Oh my overwhelmed brain … TouchCast review

This week I had a hard time deciding what which resources to view and reuse.  Last semester, in EC&I 833 I learned how to use Screencast-o-matic, Powtoon and Audacity during the course of the class. I really enjoyed learning and using all of them and realize that there must be purpose and intentionality in media that I choose as outlined in the reading by Bates.  In discussing which tools we may review this week, Lindy let me know about Edpuzzle, which Carla “wrote” about in her vlog this week.  It seems very cool and user friendly and Carla reviewed it well.  You should read/watch it!

Ultimately, I want to find something to assist with my module on ecosystems and am leaning towards some type of video creation at this point.  So, I decided to look at TouchCast as it was listed as an app that could create news-like video.  However, when I looked into it, it is so much more than that.  TouchCast is a video creation app that markets itself as a TV studio in your hands.

TouchCast is a smart video creation app that is fully browsable and responsive.  You can insert webpages, images, and video Apps (vApps) that can be tapped for a two-way video experience.


  • interactive; students can watch, read or view other elements and never leave the TouchCast
  • wide range of vApps right in TouchCast to insert in the video (maps, polls, twitter feeds, articles, videos)
  • inserted elements can be updated in real time (twitter, polls, etc)
  • green screen feature so that you can alter your surroundings within the video
  • teleprompter feature so that your script can be scrolling for only you to see as you create
  • can annotate within the video (on photos, maps, images, etc.)
  • can use screen as a whiteboard
  • can live stream with up to 12 team members (Can’t even fathom this as my brain is starting to disengage here …); can be in real time or recorded
  • fully shareable

The website has a few solid tutorials that would help beginners (ME!!) out.  Even the tutorials use TouchCast interactivity to teach you – very teachery indeed.  There is an educator’s guide cleverly named Engaging with the YouTube Generation that can be downloaded as a PDF.  It has background info about engaging 21st century learners and how TouchCast does that.  In addition, if you scroll down the PDF, there are TouchCasts made by teachers in different subject areas (although a couple broken links).  If you’re interested in using this tool, I would recommend taking a look at the various teacher created TouchCasts for an idea of how this tool can be used.


  • my withering brain??
  • if you’re not super techy, it may take a lot longer to realize the potential of this tool or may be intimidating to try

Here’s a clip related to a TouchCast in the classroom.  If you watch it, you will know she may be a little out of touch.  What sick teacher would video themselves and wait for an email during the day?? Okay, I will let the sarcasm rest.


Its name – TouchCast  – implies an interactive newscast (or a newscast on drugs which is screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-8-50-16-pmhow I would describe it!).  I think if you start small (for those like me), this could be a very rewarding tool.  Have you tried it?  Will you give it a try?



LMNOP ??? Coulda fooled me …

Flickr via Compfight cc

When I wanted to feel really smart this week, I would tell people I had to decide which LMS I was going to use for my blended/online course prototype.  When they said, “Wow!  I don’t even know what language you’re speaking. That’s way over my head,” I nodded my head in acknowledgement of how smart I was indeed. Moments later, when they asked,  “What exactly does that mean?”, my head hung in shame as the words to describe LMSs or even course prototypes evaded me.

Okay – so in reality this conversation only happened with my husband and I did feel smart for a moment, but he is clever enough to know: 1) I didn’t really know what I was talking about and 2) panic ensues within me when I am trying to learn something new and do a good job of it (so he made no comment).

This whole blended/online course creation dealio is very new to me.  To be honest, the LMS portion of this assignment seems to be the biggest hurdle for me as I’m not sure what everything should look like or what I would like to do.

When I read Sarah’s blog this week, not only has she decided upon using Canvas as her platform, but she has her entire outline basically planned (insert inner panic here)!!  For a moment, I felt very overwhelmed, but then I realized how helpful it was to see someone else’s thoughts flushed out on paper.  As someone who appreciates visual examples, it was very helpful to me. You should check it out!

Flicker via Compfight cc

Logan mentioned in his blog that the LMS is the wrapping, not the present.  So clever, Logan!  It is not the be all and end all.  It’s merely a tool, so perhaps I’m overthinking it. Katherine, Logan, and Sarah all chose platforms or LMSs that intermingle with their beliefs about teaching and needs as a teacher, which shifted my thinking.  I need to think about my own philosophies of teaching and how I believe kids learn and factor that in to the “wrapping paper” that I choose to use for this course.

Audrey Waters discusses how some LMSs simply replicate the old school traditional classroom and states that

each course is a separate entity — one instructor and a roster — hermetically sealed in a walled off online space, much like a walled off classroom                  

This is the opposite construction of what I value as I teacher.  I believe learning is richer when learners interact, share ideas and create together.  It strikes me as odd when a more advanced system (technology) can enter the world and perpetuate old school realities. That seems like an oxymoron to me.

So, here is what I’m looking for in a platform:

  • allows collaboration and interaction; can be student driven
  • allows accountability
  • is organized and has a layout that makes sense
  • easy to use for both teacher/student
  • allows various forms of content (videos, google docs if possible, apps)

The platforms my partner, Lindy, and I are looking at are Canvas and Google Classroom.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-8-09-55-pmI just started using Google Classroom in the fall and I really love it.  I am still new to the whole idea, but I love so many things about it.  In fact, Jayme Lee showed a poll indicating that Google Classroom was by far the favourite LMS out of those presented.

In Google Classroom, I like that:

  • I can share documents for students to view, edit or make their own
  • I can embed google forms or any of the GAFE to use
  • students can collaborate in real time on documents
  • students can hand in completed work to the classroom
  • grading can be done and reported back to the student online
  • I can look at a student’s progress whether or not it has been turned in (allows me to collaborate with them or look at where they are at in the process – or even mark what has been completed)
  • I can share videos
  • students can ask questions of me or each other
  • I’m already using it so it’s familiar

What I’m not sure about:

  • I don’t love the layout in that I can’t click on a module and go to a separate page.  It’s a scrolling screen (unless I don’t know everything – entirely possible).  I’m not sure I love this aspect.  Can I create a layout that is easy to navigate for different modules?
  • can I integrate various formative assessment apps?

Lindy’s school division does not use GAFE so we weren’t really considering using Google Classroom until accounts were set up for us by the lovely Alec and Katia.  At this point, we are still considering using this.

The other platform we are considering is Canvas.

When we experimented with Canvas in class, I liked:

  • the layout – it seems to be able to set up separate modules easily and seemed easy to navigate for the teacher.  It separates the course into different sections and you navigate from a home page.
  • can be used by multiple users
  • allows google docs to be uploaded
  • able to use multiple apps with it
  • Logan discusses some of the advantages of Canvas in an in depth way in his blog so you can read further here about that here

Possible disadvantages:

  • doesn’t seem as user friendly for students as google classroom
  • can’t see what students are doing as easily; less accountability
  • Lindy mentioned she got a ton of email from them upon signing up.
  • It is new to me and I would have to learn a new program

    Photo credit

Lindy and I will meet to discuss which one of these platforms best suits our needs and the needs of the students for whom this course will be designed.  Prior to that, if any of you have any suggestions one way or the other, please let me know!  Perhaps I’ve misjudged one of the platforms.  I welcome your thoughts and input.


Ecosystems … Online again?

Photo credit

      Yes … I’m sure you’ve seen this image before…. in every science text ever published…

The common ground of middle years brought Lindy Olafson and I together to design our course prototype project.  As a grade 7/8 teacher, I teach almost all subject areas so I was fairly open to any option for a course related to middle years.  Lindy works as an instructional coach and has worked in many capacities with a great deal of experience in grade 6/7.  After some discussion, we decided to pursue a course around the grade 7 science unit – Interactions in Ecosystems.  It’s been a while since I’ve taught this unit and it is coming up again in the late spring, so I’m hopeful that we will create something that can be used beyond the scope of EC&I 834.

Ironically, after Lindy and I decided on this topic, I remembered that in my undergrad ECMP class, with none other than Mr. Alec Couros, I designed a website around ecosystems.  I tried to do a quick search for this website, but alas, it has disappeared into cyberspace.  This is for the best.  I still have flashbacks to the home page – a cranberry- coloured, overly patterned page with ugly font.  Oh, if only I could find a photo for you…  In hindsight, it was terrible – but I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d created.  It’s funny how a changing world and changing perspective shift my understanding.   I am hopeful that this project may have more longevity than that initial website.

Photo credit

As I consider the design of an online/blended course, I feel fairly overwhelmed with the “how-to” of the process.  At this point, as Amy mentioned in her blog, finding a learning management system (LMS) to use seems the most daunting.   For me, until I try to utilize a system, it’s hard to know its benefits/drawbacks, but I know I won’t have enough time to explore them all, so I am really hoping for some suggestions within class and from classmates.  Google classroom is the only platform that I’ve had any experience with at this point.

Additionally, as an educator, I am used to looking at curriculum and deciding how to plan and implement it; however, I am not sure how to do this well in an online format.  Oblinger and Hawkins (2006) discuss how learning is an active process and that students learn through interaction with each other.  I wholeheartedly agree with them, but I am not really sure about how to make this happen in an online environment.  How can I be sure that the learning is engaging and meaningful and not just data in, data out? Also, the idea of studying ecosystems online seems counter intuitive.  Can this be done well?   How do I reinvent the info in that ecosystem diagram published in every science text in a meaningful way?

As I think of my student population, for whom I would be creating this course, I am inspired by the following image.  I want this to be true for my students whether or not they are working face to face or learning within an online environment.

Photo Credit

So, as I head into these unknown waters of online course creation, I welcome your feedback about LMS as well as how to fully engage kids and facilitate meaningful learning and interaction.  Share away …


And we begin again … On to online/blended learning!

Hello all!  I’m Natalie Schapansky and I spend my days with grade 7 and 8 students.  I love the land of middle years. As unpredictable and quirky as they are, they are also fiercely loyal – which I love.

                                                  Photo credit

In addition, my husband and I have a son, Nate, who is my 10 year old thinker and analyzer with a heart of gold.  My daughter, Bella, who is 8, is our joy and theatrical drama queen. Our kids keep us busy with activities and provide joy and chaos in daily life.  I also have two cats with polar opposite personalities.  My 15 year old cat, Sydney, is the best lap cat around. Louis, my 8 year old cat, patrols the neighbourhood entering houses at a whim making himself at home on any random couch.  Juggling all these components and throwing in grad school keep my brain on a tightrope of sanity.

This is my second edtech class. Despite creating a blog and using it for a whole semester, I still found Katia’s videos on set up very helpful.  I still have so much to learn.  So for all those first timer’s, have no fear; we are all still learning new things.

My goals for this class are to:

  1.  Understand all the tech components necessary to create an online and blended course:  This feels very daunting for me.  While I enjoy using technology, I’m not sure I excel at all the understanding and lingo related to the tech creation components.  I can get behind the pedagogy and development of curriculum, but my LMS knowledge is lacking.
  2. Like Elizabeth, I would like to use more pingbacks and interactivity in my blog posts. I often wrote my posts early in the week and hadn’t read a lot of other people’s posts before I wrote my own.  So, I will try to incorporate more of that and balance my time as well.
  3. Increase my twitter use.  Last semester, I started using twitter.  I scrolled through it a lot, but didn’t always know how to interact with it in a meaningful way.  I’m learning that it relates more to my professional profile than a personal one.
  4. Incorporate/increase my use of GAFE as my knowledge of blended/online learning increases.  I started using google classroom last semester, but I know I barely scratched the surface so I hope to find new, efficient, and effective ways to use google classroom.

So … here’s to another edtech journey!

EC&I 833

Swimming Through Ed Tech … A Summary

After great contemplation, I decided to try PowToon as my presentation tool for my final summary.  I also used audacity to complete the voice recording for PowToon.  While PowToon has its own voice recording available, audacity provides a much clearer sound and better quality.  I will show this presentation tool to my students this week as I think they will love it.

Here’s a brief overview of what I perceived as the pros/cons for PowToon:


  • can create an account for free
  • many ready made templates to choose from or you can start from scratch
  • can import or create your own voice recordings and/or music within it
  • can import your own photos or use what they provide
  • easy to use to navigate each screen and time your recording to the movement of the images
  • can make movies or have slideshow view depending on purpose


  • videos can only be 5:00 long in the free version
  • limited music selection and noticeable jumps when the music loops
  • free version has limited images; must upgrade to use all images
  • higher quality upload requires paid version
  • it can take a very long time if you take a long time making decisions 😉

Anyway, here’s my summary!  Thanks for the journey EC&I 833!

Credits to Neil Postman and Jackie Gerstein in my video.

EC&I 833

So – I can use AR/VR and not be a Trekkie?

I enjoyed our Augmented & Virtual Realities (AR/VR) presentation from the delightful Logan and Bill this past week.  The information they provided as well as their witty antics kept the pace and my mind racing.   I can barely keep a grip on my own reality at the best of times so the thought of entering a virtual or augmented reality exhausts me (in retrospect, perhaps entering a different or augmented reality is the solution!).

Photo Credit: KAZVorpal Flickr via Compfight cc

Prior to this class and this week’s readings, I could not have explained either VR or AR let alone told you the difference between them.  Similar to Amy and Jayme Lee, I’ve associated all things “video gamish” with my husband (and increasingly my son) as his area of interest and VR/AR seemed to fit within this make-believe world.  VR/AR reminded me of Star Trekkie things and the sci-fi world.  Sci-fi is not my world or area of interest (I’ve now officially insulted many of you – sorry, but I cannot love Star Trek).  So, when I saw ads for weird head contraptions and encountered people guided by their phones on my running paths (aka Pokemon Go players), I assumed a certain type of person was interested in this type of recreational, technological play, but I never imagined I would use or understand AR/VR.  — one quick amendment: I did go on an amazing VR Transformers ride at Universal Studies which I remembered after typing this.  It was very cool and one of my favourite rides.

After this past week, I now understand that in virtual reality I become a part of another world or experience a different reality.  Augmented reality allows another reality to enter my current world and is embedded into my physical reality.   I also now understand that there is great potential in education to use both AR/VR. Reede and Bailiff (2016) indicate that VR is a useful tool and “perhaps even a productive enhancement to human interaction, bringing together people from around the world to engage and interact.” Dunleavy, Dede & Mitchell discuss studies that report that AR implementations result in substantial student motivation.  In addition, in his article Augmented reality brings new dimensions to learning (2013), Minock states  

Educators know that learning deepens, not just through reading and listening, but also through creating and interacting… After all, profound learning occurs when students create, share, interact and explain.

So…what does this mean for me as a non-gaming, non-head gear wearing, non-Trekkie educator?  I will tell you that it leaves me a bit overwhelmed.  I can see the amazing experiences that AR/VR create and there is no question that my students would be completely engaged and the learning experiences would be rich.  However, I lack the knowledge about where to start or how to attain what I need to make this technology a part of my classroom.  So I will suggest that the digital divide goes beyond our students. Perhaps there is a dividing digital line between educators as well.  A lack of training or available resources between teachers and schools also creates a gap of equity.

As an educator, I consider myself to be a lifelong learner.  I desire to learn more in order to provide better experiences for my students.  When something outside of my scope (AR/VR) is presented, I feel both excited at the opportunity and overwhelmed at how to practically implement it into my current practice.  I am learning that I don’t need to know how to do everything.  My students are super quick at discovering and teaching me if I give them an opportunity.  This means remembering to move toward Web/Education 3.0 thinking.

That being said, I need a practical way to start (as I am the mother of practicality) .  So, I went searching to find ways to utilize AR/VR:

  1. I came across this article that suggests 32 apps to implement AR.  I can do apps.  That makes sense to me.
  2. As well,  in her blog post, Jayme Lee mentioned using AR to set up videos for circuits in PE.  This is a great idea as many of my students need to see an example.
  3. Finally, I found a video of using AR in math. The student hovered over an image to watch a video which explained concepts.  I currently teach two grades of math at once and using this strategy would be a great way to change up instruction and increase my availability.

While these are good places to start, I know the use of AR/VR requires time and intentionality as well as resources.  I hope to start small, but I still sweat a bit when I think about it!  So, here’s to trying new things.  How will you use AR/VR?  Are you a confident user or more reluctant like myself?

EC&I 833 · UDL

UDL or bust

Tyson and Benita alluded to growing up with little awareness of assistive technology in their classrooms.  As I think back, I can’t remember any assistive tech in my super small town classroom experience.  Was it there?  Did we have access?  Was there a need?  Who knows?

Flickr: Creative Commons

Now that I am a teacher, what I do know is that there probably was a need – perhaps not a recognizable, “diagnosable” need, but a need nonetheless.   All of my students need different tools to assist their learning based on differing physical, mental, intellectual needs and based upon what it is that they’re learning.  I have yet to be in a classroom where my students all learn the same way and need the same thing (wouldn’t that be easy… and boring).

As far as diagnosed needs, I’ve had students with hearing impairments, learning disabilities and mental health issues.  Students have received assistive tools in the form of an amplified FM system, laptops, programs (Kurzweil, etc.), scanners to implement transfer to computers as well as talk to text features.  In addition, if we look beyond electronic technology, I’ve used fidgets as well as seating and standing options that assist in learning.

The difficulties I have with assistive technology are twofold:

  1. Availability and access – In the article Rethinking Assistive Technology, Edyburn discusses that the current delivery system of assistive tech is based upon a deficit model.  In other words, something must be “wrong” in order to warrant a need for assistive tech.  Not only do I disagree with the entire philosophy of the deficit model (which I will discuss later) but the time, money and resources it takes to identify, diagnose and implement the technology is wasteful.  To request assistive tech in our system, a SETT (Student Environments Tasks and Tools) assessment is completed.  A request must be made for the assessment including paperwork to verify the need, the assessment must take place (which takes a while to book) and then need is determined.  The process can be months in the making.  Meanwhile …. we still teach and the student(s) still tries to learn.
  2. Professional Development –  Once my student receives said tech, I am given a package and told who it’s for.  That’s it.  Now I must figure out how to use it, how to best implement it with the rest of my curriculum and find time to teach the student one on one.  There are times when that is easier (setting up a chrome book) and times when that is much harder (Kurzweil !! – okay I did receive some training on this, but still so overwhelming).  Teachers are lacking time and training to implement assistive technology well.

This week, Alec (like he needs a link!) mentioned the Universal Design for Learning and Nancy  posted a link to a journal article on Google + about it.  In addition to the article Nancy posted, I read a journal article entitled  Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology: Leadership Considerations for Promoting Inclusive Education in Today’s Secondary Schools.  Both of these readings discussed the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) which is a holistic view of the curriculum that provides access points for all students.

FLickr:Creative Commons

Hitchcock and Stahl (2003) state that “Universal Design for Learning looks not to the student but to the curriculum itself. The underlying assumption is that by using flexible media, options can be embedded within the curriculum so that adjustments may be made to meet the needs and preferences of each learner.” They compare UDL to defensive driving and indicate that it’s a way of thinking and acting.

Messinger-Willman and Marino (2010) discuss the differences between AT and UDL; AT focuses on the individual whereas UDL focuses on the curriculum. In their article, they give the following example which helps convey the differences:

“Consider an example where a language arts teacher has a struggling ninth-grade student in her class. When she views the student’s learning difficulties from the AT perspective, she considers how word prediction software can help that specific student answer a writing prompt. When looking through the UDL lens, she acknowledges that learning barriers reside within a curriculum that forces students to manually write responses. She then alters the assessment so that the barrier no longer exists for any student by allowing all students to use technology during their responses.”

I love the philosophy of UDL.  I believe it is contrary to the deficit model that Edyburn discusses.  It allows teachers to be proactive and plan for the learning of all students.  It looks at the problems inherent in curriculum and finds tools to use to support the learning and implementation to all students.  As I’ve mentioned in other venues, I believe the need for assistive tech goes far beyond what our resources allow as many of my undiagnosed students really have a need for assistive tech.  In theory, a UDL approach is a better viewpoint as it looks beyond a deficit, beyond an individual and examines the problems in the curriculum while acknowledging that all students need assistance in some way or another.

Now as always, UDL is a philosophy.  I haven’t done a lot of research on it.  How does this work itself out in the real world?  How do we still meet the vast needs of our students with UDL?  Can we really manage to develop a curriculum that is this inclusive and still implements the assistive technology required?   I don’t really know… Do you have any ideas?