had Swype on my 3G Android Camera for some time and liked it. I wondered how it would go with kids. Some liked it and some didn’t. I think if you are very much a struggling writer then tapping each letter as you go would be a better option but for those who have some writing skills under their belt Swping would be worth persisting with to get the hang of it.

Play the video in full screen to see what T is saying and Swyping to see how it is supporting his writing.

T doesn’t know how to spell through and spelt it as thought but when he spells operation as operasion the app leads him to the correct spelling and gives him close choices should his Swping be less than accurate.

I also liked the way that he pauses to think of the word in chunks to better help him break down the writing process- the video helps make the learning visible.

I notice that T is also pushing the space bar for spaces between words. The app knows where the spaces are as he takes his finger off the screen so he doesn’t necessarily need to do that.

The other keyboard that I think that would be good to install as a choice with be Lower Case Keyboard by our very own Matt Thomas.

Matt has made the lower case keyboard with the Open Dyslexic font so as to better support learners who find differentiating letters tricky.

Just a note though that there is a bit of an iOS bug at the moment and you need to turn off guided access before you can install the new keyboards. I am sure it will be ironed out before too long.

Recording audio with Audioboo, to Safari, to Blogger

iPad Work Flow

Audioboo- Safari- Blogger 


Audioboo is a native iPhone app that you can use on your iPad. You can easily record audio and upload it to your blog. You can record up to five minutes of audio.


Either log in or sign up to have an Audioboo account. Click record.

There is a 3, 2, 1 countdown before you start recording.

You can pause the recording as you go to take a breath or gather your thoughts.

Click publish when you’re done recording. Name your recording and add a photo. It will queue to upload. Then you’ll see a little red 1 added to My Boos.

 Click on the arrow to the right of your Audioboo. 


Look for where is says EMBED. Press and hold to select all of it when you see the embed code.


  •  Now you are ready to share your video. Go to your Blogger in Safari and log in.
  •  Click on the pencil to write a new blog post.
  • Paste the copied embed code into the body of the blog post.
  • If you have labels on your blog remember to add it. Then click Publish.
  • Go to Safari to see how the blog post looks!

 Go to Safari to see how the blog post looks and listen on line!

If you would like to view this tutorial as a printable pdf here it is.


Show Me and Blogger

iPad Work Flow

Camera- Photos- Show Me- Blogger

Show Me

With Show Me you can record your own audio while drawing or import photos and give a commentary. In this tutorial I wanted to share a Running Record.

Show Me

Firstly I used the iPad camera to take photos of the pages of the book. Open up Show Me- if you haven’t already done so make you self an account. I would suggest making a separate log in email rather than signing up with Facebook or Twitter.

Click on Create new Show Me.

 To just record while you draw click the red recording button at the centre top but to record voice over photos click on the photo icon.

If the photo needs rotating then rotate it.

To record press the red button.

Push it again to pause the audio recording.

Tap Clear All to clear the screen ready for the next screen of recording.

Repeat until you’re done then click the blue Save Show Me icon. Chose a category and the Show Me will render and play.

Now open the Show Me in Safari.

Click where it says embed, make sure it is highlighted and press Copy to copy the embed code.

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Now you are ready to share your Show Me. Go to your Blog in Safari and log in.

Click on the HTML tab to write a new blog post, inserting the embed code.

If you have labels on your blog remember to add it. Then click Publish.

Go to Safari to see how the blog post looks!

If you would like to download a paper version of this tutorial here it is.

And here is the actual blog post.


You have probably all watch a TED video or two over the years and they make excellent watching. TED have recently add TED-Ed to their arsenal. The idea is that you can any use TED or YouTube video via a hyperlink and add some questions around it, link some further readings or resources and add a big question to construct a personalised lesson.

I thought I would give it a whirl to see if it was easy enough and worth recommending. I decided to use a video I had made in 2006 outlining how my class operated at that time. The video had been on Teacher Tube and has had over 70 downloads so some people obviously liked it but no one seems to use Teacher Tube any more.

Here is my first quick TED-Ed lesson.

TED-Ed is in beta but still worth a look. You can either look at the TED-ED lessons that others have made or, better still, make your own lessons and link them to your learning space.

How are you able to promote your blog?

I received an email this morning which lead me to write a blog post to illicite some responses from people as to how they promote their class blog and get some interactions and conversations happening through it.

“My kids are very eager to share their learning with others and link up with other schools. In your experience with class blogs, how were you able to promote your blogs with other schools and countries?”

My response…

  • Firstly I would post regular updates on our own blog so that people have something new to read, or look or listen to at on their next visit.
  • To promote our class blog firstly I made connections with others teachers who blog.
  • Find like a ‘gym buddy’ – another teacher or class who is keen to link up and learn with you.
  • To do that I would read their blogs and leave comments for them on their blog. I would maybe do this first as just a teacher and see if they post regularly and are keen for some kind of dialogue. You don’t want to waste your time leaving feedback on a blog that isn’t being updated and monitored.
  • I would definitely join Twitter and make connections and learn that way. Once on Twitter you can link to your blog and add the hashtag #comments4kids and other teachers/classes may make connections for you.
  • And I would put links on the side bar of the class blog to the other blogs that you regularly converse with. Not too many because you could loose track but your favourite ones that post and comment often.
  • Quadblogging is another cool concept- David Mitchell on Twitter has initiated a project where four classes get together and take turn about being the centre of attention and leaving of comments. The web site links classes together globally but we have just done it informally with a couple of nearby schools with good success and enthusiasm in the participating classes.
  • The idea of sending out a travel toy like Kirsten McGhie does in her class is also a great idea to spread news of your blog around. Here is Kirsten’s EdTalk video about here travel toy.

  •  Generally just think of fun ways to engage children with your blog- make it interactive and interesting. Write posts that incite interest and conversation- leave things open ended.

  • Lastly I would make sure that every piece of paper that goes out from your class has the blog address on it so the parent / whanau community know where on the web you are. I would also make sure that your blog is linked from the school web site so that visitors cruising the web can easily find you.

What suggestions do you have for promoting your class blog that you can add to help Katie?

How I made the Google Slide Show

People have wondered how I made the Google Presentation ‘Five Things My Teacher Needs to Know About Me‘ for my class. So I thought I would share how I did it here.

I just made a Google presentation under my own account- then I made a slide for each student.

I made sure it was open for everyone to edit without a log in.

Then put a link to that presentation on the blog so the children would know where to find it.

Children then went to the blog, clicked on the link, found their slide and filled it in. I believe that twenty people can edit a Google presentation at one time so as many children as there are computers can work on editing.

When everyone has done editing I then close it off by making it so no one can edit it so no cherub could wreck it and write stuff in the holidays that I didn’t know of.

I then put the html embed code on the blog so it would play there.

If all that seems a bit tricky then I have made a three minute tutorial on how to do it.

At Learning at School Kevin Honeycutt suggested that we make learning rewindable- here I have done just that.

If you get stuck you can rewind, pause or stop the video while you practice.

Make it full screen by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of the video if you want a better view.


Our Favourite 2011 Blog Posts

We engage with our children through blogging throughout the year and I wondered if, in the spirit of collaboration, we might come together to share some of our favourite posts that we have published during the year.  Some teachers just picked the one post that was most memorable for them and some teachers asked their students which posts most resonated with them.

I also thought the resource may then be useful for others as they look forward to 2012 to see what others have been blogging about in other parts of the country.

As well as promoting the concept to our Link Learning Cluster I tweeted the link a couple of times to spread the word.

My next step was to think of a place to put the pages and web links. A year and a half ago my preference would have been to make a wiki but this year I have really appreciated the ease of use and cleaness of using a Google site. I often find Wikispaces tricky and things don’t sometimes turn out how you want them to when I am using a wiki.

At first I promoted the idea of people editing the Google site themselves and adding their own images and links but at the busy report writing time of the year people didn’t seem so keen on that idea so I just asked them to email or tweet me the links and I would do the rest.

I made a two column table on the Google site to keep the formatting even and had to add an extra column as the number of posts grew. Now it doesn’t look so pretty when viewed on my iPad but no matter.

As people sent me the link I took a screen grab of the post ( Shift + Command + 4 on my Mac ) and then hyperlinked the image and the URL web address.

This post is probably over long but I am writing it in Evernote on my iPad on a flight back from Auckland after having been evacuated from the Nelson floods. Contrary to public opinion I cannot hold back flood waters so attended a Sustainability Forum up north for a couple of days instead. Now I look forward to spending a few days slushing away the mud at home.

You are welcome to tweet or email me your links from your own blog before the new year and I can add them to the resource.


Education Review Article

A while ago NZ Education Review asked me to write an article for them sharing the path I took to change my practice over the last few years using ICT.

They published it in digital form today with Issuu which I quite like because it looks like a book to read and you can zoom in and turn the pages, just like the real thing.

The whole publication makes good reading- my article is on page 21/22. Click on the image to take you to the web book.

They even added a QR code to the article like I asked them too.


Time 4 On Line

Last week I got an email from Krista Swanner, a 4th grade teacher at Oak Grove School in California, who was wanting to know how I put things together in my classroom. Not wanting to spend hours answering her I tried to find my TeacherTube video I made in 2007 for the Time4OnLine Conference and they had changed the web address for it so it took a lot of mucking about to see it so I re-uploaded it to YouTube. The original video has had over 29,000 views which is quite amazing as I haven’t looked at it myself for a year or so and I haven’t aged at all!

The basic organisation of how I worked things has changed a bit but the basics still hold true- IMHO anyway.

Brian Crosby’s TEDxDenverEd Video

My mate, Brian Crosby, recently had his ISTE10 video published on YouTube. I thought I would embed it here to share. Brian is a classroom teacher who integrates ICT into his daily classroom practice to entice his class to participate and build learning power. He makes learning engaging and relevant.

We even get a mention as well. It’s almost like being there. One day, Brian, one day….

365 Photo Challenge

Two whole months have gone by and I have managed to keep my New Year’s Resolution going and I have uploaded a photo every day to my WordPress Photo Blog. Admittedly I have stockpiled a few to use when school is all I get to think about in a day but I am quite pleased with myself. A big part of maintaining the interest is gaining inspiration from looking at other people’s photos and receiving feedback from people viewing my photos.

Here is a summary of two months worth of photos. Thanks team.

Jan/Feb 2010

Virtual Coaching

Tonight a got an email from Jacelyn at Goldfields Primary School in Otago asking that I give her a hand with some hyperlinking on her blog as it had her perplexed. It seemed like a lot of typing to explain so I made a little video using It is just so free and easy that I thought I might have the kids in may class make little instructional videos as well later on. Videos that you make are deleted from their servers after seven days so if you want to keep it for longer you have to download it which is easy.Picture 2

Once I had made the video I downloaded it so I could upload it to Blogger. The video of course ended up being tiny in Blogger so I put it in my public Dropbox folder so that people could view it in a decent size. I have 5GB of storage in Dropbox so size doesn’t matter really. Here is the video tutorial in its hugeness.

While I was on a roll I made a new post on my Bling4yrblog blog on how to do it.

What a great way to share the learning.

Publish your own book on your blog.

This last week I have been thinking more and more about going back to school and the things we might learn to do and projects to undertake. I have found a couple of cool tools over the holidays that are well worth sharing.

Here is the first…

With this little tool you quickly upload a pdf and voila- you have an embeddable book for your blog.

(If you’re on an Apple and you want to make a pdf go FILE – PRINT – Then look in the bottom left of the box you see and it will say PDF, click and go SAVE AS PDF. If you’re on a PC look in my Delicious for a downloadable pdf converter that suits you.)

Using it on my class blog for our first newsletter I made my font size very big so you wouldn’t have to zoom in to read the text. You can flip and turn the pages, download and print it off. Here is an instructional pdf I have been revisiting getting ready for a foray to visit @inneskennard country in March.

How to make a Blogger blog

Click on the graphic to see it in action- page turn icons are down the bottom right hand corner!

365 Photo Project

Imagine if you will- it’s New Year’s morning and most people have retired for the night but a few of us on Twitter were hatching a plan. The plan started a little after midnight and finished, for me anyway, after 3am. That’s how long it took me to get started and be inspired by Chrissy Hellyer and Jude O’Connell to start a 365 Photo blog.

The idea is that you take a photo a day and post it on the web. I thought I would explore a different blogging platform that I hadn’t used before to avoid changing log ins. Some might say I have overdone this blogging thing with a family blog, a class blog, this edublog, the bling4yrblog, our podcast, microblogging with Twitter, Facebook. Linked In– whatever.

I chose WordPress to host my photos. With Jude’s prompting I chose the duotone theme from WordPress. The theme itself misses a few features that I would like but the great thing about it is that it samples your photos and automatically selects a similar coloured background. So here it is- now I’ve gone public I will HAVE to keep it going.
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Here is a sample of how one of the photos looks in the theme. The duotone theme has a couple of limitations in that you can only post one image per post, it only allows three widgets and to get to a previous photo you click on the forward arrow- but you can’t have it all manuka!

The whole thing has gathered momentum and I am keen- not only because I have always loved taking photos but mainly because of the support and encouragement given by everyone in my blogroll who comments on my photos.

In a school context I am going to ask the children contribute in a similar sort of way to This was another platform that I started with but let go. Using this we get post every day and children can share their successes as they learn how to take better photographs.

In the past I have tried to keep a written diary but always lost interest- I think the thing that will keep me going with this project is having an authentic audience. The people who are also doing the project with us are awesome and give me a reason to keep trying.

My next step is to re-join the Nelson Camera Club.

Blog Awards- not!

Sorry folks but after all our efforts our Moturoa class blog did not win the New Zealand Class Blog Awards. I feel gutted as we love our blog as it is a pivotal part of our on-line learning and great way to link class to family and to communicate with others. Through it I feel that I am not teaching alone and that others do care for what we do in our classroom. Maybe we shouldn’t have entered the competition at all and I wouldn’t be feeling this way. ‘Pride comes before a fall’ is the saying, I think. Our blog is just what it is- one of many. Maybe I had an inflated opinion of the worth of our class blog- it was in the final five after all. Not winning still feels like losing.

Before I started blogging personally, professionally and as a class I would never have dreamed of writing as a response to such an event and now that is the first thing I think of doing- to put my thoughts in writing. I think that I shouldn’t take it so personally but as we put so much energy and enthusiasm into it I have strong feelings about it. It is more than a ‘thing’- it is a growing, living entity.

Teaching is the sort of professional where I never feel I am ever good enough and the job is never properly done- the longer I teach the more I realise just how little I know about teaching. We can always do more, do better, work harder, achieve better results.

There are many wonderful blogs out there- like my school colleague, Raewyn’s,  class blog. Her blog, just doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves and she is starting to get disheartened by the lack of contributions from outside her classroom. Bloggers need to know that someone else apart from themselves are reading and contributing. She knows that people are viewing because her hit counter is ticking over but few are participating by actively leaving a comment. If you can spare a few minutes could you please go to Raewyn’s blog and leave her a comment to encourage her and pop back from time to time so she knows that she is not alone. I think sometimes we think that we can’t write something clever enough but just a sentence or two to lets the bloggers know that you are reading is enough.

If people do not take the time to comment on the others’ blogs it is really no better than writing on a piece of paper and hanging it on the classroom wall for a very limited audience. We all need the encouragement of others to continue.

Moturoa class blog is fortunate to receive the recognition that it does locally, nationally and internationally, even though we didn’t receive an award. We build into our blogging a time to reflect on the blog posts of others and leave comments. How do we build a feeling of a supportive community unless we continue the conversation by becoming actively involved?

I am tempted not to post this entry but seeing I have taken the time to write it I will hit the publish button. Writing it has helped me come to terms with not being successful.

Well done Clem from Outram School and Stephen from Hokowhitu.

Interface New Zealand Class Blog Awards

INTERFACE Awards 2009 2014 Inbox

I am very proud to say that my class blog has been nominated as a finalist in the Interface Magazine 2009 Class Blogging Awards.

The blog started from humble beginnings with me adding most of the content. Now it is mostly being added to by the children as we continue to link and learn with those outside the four classroom walls. If you go to the voting page linked from the graphic you can read more about the finalists, view their entries and vote.

Here comes the plug- please vote for Allanah King’s blog as I would love to have a little laptop to carry about. By voting you could win a 16GB flash drive as well.

Voting closes next Monday 19 of October so you haven’t got long.

Isn’t it nice how this blog and Interface share the same colour scheme!

An Encouraging Connection

How simple it is to make connections and support the learning of children both in my own classroom and another in Bangkok. Last week Jeff Utecht at ISB, Bangkok,  sent out a couple of tweets inviting people to encourage a few of his fifth grade bloggers who were just learning how to blog and recording their instructions on constructing a science experiment exploring variables. It helps, maybe, that I had met Jeff while on holiday to Bangkok earlier this year, but that personal encounter isn’t really relevant to the connection.

I made a few comments on the grade five blogs and was particularly impressed with young Haley’s post. To encourage her and show her how the whole blogging thing might work, I decided to replicate her experiment in my own class the next day, using Haley’s procedural writing to help us with our instructions.

P9040004Setting up the experiment took five minutes of my time and my class took a couple of photos and quickly blogged about their results and I added a link to it for Haley through her blog comments so she could find our post the next day at school.

Haley learnt  about the power of blogging in a real context and my class made another connection and further cemented their own learning about variables that we had completed as part of our science fair earlier in the term. Following up on a question that Haley asked in a comment I was able to share a Voicethread we had made earlier on New Zealand currency. You can see how these things can grow.

Jeff later blogged about his own ideas for extending the collaboration…..

  • What if we share our data with the class in New Zealand?
  • I wonder if longitude and latitude is a variable we need to consider (Social Studies)
  • I wonder if we’ll get the same results? (Science)
  • How can we best represent our data for someone else to read? (Math, Science)
  • Why is writing clear instructions important? (Writing)

These connections don’t need to be huge, or time consuming, or hard. They just need a little time, a little energy and a buddy who wants to share and learn. The whole process isn’t in the least bit scary.

New Zealand Education Gazette Article

Gazette Early in February this blog got a little recognition from the New Zealand Education Gazette so I asked the Wayne Erb, the reporter, if I could put a copy of the article on the blog and he said that would be fine so here it is for downlaod in case you missed the paper copy.


Our new photocopier at school scans to a pdf and sends it off to an email address so it was a useful exercise in coming to grips with a new bit of learning.