Category Archives: Mobile Learning

Technology Tools for French Language Learners

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend a French Immersion conference, focusing on French instruction. Some of the ideas presented at the conference, are ideas I already integrated into my French Immersion classroom, but the why and the how are worth mentioning to my greater PLN. These ideas are not new and may be familiar, but it’s worth taking another glance at a few tools that can be utilized when instruction students in a second language. Three different tools will be highlighted:

Read & Write through Google Chrome Extension or CD Software

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Read & Write Gold allows students to highlight text in a Google doc or on the Internet and the program will read the text for them. This is helpful when trying to read more complex text such as autobiographies from Wikipedia or researching scientific terms. It can also be helpful for students who have not yet developed reading strategies or vocabulary in French.

Below is a link to their website if your school does not already own this tool:

iTranslate app

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 11.01.54 PMWriting or speaking in a second language can be difficult if you do not have the vocabulary needed for the topic being discussed. The iTranslate app or an online French-English dictionary can be a very useful tool when used correctly. This tool should be used to translate one word at a time and not whole sentences. When translating a whole sentence from English into French, the meaning of the text can change or become a little confusing. To understand the full effect of a Google translate gap, check out the video Fresh Prince: Google Translated (Collectivecadenza, 2013).

An advantage to using an online dictionary is that you can also look for the French dictionary afterwards and find out the type of noun the word is, assisting with adding the proper “articles.” I will often use this tool to verify the correct article use in my written French. My favourite online dictionary is:  An alternative online dictionary is:

When composing written or oral French, it is important to have the students think in French when trying to compose their thoughts, instead of having them translate in their minds. Translating materials is very difficult, even for very skilled writers. This is why authors hire translators to convert their books into another language and why the House of Commons hire translators to translate Member’s of Parliament’s speeches while they are delivering their speech.

iOS and Android apps

There are several great apps on the market for both Apple software and Android software than can be applied to French instruction. When choosing an app, it’s important to plan how the app will be used to enhance and improve learning. My recommended app page for elementary students provides a list of productivity and creation apps.  Meaning that students can demonstrate learning and understanding through the use of these apps, verses practicing or reviewing facts. Students have more options on how to represent their learning, as not all students prefer to demonstrate understanding through written text. These apps can also be used at the secondary level in either French or English instruction. If any of these apps are new to you, I recommend trying them out to see how they can be utilized in your classroom.


Collectivecadenza. (2013, January 15). Fresh prince: Google translated [Video file]. Retrieved from


Why I (heart) mobile apps

I heart apps

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Prior to the emergence of m-technology, students were required to type out the website addresses they wanted to access. This led to longer wait times for accessing webpages as it took awhile for students to find the letters on the keyboard or students were required to re-type their hyperlinks due to missing or mixed up addresses. In order to assist grade one and two students with this task, I would create HTML pages in Word using a picture cue which would take students to the desired technology activity. This became very helpful and students who independently find the websites they needed during our technology periods and free time. I still use a similar technique for older students, but instead of using picture cues, I will categorize websites by core subjects and will provide key descriptions of the websites they want to access.

Since the introduction of iPads in our classroom, students no longer need to access websites solely from the computer (on a side note, they still do and I do think it’s important they know both skills for using technology). Some of our favourite websites have apps that can be used to access content. I find this very handy as both an educator and as a parent for its portability function (we can take our iPad anywhere with us) and for it’s convenience of simple log-in/access. We use our iPads for center time and students are assigned tasks to be completed. This could be reviewing letter sounds through the Starfall app, listening to books on the RAZ Kids app or writing a blog post through a Kidblog account. It’s an alternative way to provide students with access to websites other than through a computer.

Not to mention, mobile apps allow students to create content in a personalized way (see blog post on productivity and creation apps). Students can choose a mobile app that will allow them to present information in a way they feel best represents their learning whether it be audio, video or a mixed content. Their preferred apps for creation are Sock Puppets, PuppetPals HD, Toontastic, Stop-motion and iMovie. Examples of projects using mobile apps are newscasts depicting current events in India/Tunisia/Peru/Ukraine and animating short stories from drafted story plans. Here are two examples of student created projects using creation apps:

Stop-Motion Fractions

Friendship PuppetPals

Apps allow students to access a variety of activities formally accessed on a computer. Some of the apps have been simplified to ensure students can access and utilize them more easily. The opportunities for learning are just as endless as laptop computing, but more portable, so learning can be more easily recorded in any of the classroom spaces/environments. These are just some of the reasons why I love mobile apps and learning.

Recommended mobile apps

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Starfall App

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RAZ Kids app

Kidblog app

Kidblog app

How to Connect (Digitally) with Parents to Communicate Student Learning

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As the new school year quickly approaches, educators will need to determine how they would like to best communicate student learning with parents. Traditionally, teachers send out a letter the first day of school welcoming students into their classroom and listing out some of the items and goals for the school year. Throughout the year written letters or emails are sent as a form of keeping parents up to date on student learning. Schools will post monthly digital newsletters and sometimes include an entry ballot parents need to print off for a monthly draw.

With the emergence of social media and mobile learning (New Media Consortium, 2013), and more parents connected to others through tablets/Smartphones, teachers and administrators can consider the utilization of technology tools to stay connected with parents when informing them of student learning. Here are a few tools that could be used to communicate student learning with parents and families:

1) Online surveys/questionnaires

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2) Social Media

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3) Blogging

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4) QR codes

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 When deciding which tool is right for your school or classroom, you will need to:

Understand the demographics of your families: Although many families are connected online, not all families have access to technology. It will be important to know how families prefer to communicate or even providing parents with more than one method of accessing the message such as a Tweet through Twitter and a written agenda message.

Select a tool that communicates learning more effectively: Technology is not an optimal choice for all forms of communications, but can sometimes be a better choice. If teachers rely on email communication or agendas to send reminders about library books (as an example), then the Remind app or even a LMS (learning management system) can be a better option for communication. If the goal is to practice printing while having the student communicate reminders to parents, then written agendas are a better option.

Know your school board’s technology plan and policies: The tools on the list are examples of some of the ways teachers can better engage with parents, but some of these ways may have restricted access within the school board. Make sure you have permission to create and maintain a social media account and always share this site with your administrator. Keep your admin informed and be cautious when posting information online. Even though the intent is to keep parents up-to-date, specific information identifying your students or pictures posted without consent can be very problematic and unethical. When in doubt, leave it out or ask for a second opinion.

Sometimes it’s the little old-fashioned things that start the school year off with positivity and enthusiasm, such as the school postcard we received through mail welcoming us back to a new school year.

Here’s to another fabulous year of learning for both teachers and students alike!



New Media Consortium. (2013). Horizon Report, K-12. Retrieved from

Productivity & Creation Apps for Elementary Students

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 11.28.18 PMMobile learning (m-learning) is the fusion of mobile devices and educational pedagogy. Mobile devices such as smartphones, digital media players and tablets are being used to support student learning through technology integration. Mobile learning is currently being adopted by educational institutions (New Media Consortium, 2013). In elementary schools, tablets such as iPads are commonly used for m-learning practices (Merchant, 2012; Pegrum, Oakley, & Faulkner, 2013).

Apple, the leading mobile device provider, offers educators with more than 20,000 educational apps available for download (Rao, 2012). These apps can be placed into different categories depending on what they can and how it will be accomplished. Productivity and creation apps best support student learning and teaching (Attard & Northcote, 2011). These apps are not subject or concept specific, they can be used across contexts for different purposes. Students have more control over the process and presentation of their work while using these types of apps. Here is the top K-6 recommended productivity and creation app list. It is important to note that the specific app itself is not as important as its function. For example, audio apps allow students to record their thoughts and ideas. Audiboo is listed as the recommended audio app on this list, but Croak.It is another great alternative that has similar features and functionality.

Always remember….

When selecting apps or mobile devices for learning, we need “to consider how educational experiences might be enhanced or transformed through the use of mobile technology” (Merchant, 2012, p. 779). We should focus on how technology devices support teaching and learning and not on the device itself (Attard & Northcote, 2011; Pegrum et al., 2013). Pedagogy should drive the incorporation of technology.


Attard, C., & Northcote, M. (2011). Mathematics on the move: Using mobile technologies to support student learning (part 1). Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom, 16(4), 29-31.

Merchant, G. (2012). Mobile practices in everyday life: Popular digital technologies and schooling revisited. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(5), 770-782. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01352.x

New Media Consortium. (2013). Horizon Report, K-12. Retrieved from

Pegrum, M., Oakley, G., & Faulkner, R. (2013). Schools going mobile: A study of the adoption of mobile handheld technologies in Western Australian independent schools. Australasian Journal Of Educational Technology, 29(1), 66-81.

Digital Citizenship Norms to Consider When Selecting Apps for the Classroom

The Internet can be overwhelming with the amount of apps and tools available to students.  As educators or parents it can be difficult to keep up with the trending technology or even attempt to become an expert in each tool. Even tools we are already familiar with are continually evolving. Although it can be challenging to learn all tools, it is important that we understand its characteristics and how the tool allows students to be good digital citizens. Ribble, Bailey, & Ross (2004) provide 9 norms to digital citizenship (see Digital Citizenship Norms (EDER679.10)) that should be reviewed when considering app use.

The most important norm to review first would be security (Ribble et al., 2004). Make sure to understand how the tool is being accessed whether it is public, password protected or private. Students should be aware of who has access to their information and content and why it is important to keep certain information private. Take Facebook for example, Facebook has many different privacy settings such as who can access your Facebook page, who can email you, who can view your pictures, who can see where you are living, your birthday, etc. Students should understand why they should limit who has access to their information and what they should share online. Some businesses today are looking at sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to learn more about potential employees. If a student has a bad digital footprint, they are less likely to get the job they want.

Next, I would consider communication (Ribble et al., 2004). Do students have opportunities to communicate with others through the online tool? If so, can they do it in a safe manner? Are their conversations public or private? Take Twitter for example; every post communicated through Twitter is public to the entire world unless the message is sent through a direct message. This can be a huge security issue for younger students, as they may not understand that what goes out there, stays out there. I am aware that younger students cannot own their own Twitter account as they are too young, but if educators decide to go ahead with a class Twitter account, they will need to have a plan in place to educate (education norm) their students on proper netiquette (etiquette norm) and responsibility.

With every good app, the last step would be to have a plan to educate students on proper technology use of the identified tool (education norm – Ribble et al., 2004). Students need to be aware of the positive and negative impact they could have when using the tool. This is where the other norms come into play with being a responsible user (responsibility norm), understanding intellectual property rights (rights norm), avoiding online purchases (commerce norm) and understanding the security and communication norms discussed above.

Once you are happy with the education plan you have set for your students, you are ready to use the apps of your choice. I must mention that norms do not need to be applied in the same way or with the same focus as each learner and each classroom is different. Perhaps you are teaching students who already have a good foundation in digital citizenship and may be able to use apps that are more public and in a wider social network. As long as the norms have been taken into account and you can ensure student online security, then you are well on your way!

My next project is to create an app checklist incorporating some of these digital citizenship norms. If you have created an app checklist, I’d love to see it.

Ribble, M., Bailey, G., & Ross, T. (2004). Digital citizenship: Addressing appropriate technology behavior. Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(1), 6-12. Retrieved from

What is trending in the NMC Horizon Report? (EDER 679.10)

Every year the NMC Horizon Report publishes a report on emerging technology trends and their potential impact on student learning (Johnson et al., 2013). Here is a list of the tech trends this year for K-12:

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 10.04.59 PMIt is not surprising that mobiles devices and tablets were listed as the most important tech trend. Schools either already have iPads/Chromebooks, or are finding ways to finance and purchase tablets for their classroom. In fact, a Winnipeg school division has decided to make iPads mandatory in their schools and are implementing a 1:1 iPad pilot project this fall (CBC News, 2013).  This goes to show that educators are already placing an importance on mobile learning in schools. The way in which they are implementing tablets should also be considered. Tablets shouldn’t be used merely to replace textbooks and provide a technology alternative. They should be used for collaborating, learning and productivity (Johnson et al., 2013). If a school does decide to make tablets mandatory for in-school use, are they promoting access to technology or creating a bigger digital divide? Should parents have to pay for tablets to be used at school? Are school leaders basing their decision on the trends or on sound logical reasoning? These will be some of the many questions educators and edtech specialists will have to determine when adopting tablets at their school.

The other trends listed in this report seem foreign to me at the division 1 level. I am not sure how learning analytics will assist student learning at this level. Nor have I considered open content, 3D printing, and virtual laboratories. Cloud computing is something that was mentioned as a potential option for school, however, with the policies and parameters needing to be addressed around cloud computing, I am unsure if schools will be ready to adopt cloud computing in the next year. I can see this happening in the next 2-3 years instead.

What surprised me the most between the 2012 (Johnson, Adams, & Cummins, 2012) and the 2013 (Johnson et al., 2013) report is that there was a significant difference in emerging trends. The 1 year adoption were similar, but the 2-3 and 4-5 year adoptions were very different. Would it be wise to follow all the suggestions of adoption when one year the focus is on game-based learning and the next year the focus is on learning analytics?


CBC News. (2013, May 29). Winnipeg school division making iPads mandatory in class. Retrieved from

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Cummins, M. (2012). NMC Horizon report: 2012 K-12 edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., & Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon report: 2013 K-12 edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

iPad Management and Organization

Managing iPadsipad_students1

There are many ways to manage iPads in the classroom. In our school, we have one account where we synch all our iPads together. The reason we do this is because we only need to pay once for any apps that we would like to use and it also ensures that every iPad has the same software. So if I were to borrow an iPad from someone else, then I know I’ll be able to use the app that I am looking for. As for managing apps, each teacher is able to submit a request of certain apps. Our technology leader will then research that app and if they agree it would be great for learning, then the app is purchased/downloaded. At the end of each school year we go through the list of apps and discuss which ones to keep and which ones to remove to make sure that apps on the iPads are being used and not cluttering the iPad. Overall, this has been a great way to manage and organize the iPads. The only suggestion I would make, is informing staff how to select great apps, so that the ones being recommended are geared towards learning concepts and not just towards having fun. My other suggestion would be to sharing the iPad restrictions password with more people so that when a picture apps are denied access to the camera roll, we wouldn’t have to send our iPad to the technology leader to restrict access.

Organizing iPads

Each teacher receives 2 iPads to use in their classrooms. They way a teacher uses their iPad, varies from teacher to teacher. Some teachers use it as a reward or free time and others allow students time to explore games of their choice. I prefer the way I use iPads in my classroom as students are more directed in their learning so students will have opportunities to use apps that they may not choose during free time. To start, every morning a small group of students (3-4) use the iPads during the first 30 minute block. Each week students will be assigned subjects or apps to explore and use. Every now and then I also assign free time where they can choose an app of their choice or continue to use an app their previously used. While one group is working with the iPads, I have the other students split into groups and they are assigned other tasks such as silent reading, guided reading, computer work on Tumblebooks ( or Kidblog posts ( I have found this an effective way to ensure all students have the opportunity to use the iPads on a weekly basis, as well as working through apps that support the concepts we are presently learning.

Group Work with iPads

When it comes to group work in any of the subjects, I will often borrow iPads from my partner teacher or will sign out additional iPads for the week. Usually this will allow me to have 4-8 iPads, instead of 2 iPads for my entire class. When borrowing from my partner, I will find a time she is not using her iPads to ensure I don’t take away from her classroom’s iPad use. Usually this is when I teach math or English, which have been the times I have conducted group work the most with iPads. Fortunately our school has 60 iPads, so we can have them in the classroom and aside for group work. If your school isn’t as fortunate, I would suggest either having 1 iPad per classroom or a group set to sign out and encourage your staff to sign them out so they get used and not kept sitting in the cart.

For more ideas on what apps to use, please check out my page on top elementary mobile apps.


Riddell, R. (2013, February 21). 17 Real-world ways iPads are being used in schools. Retrieved from