All posts by Chad Griffiths

ICT in the PYP

In the past all of the specialist teachers at our school had tried to connecct to every UOI but we noticed that most of the time you are not making good connections. One example would be doing water painting during a unit about water in the world.

If you are going to try to do that, one thing I found to be benificial is to pay a lot of attention to the concepts and skills that are being covered in the UOI and see if you can make a connection with them. That method still created a problem with the fact that I found myself very limited in time trying to introduce, create and present projects and/or lessons that would never fit in the one hour a week that I have with each class. With only six hours of teaching per unit there still were many problems.

Last January I started to change how I integrate with our teachers. I meet with them at least on a bi-weekly basis where we discuss how we can work together. It has gone really well. I might connect with the UOI or even with something they are covering in Language or Math that might be taught as stand-alone.

What I am trying to do is make my lessons more part of what they are doing in their classrooms and not a seperate class. Yes I still spend time introducing new software and skills but when I do it I explain that we are learning this software to complete part of their work in class. It could be part of the summative or formative assessments or any other part of the unit. At times I will co-teach lessons with the classroom teachers to help the students see how everything is interconnected.

This is a little more difficult with the Year 1 classes, where I tend to begin the year getting to know the students and their computer skill level. This helps me when I will begin to integrate with them on a more later on in the year.

Using Dartfish EasyTAG to keep track of PSHE lessons

Image from dartfish websiteThe PSHE teacher at my school, who is quite tech savy, has been looking into software he can use with iPods and iPads (if possible also Android) in his classroom. He found the free Dartfish EasyTAG app that he has been using for the past two weeks that he feels gives adds greatly to his lessons.

This app allows the students to track what is happening in the games that they are playing in real time. For example if they are playing a game called Speed Ball the people who are not participating in the current game can keep track of the stats for their classmates. You can set up different scoring panels for different types of games. You can keep track of different match-ups as well. Another great aspect of this app is that you can export the results either via email or through iTunes.

Dartfish EasyTAG app screenshot 1 Dartfish EasyTAG screenshot 2Dartfish Easytag screenshot 3

For more information on the product you can visit the Dartfish EasyTAG website.

Or you could just download the FREE app and give it a try.

Download from the App StoreDownload Android App



My new approach to integration

The more time I spend trying to figure out the best way to integrate ICT into my PYP classes, the more I keep changing what I am doing in class.

My first two years in the program I was basically finding a connection to each of the Units of Inquiry for each class. Here are some examples:

Unit of Inquiry – ICT project

  • Energy – Glogster poster on how to save Energy
  • Landscapes – Excel spreadsheet and charts on the worlds tallest mountains
  • Governments – Prezi presentation on different types of government
  • Story telling – Storybird to create online stories

Technically the students were working on projects that were related to their unit, but the connection was limited and was more of a project based unit and not inquiry based.

ICTThis year our single subject teachers (ICT, Music, Art, PE etc.) along with our PYP Coordinator came up with a plan to make a strong and stable connection with one unit from each year level. That way they could work with the classroom teachers on all phases of the unit. During the other units of the year we would still focus on using inquiry based projects. These projects would more be based on the concepts or skills that were associated with the unit.

I also added an idea I got from listening to Brad Flickinger’s podcast of trying to have the students learn one skill really well throughout the year. For example: Year 5 – Documentaries, Year 4 – Podcasts. Having each class only for an hour a week proved to be to limiting for this approach. I found myself having the students working to often with pen and paper in my classroom. Another problem is that it would also take us more time to finish each project than was allotted to each unit.

Over the winter holiday break I read through the ICT in the PYP documentation from the OCC. I noticed that I had good ideas but I was still teaching classes that were too independent compared to what they were doing in class. They suggest that the ICT classes be used as a tool for the classroom, with limited stand alone lessons. They also suggest not to make a project just for projects sake but to have it be more meaningful to what the students are already doing in their classrooms.

I spoke with our Board and PYP Coordinator to establish a way for me to meet with each class on a bi-weekly basis to better integrate what they are doing in their classes with what is being done during my lessons. I know I should have been doing this already but my time at the school is precious due to the fact that I am the ICT teacher and I am responsible for taking care and fixing all of the tech related problems in the school.

The classroom teachers are really enthused with this new possibility. We are already coming up with fun and exciting ideas on how to use technology in their lessons. Connecting both to their units and also to their stand alone lessons.

This is just starting and I will keep you informed as to how things are going in the next few weeks.

SYSK Podcasts in Y4

The project

After following the Stuff You Should Know podcast for years I thought it would be  a good idea of having the students listen to a few podcasts and then create their own. They followed a similar model to that used by Josh and Chuck. The main difference was that our students worked individually and not in pairs. Each student had to select and research an article on the website. They then had to condense what they learned into an informative 2-3 minute podcast. This was good practice for the students to learn how to put their research into their own words. I had set up the structure of the podcast for the students to follow in a shared Google Document where the students would collect their research and write their podcasts.

The process

  • Introduce Podcasts
  • Select a topic or article on the website
  • Read the article, taking notes of important information and facts
  • Organize the information in their own words
  • Record their podcasts
  • Edit the podcasts

Introduce Podcasts

Played a few clips from some of my favorite SYSK podcasts, and some other podcasts. Talk about the general organization of a podcast and show them the layout they will be using for this project. Let the students know that they would be creating something similar in our class.

Select topic or article

The students will have half of a class period to research the website to read through the articles and select an idea or article. They were asked to select a topic that really interested them and not just to pick the first one they read.

Read the article while taking notes

The students needed to read their selected articles trying to find the important facts and ideas that were present in the articles. This is something that I really had to keep an eye on to make sure that the students were not just copying what they were reading.

Organize the information in their own words

The students will then look over their notes and start to organize the information into the Podcast layout that they were given.

Record their podcasts

The students used GarageBand to record their podcasts.

Editing and uploading podcasts

Due to the lack of time to complete this project I edited the students podcasts (just adding a jingle and cutting out the outtakes). After they were finished I uploaded them to so the students could embed them into their digital portfolios.

Example of student work

[soundcloud url=”″ iframe=”true” /]


I used a checklist to make sure the students met all of the criteria for their podcast (time, information, own words, etc.).


I definitely would do this project again with the students next year. I would change only the timing of the project. It took to long just trying to complete the project during the one hour a week dedicated to ICT lab time in our school.

Full integration in middle school pt.1

When I came back to school this September, I was informed that the school decided not to hire a part time ICT teacher for the middle school. In the past our middle school had one hour lessons each week of ICT. I worked with a partner to split the middle school classes, while I taught all of the primary school. Our school also offers ICT to half classes where I only have up to 13 students at a time.
The Idea to integrate ICT into the Middle School was not new to me and it was actually something we had talked about the year before, but talking about it and actually implementing it are very different. Last year I worked very closely with one our school’s Middle School teacher to develop lessons and implement them during my lessons. We created many different and interesting activities such as: autobiography sites, iMovie presentations on technology’s impact on the environment, presentations about paradigm shifts that were brought upon by technological advancements.
This year the challenge is putting those same practices in action with all of the middle school teachers. Finding a way to meet with all of the teachers as much as possible is key to making this work. At the moment there is no time set aside specifically for these meetings.
I have already started working often with one of our English language teachers and plan to start meeting the Italian teachers next week.

Glogster Y4 Egypt

The project

The Year 4 students were working on a UOI (Unit of Inquiry) about how water usage helped in the creation of cites and civilization. Together with the classroom teachers, we decided to Create a multimedia poster showing the history of river technology. The posters would have to show 3 different tools used water in technology to help civilization form and grow. They were required to choose at least 3 different tools that were used by the ancient Egyptians. They needed to explain how they worked showing examples (images) of them.

The process

Here are the steps that they followed

  • Research various technologies used by the Egyptians that is water (river) related
  • Collect information and organize it for their presentation
  • Learn how to use
  • Create and present information in


We had them do research on the subject using the history of irrigation museum website along with other historical sites. They were told they could only get one of their tools from Wikipedia and that they needed to find the rest on other websites.
Collect and organize information

The students were asked to collect their information in MS Word or Pages in a folder on our school server where they would also save the images they wanted to use. Some students also took pictures of the shivu that they made in class, while others recorded audio about, and others yet made videos explaining one of the other examples.
Learn how to use

This was the first time I had used the software, so it was a learning experience for all. I signed up for a free teacher accounton the website and added my students to my account.

[UPDATE: The account I had is now only available in a very limited version most of my students work is blocked because Glogster changed their policy and I can no longer access them unless I pay. Not Happy!!]

The students then logged in and were shown some example “glogs” and I showed them the basic steps that were needed to create their glogs. They learned how to add text, shapes, images, audio and video.They also learned how to change the background and wall, which seemed to be a little distracting.

Create and present information

After these short lessons the students worked in groups of 2 or 3 to create their posters. We were all very pleased with the results. It is a very high quality free software to use.

[UPDATE: The preview of student work is no longer available. As mentioned before Glogster changed their policy so all of the student accounts that I had created before are no longer available]


I used a rubric to grade the students work.

Magnetic Poetry

A colleague of mine bought a magnetic word kit this past weekend. The play area of their website would be great for group work and would be a cool tool to use with the Promethean boards. You could have the students work together to make poems, write sentences etc.
The online sets have words separated by categories: Artist, Genius, Poet, Office and Romance.
Play with magnetic poetry
Visit the site an make an original poem.
They even have word kits in other languages which would be great for second language learners.

What is it?

I came across this website while planning for a unit on stories and story writing. This web 2.0 website allows you to create illustrated books online.  After you sign up (they offer a separate sign up for children with a parent/teacher email address) you can create your story by either selecting an artist or theme. There is a great selection of artist work, varying greatly in styles.

How did I use it in class?

I used this website with a Year 2 class. They were looking at stories that have a beginning, middle, and end. I had asked them to create a Storybird that told a story in three pages.  They first selected an artist that they liked. Then they selected the artwork, they wanted to use for the beginning, middle and end of the story. They wrote their story using were encouraged to search for an artist that inspired them to be able to create their stories.

Examples of student work:

Here are some examples of the stories that they wrote.




Lilli little bunny and the party on Storybird

Final Thoughts

In the end this was definitely a successful project. The students really enjoyed this software and many created their own accounts at home. They were truly inspired by the artwork that was available and after they finished their first stories, and had learned how the website works. They could not wait to create another story. Many students were so excited they created their own accounts at home and couldn’t wait to have me read them. Which, in the end, is probably the best sign of success of any project.
My main concern with the usage of this web 2.0 site in schools is that i does not allow you to print your students work. They say they will have the possibility to print the published stories as bound books. Which I am sure would be a great final product, but it may not be the best option for a large number of students books. To print the books I used print screen then put the images together as a pdf file for each of the students.

Great sites to find free alternative software

Working at a small private school, I need to be creative with my budget. Many schools can just buy licenses for all the software that they need. I do not have that option. I am constantly seeking free or open source alternatives to the standard software being used in schools.
 Most people are aware of Open Office as an alternative to Microsoft Office. Some people are familiar with Gimp as an alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Now if you are a power user these alternatives may still be lacking, but for the average user they are excellent options.
To find alternatives to many of the programs that you use daily you should use one of the following sites:

My first choice for finding alternatives to both desktop and mobile applications.

Another site where you can search for alternative software.

Online Stories Websites

There are quite a few websites that are great for online stories. These can be used at a  circle reading time if you have an interactive board.

This is my favorite website with screen actors reading children’s book aloud online. There is a nice selection of stories for all ages and some really good titles. (22 stories in total + PDF activities to go with each story and some information about the famous reader)

This is another good website with a variety of stories ranging from fables to folktales. Each story plays a video as a famous person reads the story aloud (the reader is announced at the beginning of the story). You can record your own stories and get the class to participate in making a read aloud too! (Book Week Idea!)

This is a handy website since it is also linked to iTunes and you can have the stories automatically download to your iPods or mp3 players. These are only audio stories, but there are 31 stories in total and more are added every once in awhile. The reader “Natasha” has a very clear voice and reads at a good listening speed.  The stories range from famous poems, classic authors, junior stories to educational stories.

Ning will no longer be free

Ning Networks

According to an email I received today from The Ning Team with the subject “Changes coming to Ning in July”. The first change that is announced is that they will be phasing out all free Ning Networks. Basically they say they would like to provide a better product for their customers and it would be impossible to do so offering a free service. They say that this will not happen until July and they are doing this to give everyone with a Ning Network to weigh their options.

What are the new options?

From their official announcement of their plans they will offer ad-free Ning Networks with the Ning Mini from as little as $2.95/month (or 19.95/year) to the Ning Pro at $49.95/month (or 499.95/year). Which if you think about it is not an excessive amount of money for what they are offering. My only problem is that with the Ning Mini offer you are limited to 150 members. Now I can understand why they would limit the bandwidth and storage, but I cannot understand why they would limit you to 150 members. I am on a few Ning Networks with over 150 members that have been around for a number of years. This means that you will be forced to pay at least $19.95/month or $199.95/year if you want to keep your network up and running.

What other things might be missing if I select the Ning Mini?

Well to start off with all of the uploaded audio and video. Not to mention the Groups and Events that you have already created. If you have added Pages or Notes, you can forget them too. You can view their comparison of all three plans for more information.

They say that they are leaving the free option behind but are offering a service that “is affordable for almost every budget”. The problems is that this affordable plan is not really an option for most Ning Networks and they will be forced to pay much more just to keep what they have up and running.

I am very curious to see what happens to the many Ning Networks. Will people be willing to pay to keep their sites alive or will they search for another free option? And if they keep their sites, how will this affect other free services that may one day be changed to pay services?

Google SketchUp Y5 Ancient Art & Architecture

The project

The year 5 students were working on a UOI that focused on history. One of the focuses was on the change of Architecture over time. In order to show this we looked at different forms of architecture in the past and the materials and techniques used to create them. Every few weeks I would introduce a new for of architecture. We looked at the ancient Egyptians, the Romans, the Maya among others. They were asked to try to recreate some of these structures using Google SketchUp

The process

  • Present students with a slideshow of different architecture from different times around the world (Pyramids, Arch of Constatine, Temple of Chizen Iza, La Sagrada Familia, Frank Llyod Wright building, The Guginhem Museum in Bilbao, etc.)
  • Ask students to think about what materials and techniques were used to create these structures
  • Introduce Google SketchUp and basic techniques by having the students create the Arch of (You Name) based on Constatine’s
  • Introduce more advanced techniques while having the students try to recreate Citzen Itza and a Pyramid
  • Give the students an opportunity to create personalized building of their choice

Examples of student work


Observational notes, Rubric


This was a very successful project mostly because many of the students went home and installed the program and began experimenting at home. This is one of the best types of success one could have, creating interest to learn more on their own.