Create a comic/cartoon book

toondoo-logo.jpg There are several  comic creators available and they are a great tool in the classroom for communication exercises, story writing, reporting factual information and so on.  For some students, this is definitely a more appealing option than writing an essay or story on paper.  My personal favourite is Toondoo as it is facilitiates one step further than a comic strip, that is, the making of a (toon) book.  When you create your comic strips, you need to save your pages in a ‘toonbag’.    Open an account (free), enter your username and password to begin creating.  The speed of loading pages can be a little slow depending on your connection, so be patient (it is worth the effort).  Go to ‘create’ on the startup page and you will see this screen:

Making a book is relatively easy process. When you create your comic strip, you need to save your pages in a ‘toonbag’.  At the ‘start here’ option above,  save your work (click on the disk icon and make sure you check the box ‘save to toonbag’. There are also options to keep your work private or public. Publish your work to save it.

When you have finished collecting pages for your book, go back to the starting page, click on ‘Books’ and dropdown menu will include  ‘my toonbag’.

From your toonbag, you can rearrange your pages and tick the pages you want included in your book.  Click on ‘make a book’ and your book is ready.

Here’s an example of what can be done using Toondoo, a book created by Toondoo user, hainesk, a student, on cyber bullying.   A great classroom tool to bookmark. 

Anyone have any other favourite comic/cartoon resources?

Getting started with Web 2.0 tools

It can seem a little overwhelming knowing where to start with facilitating Web 2.0 tools in the classroom for teachers who are trying to embrace 21st century learning. I was so captured by this wiki: Webtools4u2se that I thought it would be a great tool to introduce teachers to cool tools and what is great about the wiki is that it gives lots of ideas for using the tools. Designed for school library media specialists, it is an ideal starting place for all educators.  It is very informative with a bright inviting home page (this is created using Glogster). It also has a page dedicated to Why Web 2.0 tools? Tools include:

  • audio and podcasting
  • blogs
  • calendars, task management and to do lists
  • drawing, charting and mapping tools
  • portal and web page starting tools
  • photo and photo sharing tools
  • presentation tools
  • quiz and polling tools
  • news feeds and aggregators
  • social networks
  • video tools and video sharing
  • wikis
  • productivity tools


Another great starting place for teachers wanting to know how to start or where, is Anne Mirtschin and Jess McCulloch’s project and wiki for laying the foundations for using Web 2.0 technologies for teaching and learning. Visit their wiki at: Laying the e-planks for a Web 2.0 school. Anne and Jess are embracing 21st century literacies at their Hawkesdale P-12 College (a small rural p12 school, educating 5 – 18 year old students om Victoria, Australia) and are documenting what they have achieved as well as their goals on the wiki.

In the Planks page, they have resources to important issues related to Web 2.0 use, such as cybersafety, digital media and copyright, joining networks and creating an online space. To follow their journey you can subscribe to their eplanks podcasts.

Here is a great  wiki, 23 Things introducing Web 2.0 tools to teachers. It is a 10 week course for teachers. Although it cannot be joined it gives a list of resources that are to be covered in the course. If you are interested in learning more about the course, participating in a future course session, facilitating the course at your own school or adapting the content under Creative Commons, please email Shelley Paul @

Net dependence sapping our life skills?

Whilst researching on the net I came across an article that caught my eye, Net dependence sapping our life skills in which the author states that the current generation are losing some of the skills relied upon by previous generations. His article stated:

  • His (digital native) son was unable to read a map when his satellite navigation system was down.
  • Today’s generation expect to access answers to questions immediately via Google.
  • ‘Mobile phones and the internet have ruined an entire generation’s self-reliance’.
  • ‘Today’s generation have lost the joy of studying books, maps, papers and other non-electronic devices’ and so on.

I found myself disagreeing with his comment that ‘mobile phones and the internet have ruined an entire generation’s self-reliance’ as well as the other comments he makes about how students may be lacking/missing out on experiences. The internet has greatly enriched opportunities for enhanced learning experiences via podcasts, wikis, blogs, multi-media, RSS and other resources. Students are becoming self-reliant on how to access information and discern between reliable and non-reliable information. They learn many more skills than previous generations in information retrieval and are exposed to a wider variety of knowledge They are involved in a world of connectedness, collaboration and sharing, all of which enrich and expand their knowledge bank.

By no longer being confined to the walls of their classrooms they can connect with other students outside their school and outside their country. Their learning becomes real-life exchange experiences. These different experiences lead to different brain experiences (Prensky 2001). Learners think and process information differently than their predecessors and their thinking patterns have changed.

Personally I would rather be educated in today’s climate than in the generation I grew up in. Living in the information age means that people need to develop the skills that will enable them to effectively function in society. Technology is moving at such a pace that even the simplest of jobs requires people to use technology. What it means for the future of Australia is that education needs to keep pace with change and not be stuck in traditional pedagogical methods of teaching to enable learners to fulfil their potential in the knowledge society. Unless teachers (and parents) make the effort to connect, they are unable to meet today’s learners’ needs. They need to connect to speak the same language and co-exist with the digital natives!

Does anyone agree that net dependence has sapped our life skills?

References: Prensky, M (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, On the Horizon, Vol. 9, No. 5, NCB University Press.

Picture book online library

A great resource for any classroom is a book library. With online resources it is now possible to have the library in your classroom!  There are not that many free picture book sites (most of them require a subscription) but Big Universe has an extensive selection of visually attractive picture books from elementary through to  the middle school range.   The books need to be read as there is no audio file attached to them.  I guess for copyright reasons we’re not (yet) going to get picture books and audio together.      

The other great things about this site is that you (or your students) can use the author tools to create their own books. All the tools are there: backgrounds, animals, characters, backdrops, buildings, objects … all that is needed is an imagination.  There are also tips from authors to help budding writers.  Therefore, there is not only an extensive range of published books, but also books by aspiring authors.

If anyone has come across any other great picture books sites, I’d love to hear about them.


Story time


Rockford’s Rock Opera – a multimedia musical for the world

This is an amazing unique multimedia musical adventure that runs in total for nearly 2 hours Children over 5 through to adults will be enthralled with the story of hope it provides. The first six chapters can be accessed at Rockford’s Rock Opera. The remaining chapters 7-10) can be accessed by registering (free).

Rockford’s Rock Opera tells a story about extinction using songs, narration, pictures, video and sound effects. It narrates how many amazing creatures will be lost if humans don’t think again about how the natural world is treated.

The story: In Rockford’s Rock Opera, a boy and his dog arrive on the mystical Island of Infinity, home to millions of strange creatures… just one of each kind, and all of them have become extinct.

This is taken from a press release on the production:

Rockford’s Rock Opera is NOT the focus-grouped, homogenised creation of a global entertainment company. It is the work of a very small handful of dedicated people working for the sheer love of a project that we feel has been given to us. It’s a story with a message of hope that captures the hearts of everyone who hears it. Rockford’s Rock Opera is an idea whose time has come.” “We’ve had emails from fans all over the world about Rockford’s Rock Opera, from kids and great grand parents alike, and that’s just how we want it. When you’re trying to change the world you need to reach everyone!

Although Rockford’s Rock Opera will be enjoyed by anyone over the age of five, it is not simply a children’s story. Anyone who enjoys great music with an original story and who needs to believe we can make a difference to the world will find inspiration in the unique tale. Rockford’s Rock Opera is also not a traditional ‘stage musical’ with hammy songs, its diverse musical inspiration can be found in The Beatles, The Small Faces, Genesis, The Lightning Seeds, XTC and works such as Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’, Roger Glover’s ‘Butterfly Ball’, and Harry Nilssen’s ‘The Point’.

For educators:

The site also offers lesson plans on animals and the environment, English history design & technology, art and design for ages 7-11. Click on the question mark on the home page site to access lesson plans and other resources.

About its creators:

‘Sweetapple’ is the award-winning creative ideas company founded by Matthew and Elaine Sweetapple, a unique consultancy specialising in original ideas, campaigns and products that benefit society. In recent years it has created several groundbreaking charitable campaigns. Sweetapple ideas are now being adopted by charities and campaigners around the world. Some recent Sweetapple campaigns included Peeball, an idea created for The Prostate Cancer Charity (see and ‘Remember Me’, the weeping flower roadside memorial sign to raise the profile of the road accident victim’s charity, RoadPeace. (

Watch it! A truly innovative and creative production. If you don’t have time to watch it all, at least take a peak to see what you are missing!

Make learning fun: music and movement

After attending a workshop with Rich Allen yesterday, I came away inspired and eager to use the ideas he covered.  As educators, it is easy to use familiar strategies and forget about being on the receiving end of learning.  Some of the highlights of the session are as follows:

Give one direction at a time:

So many teachers may string together five or six instructions and wonder why the kids are asking “what do we do?”  When the first instruction is given, it is being processed so what follows isn’t heard.  Aim for success: when the first direction has been achieved, give the second and so on.  Mostly, kids want to get it right, so give them ample opportunity. For example, stand up (when they are all standing), move back the chairs (when that is completed), form yourselves into groups of 3-4 (wait till they have formed their groups) and so on.

Get them moving around:

It may seem like a recipe for chaos, but kids do love movement (good for adults too). Kids don’t have to be sitting to be learning.  They can learn just as easily by moving around. Get them to mobilise, for example, post the lesson questions or tasks on cards around the room and give them time to move around (in pairs so they can collaborate) and read or look at the examples and report back.

Encourage group work:

Two heads (or more) are better than one!  Why isolate students in their learning?  Adults like to discuss, share and compare. We are preparing students for the world of work where  they will rarely be isolated in what they are doing. Learning becomes more fun and powerful when it is shared. Research has identified that (in most cases) the results are greater when there is teamwork.  Students can work together to problem-solve, discover, make assumptions etc.  Cosntantly changing the groups means that there will be different energies coming together to produce great results.

Story telling and visualisation for memory learning:

There are times students need to memorise facts.  Try this fun exercise with your class and then modify it for whatever needs to be learnt.  The following is a story containing 14 ‘facts’ (to be remembered) in italics.    Have students work in groups to come up with a story that will help them remember the 14 facts and then modify it to whatever you need them to remember.  Get them to use actions as they prepare their stories ie, hand movement for snake, drinking from a cup etc.  The students can present their stories to the rest of the class.  Here is an example:

a feather floated from the sky and the snake slithered over it. He was wearing a belt, drinking from a cup and needed his glasses to see …. he looked up at the building and saw a comb with a pair of scissors trying to cut it; on the handles of the scissors were cufflinks …. they belonged to the elephant who was looking for them; he came along and bumped into the lamppost which knocked off the coin sitting at the top, into the open briefcase under the tree.

Music in the classroom:

Adding music to the classroom is a great way  establish a positive learning environment and research has identified music improves concentration, attention and memory, provides inspiration and motivation. Additionally it enhances the imagination, develops rapport and ingests fun into learning!  What more reasons could an educator want?  Here are some suggestions for when to use music:

  • Before class: use music to set the tone and welcome students to the learning environment.
  • During movement: music to energise and motivate; use fast-paced, upbeat, energetic music.
  • Group discussions: use music with our without lyrics. During discussion the music will add background ‘noise’ so students are not disturbed by their neighbouring group’s discussion.
  • At the close of the class: This will provide a positive impression of the session.

So download some tunes, take your ipod to work and see the difference it makes to your students’ learning!

Further reading:

Songs for Teaching

Samples of welcoming music, music for focus and reflection, background music for groups, music for active learning and fun and so on.