Archive | September 2014

Hip Hop Education comes to OISE #HipHopEd #Digitalstorytelling

Today I had the pleasure to present and run a breakout session at OISE as part of the Rhymes to Re-Education session.

Conference: OISE Educating for Peace and Justice: Action for Safe & Equitable Classrooms, Schools & Communities

With an amazing group of individuals we went through a lesson involving graffiti, spoken work / rap and digital storytelling.  In a super short 25 minutes the groups were able to make awesome videos that included graffiti brainstorm on peace and justice with selecting music that goes to their theme.  Although we didn’t have time to add our rap / spoken word to the piece they turned out great.  To use this example in your class download the handout below (or here Rhymes to Reeducation handout)

Gr0up 1:

video by: Ina, Sam and Daniella
Music – instrumental Juicy – Notorious BIG


Gr0up 2:

video by: TBA (group email me your names!)
Music – It Was A Good Day – Ice Cube

See Handout for the lesson below:

Rhymes to Reeducation handout

Below is my sample that I shared with the group.  I find if you want students to do a task you need to model it and step outside of your comfort zone.  My piece below is a spoken word and photos of my subway ride to school.  If we think of the journey our students make to school what are they thinking?  As a teacher I often get caught up in the content of school, so I may have 30 students enter and I am thinking all 30 are ready to learn science that morning.  But are they ready? are they focused on their next meal? A fight at home? an issue in the community? My piece reflects the thoughts I had going to school Friday and the recent murders of Abshir Hassan, a teacher trying to make the community better and Hamid Aminzada, killed at school trying to better himself with an education.  Heartbreaking and senseless.


For more resources follow:





BYOD App Library!

UPDATE! Here are the results!!!! Please feel free to submit others as the list will grow!


Hello Friends!

I want to compile a resource of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) apps that teachers are actually using!  There are a lot of great lists out there of apps but this list will be based on teachers top recommendations based on what they are actually using! They can be web based or OS specific apps for any grade or subject.  Pass on the link to the survey to friends

Please complete the following survey or use the embedded form below:   CLICK HERE FOR SURVEY 

Once the enough results are posted I will place the resource back here in this post!  Please share the survey amongst your teacher friends as well!



Banning Cell Phones at School?

I really can’t see the merit in that…unless the school is giving each student a laptop or tablet to replace it in their school day to learn with. Having the world at their fingertips is clearly something that can pedagogically benefit students when incorporated into a lesson. As teachers, we would love to say we know every fact but we really don’t. Textbooks go outdated the minute they are printed and subjects like science, that is rapidly changing, I want my students to access what is new and cool going on in the world. I want my students to shift from content consumers and stop just taking in information but to leverage their own learning and knowledge to create content. Being a content creator is very simple with a smart phone and it empowers students. During today’s lesson 95% of the students had a smartphone or tablet with them without even knowing we were using them today. The other 5% are able to use two of my class iPads to research, message, tweet, vine, skype, post…etc..

I know what some of you are thinking, they are going to be “on the Facebook” instead of learning. Yes, students may send a text to their friend or fire off a Snapchap message during class time but…have students ever whispered to one another when a teacher was talking or passed a note down a line of students?  As educators we need to create a culture in the classroom. The benefits outweigh all consequences I can think of. If we don’t allow phones into the class, who will teach them how to use them respectfully? for professional purposes? I know cyber bullying happens through phones but bullying happens in person too, so we can’t take away personal interactions due to a those incidents. We can’t take away phones for that same reason. There is no course on how to use cell phones, etiquette and manners online. It is through meaningful in-class relationships that we build those relationships and teach life skills along with our course content.

I use my phone all the time for personal and professional uses. I update the students class calendar on my class website right from my phone. Parents and students can log in instantly to see what’s due from a computer or their own phones. I tweet (@mrzorasstudent) out solutions from class, cool facts and things to benefit my students. More importantly I let the students curate the content as well and produce amazing ideas that are shared with the world. Learning chemical bonding can sometimes be boring, I admit it, but by having students produce a video from their cell phone explaining bonding and publishing it, they are having fun and learning the content as well. We use programs like Nearpod, which allows students to follow along and do quizzes from their phone so I can assess their learning. We grew space tomatoes as part of the Canadian Space Agency Tomato Sphere Project and heard back from them through Twitter. We make QR codes with information about science and place them around the school and have others do a scavenger hunt scanning them to learn. How about learning about electroplating and FaceTiming my Dad from my phone to give us a virtual tour. That is the tip of the iceberg as there are so many educational apps I encourage my students to use. and things we do in class.

I feel that students need to learn how to use their cell phones appropriately and I need to prepare them for the future. Using cellphones as an educational tool and in my class is important. I feel good that they are interacting safer in online spaces and are ready for the many jobs that will require them to work with cell phones as well.

Thanks for reading this blog post that was published entirely from my cell phone! 🙂


Video with my Dad on electroplating



Tweeting to the Canadian Space Agency about our tomato growth

photo 5


The class Twitter account: @mrzorasstudent

photo 4


Making videos on bonding

photo 3


The class calendar

photo 2


Updating the calendar from my own phone

photo 1