My Blogging Experience

March 6, 2010

Collaborative Project

Filed under: Education — Tags: , , — debyj @ 11:10 am

I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with the Seymour (Connecticut) Music Department during the past month and will be spending some more time working with them during the remainder of the semester.

The Music Department has a ning and that is where I have been participating in class activities. So far, here is what I have done:

– posted a blog about myself to serve as an introduction where students responded by introducing themselves

– posted a video that taught them how to count to ten in French (they requested this because I am Canadian and they do not know any French)

– created an assignment where they had to create a short video of them performing a new piece and include a discussion of what they did well and what they need to work on. I responded to each of these videos giving suggests for practice. On Monday, they will be responding to my comments and setting practice goals. About a week later, they will be creating a second video and reflect on their improvements and practice goals.

I think the ning is such a fabulous opportunity for these students to get some experience performing. I am astounded at how comfortable they all are with performing solos. I have never seen a group of students that are so willing to do that (especially beginners) so that is fantastic!

It is also really cool that they can receive comments and learn from someone else with musical expertise in another country. Essentially, they can receive feedback from anyone that is willing with any kind of expertise without having to pay them to come to your school as clinicians. I just think that is great.

Some things that are a challenge – you can never really replace that face to face contact, so just simply being able to respond and have conversations is more difficult on the ning. I found when I was making responses to the videos, I sometimes thought it might be easier to jump in and demonstrate for them instead of trying to write it down.
Another disadvantage is that as useful as it is, it can be time consuming for the teacher to monitor everything that is being posted on the ning.

I am very excited about continuing my teaching (and learning) with this class! It definitely has inspired me to consider using a class ning in my first year of teaching.


March 5, 2010

Zoe from Ontario

Filed under: Cool Tools, Education — Tags: , , , , — debyj @ 10:31 pm

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this Elluminate session, but through the wonders of technology I was able to catch up on what I missed through a recording of the session!

Some neat things Zoe talked about:

-The software Zoe used to post all of her classes online: She puts all of her subjects online so that parents can be more familiar with what is going on in the classroom.

-all of her students have used Google Docs for at least one year and up to two years and they use this tool all the time to collaborate together on one document.  (very neat!)

-some of her students showed particular interest in bitstrips This is a neat program that helps them create comic strips.

-she mentioned livescribe.  This is essentially the most high-tech pen I have ever heard of!  It is basically a video camera for your notes.  I would love to have one of these!

Words of advice for teachers:

– start learning on your own.  Explore technology and become familiar with it before you start teaching with it!

-you can use blog comments as opportunities to teach students about how to deal with bullying and other negative social situations they may encounter in life.

-problem with having little/no control of what happens to students after they leave your classroom.  It would be really cool if our teachers could collaborate more technologically, such as carrying on portfolios and blogs from year to year.  The best thing to do is encourage students to encourage their future teachers to carry on what has been started!

I thought it was sooooo cool when her students spoke to us at the end of the session.  They were keeping up with our conversations and had some fabulous insights on the discussions we were having!  I was astounded and how much better they were at talking on Elluminate than I was!  They seemed so comfortable with the technology.

Interesting that one of the students really liked Diigo and valued the public sticky notes.  I am curious to know how Zoe addresses the negative or even derogatory comments that sometimes appear on these public sticky notes.

March 4, 2010

Diigo Exploration #4

Filed under: Diigo — Tags: , , — debyj @ 9:24 am

Diigo Tools

There are a lot of different extra tools that you can explore to enhance your Diigo experience. If you click on “tools” at the top of your Diigo account, you can view a variety of options.

One thing I found very challenging was understanding what exactly these tools were and how to use them. For most of the tools, Diigo gave a very brief description of what the purpose was. For example, I clicked on “Diigolet”. Here is the description:

“Diigolet is not as feature-rich as the Diigo toolbar, but it can be set-up by simple drag-and-drop – no download or installation needed, and it works for all major browsers. Much more powerful than bookmarklets offered by other social bookmarking sites, Diigolet is a “super bookmarklet” that allows you to highlight and add sticky-notes, in addition to simple bookmarking”

I wasn’t really sure why I needed this or what it really did so I tried following the instructions to install it. My browser said that I could not add Diigolet because I already had the Diigo toolbar. My assumption then was that the Diigolet is a simple substitute for the Diigo toolbar. This way, if I want to use a computer at school, I can add the Diigolet to the toolbar easily and use most of the Diigo tools I use at home on this public computer. It took a lot of guessing and assuming to come to that conclusion and I am still not 100% sure that is what the Diigolet does. I definitely think Diigo could do a little more explaining in their “tools” section to help the “unfamiliar” become more “familiar” with these tools.

Other times, I figured out what the tool was but I could not get it to work. For example, I thought that Diigo as a widget would be really great! But…it turns out I cannot figure out how to get it to work after many many attempts. There just simply is not enough “how-to” description to accompany these tools.

If you can figure out what they are and how to get them working, I can see how these tools could be very useful, especially to people who have their own blog or website. The tools also allow you to import and export bookmarks between other social bookmarking sites or your web browser bookmarks. Next time you are on your Diigo account, check out the “tools” option and you might find something that will make your life easier!

February 26, 2010

Diigo Exploration #3

Filed under: Diigo — Tags: , , , , , — debyj @ 12:13 pm

Post-its and Highlighting:

This is something that I think is unique to Diigo and definitely separates it from other social bookmarking sites.

How it works:

When you install the diigo toolbar, it gives you an icon called “highlight”. When you click on it, you can choose between four colors (yellow, blue, green, or pink). After you select a color, you can highlight any text on a webpage. Once you have highlighted the text, a small editing icon appears over the first word you highlighted. When you click on the icon, you are given several options to customize your highlight.

-You can “add an inline sticky note”. On this sticky note you can write anything you want and make it public or private.

– You can delete your highlight

– You can “get annotated link” which allows you to share this web page with others through your blog, twitter, webpage, etc. and this link will include all of your sticky notes, annotations, and highlights if you would like.

-You can “view in my library” where you can immediately view your diigo account in a new tab. It will display the webpage and all of your highlights, annotations, and sticky notes.

You don’t have to highlight something to create a sticky note! By simply right clicking on a webpage, you can add a “floating sticky note” that is either public or private depending on your preference. To remove the sticky note, click the trash can icon on the sticky note.

-Something important to note is that when you highlight or add a sticky note to a webpage, that webpage is automatically added as a bookmark in your Diigo library.

You can add to other people’s sticky notes whenever they are public. Sometimes sticky notes quickly turn into long chat forums!

The goods:

– the post-its typically include valuable information. If I am wondering about something, I can check out the post-it notes on the page and discover that someone else had that same question or I can simply post my question and will likely find an answer soon.

– If you want to remember a particular quote on a site or a certain article perhaps, highlighting makes it very easy to return to the exact information you were interested in.

The not so goods:

– the post it notes can get annoying. Sometimes I wish there was a button I could press to disable the public post-it notes. On some webpages, I have come across more than 20 post-its! They can get in the way.

– sometimes the information on the public post-its is inappropriate and unnecessary which is a definite concern for me as an educator. Do I want to recommend a tool to my students that displays inappropriate information at times?

-you cannot use the highlighting and post-it features unless you have the diigo tool bar installed. This is a particular downfall for people that travel between computers or use public computers where the tool bar installation is not permitted.

Overall there are definitely some advantages and disadvantages to Diigo post it and highlight tools. Its usefulness really depends on your personal situation and needs.

February 16, 2010


Filed under: Cool Tools — Tags: , , , — debyj @ 12:46 pm

In ECMP 455, I was introduced to a CBC radio podcast called SPARK (you can subscribe to it on itunes for free). It introduces many topics of conversation around technology and how it is changing lives everyday.

Here are some episodes that I have listened to and taken particular interest in:

Episode 67: Twittering Grandma, Digital Family Histories, and Ageism in Design

Paul Taylor talked about Arcalife, a website that combines genealogy and social networking . He said this website came about because of his realization that the truly valuable things we receive from our loved ones that have passed away are not heirlooms but wisdom, beliefs, and lessons learned in life. It is something very interesting to think about. I know I want my grandchildren and great grandchildren to remember me by those things rather then a nice ring or bracelet that I owned.  This website is a very cool way of creating those valuable heirlooms you do not want to forget.

Episode 96: Aspirational Technology, The Future of Search, and Dinner with a Stranger.

This was a very interesting episode for a lot of different reasons!

They talked about new personalized search engines: Measy and Hunch. These search engines essentially take information that you give them based on quizzes and match you with products that you might be interested in. I think this is very neat and will definitely be sharing this with friends and family and using it myself.

Franke James has Dinner with a Stranger named Mark Shouldice:

Mark offered Franke a $200 donation to a charity of her choice if she would have him for dinner (he was a complete stranger to her at a time). I was so surprised that she actually said yes! She says she did her research though and found that it would be a great experience to not only help a charity but get to know a new person. That is a big risk she took and I admire her for doing that. I do not know if I could do it myself.

On this episode, they also mentioned a variety of neat internet tools that can help you travel from one computer to another and easily transfer any of your documents/photos/videos/music from your computer to anyother computer without carrying so much as a usb stick with you!  Check out these sites:


– save your files in dropbox folders so you can access them on any computer through the web.

– I am not sure if there is a limit on how much you can actually put in these folders.

– You will need to download dropbox to use it.


“Wake-on-LAN is an Ethernet computer networking standard that allows a computer to be turned on or woken up by a network message.”

Simplify Media

– another way to access media on any computer (especially good for music)


-bookmarking tool that can be used across all browsers (this feature makes this bookmarking tool different than others)


– with LogMeIn, you can access the desktop of your computer from another computer and actually access the information on that desktop.  If you get the free version, you will not be able to access as much information as you would if you get the purchased versions.

– the only downfall to this tool is that the computer you are trying to access must be on, so it can hike up the power bill and harm the environment!

Spark is definitely worth checking out.  I listen to it as much as I can now that I am aware of it because I am learning so much!

February 10, 2010

My first Elluminate lesson

Filed under: Cool Tools, Education — Tags: , — debyj @ 10:43 am

Last night I had the opportunity to teach my first lesson on Elluminate. It was definitely an interesting and unique experience that I would like to try again. I know there are already some things that I would like to improve on.

Some of the challenges I faced:


– I found there were a lot of distractions around me that made it difficult to teach at times. Someone would write something in the conversation box while I was speaking and I would catch myself trying to read it while speaking and that did not work so well. Eventually I just decided to ignore the conversation box until I could pause from talking. I also found everything in my house very distracting. My dogs would come in and try to bug me or my husband was trying to talk to me. I was only in the hot seat for under 10 minutes and yet so many distractions occurred in that time. I think next time I will have to lock myself in a quiet room to avoid distractions.

Teaching Blind

– I was really surprised to find that I was slightly frustrated because I could not see my ‘students’. I could not see their reactions to what I was saying so it was hard to tell if they were interested in what I was saying, confused, or just wanted me to move on to the next point. I realized very quickly how dependent I am on having that face to face contact in my classroom. It really does have a major influence on how I teach a lesson. I was only supposed to take 5 minutes but I went overtime and believe that was because I felt I had to do more explaining without those reassuring nods and vigilant eye contact! I am not sure yet how I will be able to address this problem in my next Elluminate session. I am hoping to get some ideas by watching others teach using Elluminate in the next few weeks.

February 9, 2010

How I manage a $250 grocery budget each month

Filed under: Daily Living — Tags: , , , , — debyj @ 9:45 pm

I recently did an Elluminate session on nutrition and the question was asked: “is eating healthier more expensive”? I replied that for me it is not and I do not think it has to be. When I tell people that my husband and I spend $250 each month on groceries, they think I am crazy (either that or anorexic), so today I will be explaining why I am not crazy and why healthy does not have to equal more money!

The number one reason I can keep a low budget is a Meal Plan. We usually make a meal plan no more than 5 days in advance. Before I make the Meal Plan, I always have a quick look at grocery store flyers online. I figure out which store I believe has the best sales and then make my meal plan using foods that are on sale. I also like to have a look at what is in my refrigerator and my freezer and use that up first to prevent food from going to waste.

Here as an example of what my Meal Plan looks like for today:

Feb 22 – 26 Breakfast Lunch Supper Snacks Take out

Nick 8:30-6

Deb 4:30-10

Your Choice:

Yogurt, berries and nuts

Fruit salad

Cereal with fruit


Nick: spinach salad and sandwich

Deb: BLT

Leftover pork chops, steamed carrots, and rice Apples,




Berry shakes

Banana loaf


Trail mix



Veggies and dip (broccoli, carrots, celery)

Ground beef

We have a column that includes our work/school schedules for each day to help us plan out who will be cooking and when is the best time to eat. We almost always have different lunch plans because I am usually home at that time and he is usually bagging a lunch for work. We like to include one general list of snacks for each week so that when we want a snack, we do have several options to chose from. We also include a column for what we need to “take out” of the freezer for the next day so that it is thawed out and ready to cook.

I really enjoy using a meal plan mainly because I never have to try to come up with supper on the fly. I always know what I am going to be making that day and look forward to meal times because I know I will be eating healthy, nutritious, tasty, and inexpensive meals.

Another way we save money is that we avoid convenience foods. If we know we will not have much time to cook a meal one day, we will make something the day before so that we can specifically avoid those pre-packaged, ready-to-eat foods. Generally, convenience foods are going to cost more and they are not going to be as healthy for you as a home-made meal or snack. You will also typically have to eat more of the convenience food than say carrots to feel your hunger is satisfied.

Some people buy everything in bulk, but I would like to suggest that you only buy in bulk the items that you know are cheaper than in singles AND you know you will use up in three months or less. It may seem like you are saving a lot at the time, but if it all goes in your basement where you forget about it, it becomes wasted money when you throw it out because it is too old.

My last tip for saving money on groceries is to be sure that when trying a new recipie you use something that includes ingredients that you typically already have in your cupboard so that you do not have to go out and buy a whole bunch of new groceries for that one meal.

Everyone is different and has different lifestyles and eating habits. By planning out your meals and doing your research on sales, you can save yourself a lot of money, stress, and time. Meal plans are great because you can easily personalize them to your own needs and lifestyle. They do not take long to create either. I usually spend 15 minutes on my meal plans each week and it probably saves me time every week because I am not humming and hawing about what I am going to eat everyday at meal time. It is definitely something I am glad I got into the habit of doing and hope you can try it too!

February 8, 2010

Diigo Exploration #2

Filed under: Diigo — Tags: , , , — debyj @ 10:28 am

I have been exploring Diigo one little chunk at a time.  In my latest attempt to understand Diigo, I learned how to BOOKMARK.

You can bookmark a website in a similar manner that you would bookmark a website using your web browser.  With Diigo, you just click on your diigo toolbar and click “bookmark this page”.  A screen will then come up which will allow you to enter further information about the website:

– make it public or private

– mark as “read” or “unread” (if you mark it as “unread”, when you go back to read it, the status will automatically change to “read”)

– “twitter this” to share with followers

– add a memo in the description box (Neat: you can automatically enter information in the description box by highlighting a portion of the text on the webiste before clicking “add bookmark”)

– add tags (suggestions are given to make it easier)

– can share them with a list/group if you have one set up

In my next Diigo blog, I will be exploring highlighting and post it notes.  Ever since I downloaded my Diigo toolbar, I have found post it notes all over my websites.  I will have to find out what all of that is about soon!

February 3, 2010

Life lessons I learned from my dogs

Filed under: Daily Living — Tags: , , — debyj @ 3:24 pm

Sometimes we learn lessons in places we never expect and from people (or animals in my case) that we never expected. Not only have I learned life lessons from my dogs, but I have also learned to open my eyes and be more open to learning. Sometimes I find we get in our heads that we can only learn from people that are older and wiser than us. Well, I disagree. I think we can learn from people of all ages, especially our students, but the only way to do that is open our minds and be available to learn.

So what exactly did I learn from my dogs? Well…lets start with some introductions:

This is Daisy:

Daisy is a 2.5 year old beagle. My husband and I got her when she was 1 year old. We were her 4th owners. We quickly discovered that Daisy had more energy than a grade 1 classroom combined and loved to eat anything and everything she could get her teeth on (especially the expensive things like cell phones and prescription glasses). She also enjoyed jumping on people, barking at anything that moved, and running away. One particular time, we got a call from the grocery store across the street because Daisy had run into their store and taken interest in greeting all of the customers (fortunate for us she did not eat any of the food).

I had dogs my entire life and I have never had to put so much work into caring for a dog. I think I read every dog training book available and watched every tv show and video on dog training that I could find. And my shocking diagnosis….Daisy was not the problem…it was ME!

After a year and a half of owning Daisy, I am happy to say that she will not find herself with a 5th owner anytime soon! I can say Daisy does not chew on things that are not hers anymore. She does not run away, she doesn’t bark at people, and she does not jump on people unless she is allowed.

This is Lucky:

We adopted Lucky from the Regina Humane Society about 4 months ago. We decided to get a second dog if we happened to come across a dog that would be a good companion for Daisy and a positive influence for her. We happened to stumble across Lucky one day and he proved to be a great dog. His previous owners had quite the report on how terrible Lucky was but we still have not seen that side of him. We immediately started working with Lucky and training him using the same techniques we had used with Daisy and he has responded well.

So how did I learn to change so that Daisy and Lucky could behave better?

1. I learned to have patience. It was not easy at times, but sometimes I just had to wait and wait for Daisy to calm down before we could accomplish anything.

2. I learned to be calm. If I am freaking out, Daisy and Lucky sense it, so they just freak out too! I learned that if I could be calm when they were freaking out, my energy would be contagious to them and they would immediately calm down.

3. I learned to forgive and forget. Dogs forget. They live in the moment, so I learned not to be bitter because Daisy ate my sock three days before. She had no idea that was why I was mad and so it was not helping the situation.

4. I learned the importance of structure. Everyone (including dogs) needs some kind of structure in their lives to function properly. If we do not have structure, we typically act out negatively. For example, try and teach in a classroom with no rules, expectations, or routines.

5. Unconditional love. I think dogs have unconditional love because they never hold anything against us. Humans on the other hand, hold things against each other all the time and it always seems to get us in big trouble. My dogs are always a constant reminder to not hold grudges against anyone.

When I got Daisy, I never expected to learn so much from her. All of the things she has taught me have transferred into all aspects of my life, especially my teaching. I find it is so exciting to think of all the learning opportunities we have available to us and am sometimes saddened by the fact that some people let those opportunities pass them by everyday because they do not believe it is possible.

Some of my favorite dog trainers:

Cesar Milan

Tamar Geller

My favorite pet store:

Pawsitively Purrfect

January 27, 2010

My Diigo Experience

Filed under: Diigo — Tags: , , — debyj @ 2:06 pm

For the month of February I am going to explore something I have never explored before….Diigo!  I really do not know too much about it yet.  It is a social bookmarking site that might be similar to delicious (although I am not 100% sure yet).

So far this is what I have done:

1. visited the site and signed up for an account (that was easy!)

2. logged in (there was an option to sign in using facebook, twitter and some other social networks…I am not sure what that is about yet).

3. added the tool bar (diigo recommended it so I installed it! I am not sure that it worked…)

4. watched a video overview of diigo

From the video, I learned about the three main services Diigo provides:

1. research

2. highlight (and post-it)

3. bookmark & archive

My next step was to search for videos on YouTube and a found A LOT of videos on Diigo!  I think I will be returning back to YouTube for help understanding this website over the next month.

Here is my favorite introductory Diigo YouTube video I found:

I am now feeling a little overwhelmed by everything I just learned about Diigo!  My next step will be to add some of my own bookmarks and practice using the highlight and post-it features.  Once I get familiar with that, maybe I can explore the “social” aspect of this social bookmarking site!

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