Hackathons as a New Pedagogy | Edutopia #EdAppHack

Check out my article in Edutopia – Hackathons as a New Pedagogy

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When #HipHopEd meets Augmented Reality with Brainspace Magazine

A few months ago we hosted the Hip Hop STEMposium with some amazing workshops, keynotes, a film screening, a debate and a community town hall.

I met Nicky from Brainspace Magazine over the March Break as part of the ROM’s and MaRS Futurology program.  Her magazine concept is amazing! To combine traditional print magazine with augmented reality using the Blippar app on a smartphone or tablet.  I got to see ducks swim, dinosaurs come to life and professors explain math concepts right on the magazine pages through the app.

When I let her know about the Hip Hop STEMposium she thought it would be great to have an article come to life in her magazine.  The article layout looks amazing and when you use Blippar to scan the magazine, Dr Elliot Gann of Today’s Future Sound comes to life in a video of his beat making workshop!  Check out the article “The School of Rap”.

1) To see the magic come to life download the PDF sample of the magazine here: School of Rap Sample PDF

school of rap

2) Then download the Blippar app to your smartphone or tablet: https://blippar.com/en/

3) Scan the magazine pdf with the app and watch!

For more information on Hip Hop Education in Toronto see



If you would like more information on Brainspace Magazine http://www.brainspacemagazine.com/ or to subscribe click here: summer 2015 subscribe

brainspace flyer

EdTech Review: Chalk.com’s Planboard

For all my lesson planning I use Chalk.com’s Planboard!

It’s a great way to stay organized and share your plans.

Sign up below:



EdTech Review: Get Kahoot!

Check out this video for a review and tutorial on how to use Kahoot!

Set up:
I use a macbook at the front connected to a projector so students can all see the questions. Students use their phones, ipods, tablets, and laptops to connect over wifi/data to the game.

To set up an account go to: https://getkahoot.com/
Have students go to https://kahoot.it/

Collaborative Learning & Formative Assessment through Mirroring with AirServer & Notability

Today we had an amazing session at the DLL Marketplace.  Check out all the amazing sessions here:


For Google Doc Version of my Doc Click Here: Collaborative Learning & Formative Assessment


Using the AirPlay feature on the iPad/iPod/iPhone you are able to display the screen of the device onto a computer (mirroring).  If it’s a class set or one single device, you can make lessons more interactive by displaying students work on the projector, pass around the device and have the lesson more interactive.

In my class we use a MacBook, two class iPads and students’ own Apple devices, we are able to collaborate together on one screen through multiple devices.  (You can also use a PC) .   With Notability the work automatically syncs to iCloud and backs up as a PDF to our class website.  Students are able to access a copy of the selected notes from home that we took on Notability on the iPad.  The program AirServer is loaded onto my MacBook which allows me not only to mirror what is on the device screen but also record as well.

Evidence of Learning

Students share the iPads and we take up work, collaborate, play games and learn together.  We are able to work together on problems, collaborate on the same issues and get feedback from the teacher and peers.


Video Tutorial


Variations and Extensions

This can be used with a class set of iPads and a variety of Apple devices.  Other grades could use this in a variety of subjects and all grades with set up assistance from the teacher.

You can use the camera on the device as a document camera to share non-digital works.

Students requiring accommodations, mobility needs and visual impairments excel using this technology as they are able to share their work with the class and see the apps better.

You can also achieve this through an Apple TV if you do not have a desktop or laptop.

Considerations and Suggestions

This requires a Mac or PC that is connected to the same WIFI router OR create an ad-hoc network for devices to connect to from the Mac or connect to a PC.

Resources and Links

What I use:

AirServer – http://www.airserver.com/
Notability –  http://www.gingerlabs.com/

Other mirroring programs

Reflector – http://www.airsquirrels.com/reflector/

Mirroring360 –  http://www.mirroring360.com/

Other drawing programs

Evernote – https://evernote.com/

Penultimate – https://evernote.com/penultimate/

Paper – https://www.fiftythree.com/paper

Check out some tweets below! Thanks Jason, Diana, and TDSB ICT for the pics!

Health Disparities Conference Summary: Columbia University

What an amazing weekend at Columbia University. You can read all the news articles and academic journals but until you take a walk through Harlem, meet with great minds and have rich discussion, you don’t really see the issues at hand.


Dr. Wallace opened up the conference with expressing a need for a population that is multiculturally sensitive and one that does not perpetuate racial/gender/ethnic/socioeconomic disparities in health. She asked us who we ARE, ARE being Acceptance, Respect and Empathy.


We want to move from just respecting someone to accepting. She said we want to embrace another and the nature of their experience and remaining free of judgment. The last phase, which we need to move ourselves and others into is empathy. Do we understand the inner affective experience of others? When listening to this, all I could see was my mom, from when we were younger and her always telling me to be these 3 things and not just telling me but modeling each and everyday. I don’t think I would be half the educator/social justice minded person without her raising me.

Dr Wallace stressed we don’t want to just tolerate people anymore, that is a term in the past. We need to move from tolerance to acceptance to respect to empathy. She mentioned that the most vulnerable people have been left behind. Those affected by health disparities.


Health brings barriers to learning. The same children most likely to drop out, are the ones that are below reading level, high unemployment and high incarceration rates.   It isn’t an achievement gap, it is an opportunity gap! Some people aren’t even given a chance!

Children’s Health Fund has rolled out pilots in NYC to look at health factors that directly affect learning. They focused on moving from just screenings to actually following up by reducing the barriers by providing access to healthcare.

Dr Fullilove shared about the school to prison pipeline about education and mass incarceration. He shared the following shocking facts

  • US is 5% of the worlds population but 25% of the worlds prisoners
  • 7 neighbourhoods in NYC supply majority of inmates in NY state.
  • 2-3 times higher HIV rates in prison than out of prison
  • 60% of prisoners are racialized
  • 1/9 black children have at least one parent locked up
  • In the lifetime the likelihood of imprisonment is as follows
    • 1/9 of all men
    • 1/3 are black
    • 1/17 are white
    • 1/6 Latin

The problems have stemmed from the war on drugs. They cops go after low level drug dealers and after the poor community. By looking at the 4th grade reading level you can predict the chance of them going to prison. Blacks and Hispanics are pushed out of school through suspension, expulsion much higher than whites. 15% of the school population is black but 40% of suspensions.

We don’t have any people to waste. Prison has no return on investment. With 32-40 thousand dollars spent per year on prisoners as compared to 2-3 thousand dollars to supply inmates with a degree. Dr Fullilove shared the Bard Prison Initiative. BPI program http://bpi.bard.edu with this program they have issued 275 degrees in 5 NY prisons. This is a great idea as current jails and prisons are a for profit business that is not in the industry to rehabilitate. Like Dr Fullilove mentioned, we can’t waste anyone, by giving them education they can lift themselves up and help others.


Dr Chris Emdin’s keynote was phenomenal. The energy and passion that this man has is to the moon and back! I am still feeling the energy from his talk! He talked about PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) and how the military has made this diagnosis for soldiers returning back from places of discomfort. But lets flip it around and look at the conditions people are living in on a daily basis. We need to treat students like they are loved, and that we need create a place of comfort. The trauma many youth live in becomes normalized. Emdin was referring to the kids not being able to breathe in the classroom and the fact that sometimes they just can’t. It can be institutions that create the stress. Students have their own cultures and are all forced to come into the same space everyday. If it was PTSD, we would remove them from the stressful situation, but since it is school we legally can’t. Emdin suggested creating 3rd spaces in schools that are a safe space, which includes teaching and learning.

Dr Emdin’s second main point was the power of mass distraction. So many people are living through the media and not actually living and healing their own lives. People are then becoming comfortable in their real life discomfort by living their lives through media. The Cosby show is an example of media where people often lived out their fantasy by watching instead of healing in their own lives. He talked about standardized tests as a similar distractor, being focused on the score rather than the conditions causing the scores. He suggested to talk about bars on the windows, curriculum and conditions that are causing the gap in scores. He also said “Learning is deeply personal, then it can’t be standardized! Then nature of teaching and learning shouldn’t be standardized.”

Lastly, he mentioned science as being a powerful force. This is something I feel the most strongly about. Science allows you to have power. He said don’t let doctors and medical professionals talk about you, have them talk to you. With science knowledge you become part of the conversation. We need to engage young people in science early and in a meaningful way. We don’t want to pass on oppression that has become ritualized through the process of over practice. Emdin said we need to be transformative and engage more people in science.


Emdin reminded us what is HIP HOP








The next session was by Ian Levy, an awesome educator and scholar doing the work in NYC schools. He presented on “Hip Hop Therapy: Using Hip Hop lyricism and performing as a therapeutic medium with urban youth”. He brought his students with him for a live performance. He opened with a live performance of his own in the spirit of Hip Hop! He discussed issues in schools where students are told they can’t act how they really are in schools. Also if they don’t act a certain way and follow certain rules they won’t be successful. Levy mentioned the disconnect between what happens inside the school walls vs outside. He said by stripping young people of their culture, it creates tensions and then lead to health disparities.

He is using the cypher as group counseling mechanism. The work the students presented was insane! They examined recent media and expressed feelings as young youth of colour. The students examined news articles of the recent shooting victims and rapped about them.


Our presentation is below and will consist of a separate blog entry but in the meantime here is our presentation.

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Want to meet Dr Chris Emdin?  He will be in Toronto for the Hip Hop Education STEMposium 


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#EdAppHack Sharing our work for our youth hackathon!

Well its been a busy few months after #EdAppHack and school has been going well.  Since #EdAppHack in October a bunch of amazing organizations have released information about the day.  Our Hackathon playbook has hit Mozilla that we created with MaRS and just last week we were published in the Ontario College of Teacher’s magazine Professionally Speaking.  I just wanted to share some of those things with the world!

Complete list in doc click here

Ontario College of Teacher’s: Professionally Speaking


Orion: Watch Students Innovate at EdAppHack

MaRS: Youth Hackathon Playbook Hits The Web For Free 



Mozilla/MaRS: Youth Hackathon Playbook


Orion: Hacking for Good: #EdAppHack Brings Together Students, Teachers and Programmers – Everyone Learns 


Brandon Zoras: Storify: EdAppHack 


TDSB STEM Showcase: Using VROC and Video Calls for #STEM Learning

Friday was a great day of STEM learning! It goes to show how many awesome, dedicated and willing to share teachers there are in the TDSB. With the hard work of the STEM central team the day was a success! To get a better understanding of STEM we need to define it and how it will work for our board. We can not just use the definition used in the United States but one that works for us. The team centrally has come up with a definition which I really like:

“STEM is a trans-disciplinary approach to inquiry and problem-based learning that fosters collaboration, creativity, and innovation in all students.” – TDSB STEM launch 2014


Antonio, Anne, Stacey and Brandon speaking about VROC

Antonio, Anne, Stacey and Brandon speaking about VROC (from left to right)

I wanted to look at ways to get students thinking of STEM careers. I have been using VROC for the last few years. VROC has been growing and have a huge variety of researchers from STEM careers. You can find traditional scientists in all the fields but also math, architecture, engineering, and technology fields. It is great way for students to hear first hand about careers in STEM, what research is new and how those scientists work together across disciplines.

My folder with resources is here: FOLDER

My one page information sheet is here: One Pager

Prezi for the day: PREZI 

Resources from the presenters can be found here: https://sites.google.com/site/stemshowcase2014/presenters
Click on the presenters name to gain access to a Google doc with their Google drive folder.

Sign up now for VROC: http://www.vroc.ca/


TDSB Google Camp 2.0 – my session on STEM and Google Apps for Education

The Teaching and Learning with Technology team put together another AMAZING Google Camp!!! http://www.tdsbgooglecamp.ca/

Keynote by Julie Millan was awesome! It was great hearing from “one of us”. It is nice on occasion to have the celebrity keynote but what is really inspiring is someone in our board who is doing amazing work and someone we can connect with.  Julie’s message was really about how technology has been changing, what learning looks like is changing and that teachers need to embrace that.  She encouraged teachers to #TryOneThing! I found there was way more than one thing to try!

My session links can be found here:


If you missed the camp, you really missed something cool! BUT it isn’t the end of the world.  All the resources are found online and the 80 presenters shared all of their resources!


Click on the names of the session which will open up a presenter profile with all their shared links.

google camp profile

Follow the hashtag #TDSDgafe and #TDSBict for more information and a vast amount of educators to add to your PLN

Literacy with Actively Learn! Not just for English class! #EdTech

Check out Actively Learn: Click here 


Reading is not just for English class!  Actively Learn has a place in all subject areas.  Being a science teacher I strive to have scientifically literate students by teaching the concepts of science but more importantly what is happening in the world around them.

By using Actively Learn, I can assign readings to my students from the curated content to articles I find online and see how my students are understanding.  The content already in the database is high quality with categories and notes already loaded by Actively Learn and other teachers.  A feature I find extremely useful is the ability to add your own text from the internet, Google Doc or PDF.  To prepare students for the Provincial wide literacy standardized test, I can upload practice articles from their database and assign.  I am able to add local or global science issues from new discoveries to interesting articles that hook students into science.

The teacher dashboard is very informative and natural to use.  You can easily assign readings to single or multiple classes.  Class creation in very simple and students join by logging in with a custom code.  Once they are in, students can start completing assignments based on what the teacher has assigned.

The powerful part of this whole site and what separates it from just having students read an article online is the analytics.  You can view a variety of stats once your students start to work.  From reading time, to answers to questions, you can comment and grade the students right from the dashboard.  You can select a particular question and see the class results, give them feedback and rank their answers.  Students can also raise the I don’t understand flag, which will alert you to help a particular student.

I would like to see the ability to remove part of the article from an online source.  For example some articles have ads or extra information that become trapped in the article, the ability to modify the body text of an article would be useful.  Got stuck? The help centre is very informative on how to do all the functions within the site.  From adding students, curating content to importing your own articles there is help for it all!

This program should not be limited to English class! It has value in any subject and any level.  The customization and available content is suitable for any range as you can control that. If you find the reading was too hard you can do an easier one next time.  You could also enrich the article with extra links to challenge students.  This program works very well for my classes and accommodating special education requests.  Some students need to hear the text read to them.  Actively Learn has a built in text to speech feature simply by highlighting and clicking hear it.  I highly recommend this program as it helps students on their literacy and understanding subject content.

Below is a step by step guide on how I added an article in for my grade 9 science class.

A great article I am using to link our ecology unit and space unit is “The Plan to Map Illegal Fishing From Space” from WIRED science.  I think by having students see how these two units cross over they will have a better understanding of science as a whole.

1) The dashboard is very easy to use.  I click on “Add Content”

1 dashboard 

2) From the list you can select the type of content you would like to add.

2 add content

3) For this example I want to use online text, so selected that option3 add online text

4) There are ton of great resources if you click the popular resources button but I already have an article in mind.

4 wired article

5) Paste the link in and follow the next set of steps to fill in further information to categorize your article.

5 edit text

6) I can then add links, notes or questions for students to try. In this article it mentions protected areas, so I linked to the Canadian Government’s website on protected areas in Canada to provide a local context for students.  I don’t think all of them will know the difference between a false positive and false negative so will give them an article to explain. As well I explain why we are linking the two units together as a note.  

 7 add note 8 add link

7) Many of the questions can test for understanding, or in the article I have chosen, allow for students to give their opinion as well.

6 add questions

8)Once complete,  I assign it to my class back at the dashboard page.

10 assigning 11 assigning 2

More on customizing can be found here on their FAQ/Help Section

Want to give it a try? Click here to get started!