Tips for Making Videos on iPhones & iPads


I love when students make videos. Whether they are simply recording how they can kick a ball into a goal or creating a presentation about their future career, videos are a great way for students to show learning… and parents LOVE them!

However, I often have found that there is something lacking in the actual production value of the video. I bet I’m not alone in having to sit through a video that was filmed in a busy and NOISY hall or a video that moves from location to location, actor to actor, darkness to light, focus to blur… leaving me desperately searching for some Gravol.  Yes, we do not all have little Steven Spielbergs in our classes, so let’s give them some tips before they push the record button okay?

Students love to dive right in and make videos, which is fine, but if it is a video that will eventually be published or presented, maybe we need to spend some time teaching skills to make their videos better for their audiences.

Here is a a quick tip sheet that I put together for students and teachers.

thumbclick the link below to download a printable version

movie making tips

Feel free to copy and share! Happy video making!

Permission to Speak on Diversity


I recently attended the Women in Education pre-conference to the uLead conference in Banff. This is the first time I have attended either. In the excitement of learning and as a new tribe was being formed around me I signed up to add a blog post for a #ulead #womened #digimeet.

Now its 2:00 pm on a bright sunny day (a rarity lately on the west coast!). My kids are playing outside, and boy do I ever want to join them because this is scaring the heck out of me. Maybe I’m scared because it’s a new tribe I am jumping into, maybe it’s because I haven’t blogged since last summer, maybe because the last time I wrote about women in ed leadership I felt exposed and was not prepared for the backlash.

So, with a bag of chocolate blueberries, a cup of coffee and my new tribe pushing me to be 10% braver and get a post out by 4:00, here we go!

Now about that post on women in ed leadership. It was a collaborative effort with some amazing women ed leaders that I have always admired: Jessica Johnson, Melissa Emler, Heidi Hutchison, Kaye Henrickson and Tia Henrikson. Titled, Where are the Women Keynote Speakers? we attempted to attack the problem of why the pool of keynote speakers in education were so dominated by our male colleagues despite the fact that education is a field predominantly of women.

After much work and reflection, we collectively pushed “post” and put it out there. Well, there was some support, and I’m sure in hindsight mostly support, but it’s always the naysayers comments that stick the most.

We delved in a twitter questioning, then discussion, then argument, then full out attack with a few who questioned that in a blog post about women, why did we fail to mention the lack of diversity as well. Despite my fellow authors asking for guidance, support to understand the concern, they were shut down with the conclusion of  “If you don’t understand the problem, there’s no point in enlightening you.” One comment thread in particular hurt:

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Why were they saying this?! “(W)hite cluelessness”, peple rareley consider race unless it impacts them.. I’m brown!.. Now my name may indicate that I am a woman of colour, but I never put myself out there as one. So was I “brown” enough to respond? I became uncomfortable as I knew the other women I wrote the post with weren’t women of colour and I couldn’t hide behind them… I was it. It was MY job to defend the post. Then my name was thrown out there, basically making the point that, well we do have Iram as an author, and she’s a woman of colour.

Ack, no! I was not ready I didn’t know how to respond and I realized that I have spent my whole life hiding from my colour. I’ve worked hard, tried not to make waves and keep my head low. How was I to respond without fueling this fire even more. Why is it my job, why is it not okay for “white” voices to participate in this conversation. So I didn’t, I just ignored it and have felt very guilty about it since.

Those feelings,unfortunately and fortunately came back as the women in education pre conference went on. I kept looking around and quickly realized, I was the only woman of colour in attendance. I began to feel like I stuck out, my colour was showing, but who am I, the one who hides from her colour to bring it up? And was it even an issue because what I was listening to and the conversations we were having rang true to me. However, I couldn’t help not feeling awkward and that hit me hard. So with a hesitant and brave heart on to twitter I went.

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I was glad to bring the the issue up, and I am grateful for the graceful and supportive response from Hanna Wilson. It gave me goosebumps to have attendees question the lack of diversity around them as the conference progressed. Thank you to those who did so. It is important to have diverse voices in conversations about education.

I have a lot more reflection and baggage to unpack in this area, and I am now ready to do so. I will be attending both conferences next year and hope that more diversity will be represented both on and off the stage.


Summer Reading: “Maker” Books

summer reading

A few days ago at ISTE 2016 @MargaretOW and I did a poster session titled “You Have a Makerspace, Now What?” On our table we displayed some books that we have found helpful in our maker journey so far. Someone asked if we had a list somewhere and we thought that was a great idea, so here they are!

Inspiration for Low Tech Project Ideas
-The Whole Make series of books is great!

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The Hows of a School Makerspace

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Makerspace Design

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Maker Research, Theory and Trends

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Prior Vocabulary Knowledge: What is a Tam Anyway?!

dogChalk this up as another time my own children push me to reflect on teaching and learning. This weekend my daughter, who is in Kindergarten, and I were playing around with words and their sounds. She was having a great time exaggerating the sounds in words… in fact she thought it was hysterical. So hysterical that she rolled off the couch at one point. I loved how she was having so much fun with it all.

So, my teacher hat came out and I thought it was a great opportunity to bring out all my phonemic awareness puzzles and games. We began with a puzzle where you are required to match pictures of words that have the same beginning sounds and fit them together. It was a slow start, as there were many pieces to look through. I helped her out by saying one of the words and having her look for the corresponding picture. We started with rose, she had to find rake.  I could tell she was struggling, so we tried balloon and she found ball right away. This continued and definitely wasn’t as fun as what we were doing before!  I found she struggled with many of them, it actually shocked me how much help she needed.

After a bit, I realized, she was not having difficulties with the beginning sounds of words. She actually didn’t know what many of the pictures were. Now we are a family that sailboatreads a lot, we have hundreds of children’s books all over our house. We take our kids on excursions to expose them to many different environments, people and history. We have many discussions about what is happening in the world and every time our kids ask us questions we try to honour them all. We are doing the things that teachers tell parents to do all the time. We are exposing our children to activities that increase their vocabulary as well has giving them a bank of prior knowledge that they can refer to when they are learning.

But, my kid couldn’t look at a picture of a rake, a tiger, a lion, a zebra, (she confused these animals) nuts, map, can, bug and identify what it was. With some, after I told her she would say, “Oh yeah!” but she didn’t even know what a rake was at all.

This got me thinking, how many activities and assessments are we asking our students to do and they have no idea what the words are? How many students freeze up because oberetf these words. There are so many games and worksheets (sigh) that rely on students having a certain vocabulary bank… I’ve seen some that use the words tam and mast, what?!! When was the last time you heard the word tam or mast?

Words for learning need to be relevant to the students we are teaching. While exposing them to new vocabulary to grow their vocabulary bank, we also need to get to know our students and allow them to show us what they know. We also need to be very careful how we use assessments from generic programs and workbooks that assume that all students know the words they are asking them to work with.

Note: Before I get comments about this, I would like to clarify that I know the rabbit above is wearing a hat that is more like a beret than a tam. I couldn’t find a TAM on Pixabay!








Dear Teachers, Let’s Talk About Mother’s Day

mother's day

                                                         CC0 Public Domain

Dear teachers, let’s talk about Mother’s Day.

As a mother, I give you permission to forget about Mother’s Day. I sincerely do not expect a cute present that you stressed about creating with all your students. I do not expect you to use precious learning time and resources to create something for my children to give to me. Mother’s Day is a family event, I expect my family to honour me in the way they see fit (they know I love chocolate and eating out!). Why do teachers feel the pressure to provide their students with a gift for Mother’s Day? Is it an expectation that families have? Do families rely on gifts made at school? If schools did not provide gift that their students made would no mothers be honoured?

What got me thinking about all this, is the dreaded Mother’s Day Tea that has entered my life for the past 5 years. Not sure how it is where you live, but for some reason it has become a popular idea around here for classes, especially early learner classes. Teachers host an event during the school day and have children pamper their mothers with refreshments and “relaxation”. This time is used to show mothers how much they are loved and appreciated. It is a very sweet idea.

Being a working mom, I have missed Mother’s Day teas because I, of course, have to be at school. It has been heartbreaking to tell my children that their father would attend in my place and then being the only children who do not  have their mother in attendance. While everyone says it’s okay to send someone else important in my child’s life, it’s not the same. It’s difficult to deal with yet another reason to feel guilty that I am a working mom. I don’t think it was a coincidence that last year in our school district we had a teacher on call shortage on the Friday before Mother’s Day! This meant that there were so many teachers who called in sick or took leaves of absences that there weren’t enough teachers on call to take their place. Often administrators like me had to go into classes to provide coverage. You can imagine how that made me feel!

I do appreciate the thoughtfulness that teachers have to help their students celebrate the day, it’s all coming from a good place. However, instead of making gifts and hosting events, here is what you can do to mark the Mother’s Day occasion. Help support my children in learning that this world is filled with different types of mothers… that children have different types of relationships with their mothers… that some children do not have mothers, but have other people in their lives that be seen as their mother. Teach lessons that encourage children to grow up into inclusive adults, who do not take others for granted and appreciate all the people in their lives that support them and help them grow.

I do love all the cards and crafts I have received throughout the years, just as I love all the work my children bring home. I don’t need a gift or an event provided for me by my child’s teacher to show how much I am appreciated. I hope that my family can handle that on their own.





A Post for Parents: Your Kids and Video Games


video gamesRecently we had a member of our district’s Safe Schools department visit our school to present to our parents about online safety and digital media. In particular, I was surprised at how many parents did not know about ESRB ratings and the content of video games and YouTube videos related to game play that their children were being exposed to. Some of this content was very inappropriate for our K-7 students.

I have written the following post for the parents who were not able to attend the presentation. Feel free share the link below with the parents at your school.

Your Kids and Video Games



Your Kids and Video Games

We all have busy lives, sometimes it is a relief to have our kids occupied with video games, apps and YouTube. Now, more than ever, though, it is very important that we check in to see what digital content our children are consuming, as well as how they are using their devices and who they are connecting with.

kids computer

(Pixabay CC0 1.0)

First off, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is an excellent resource for you to refer to when deciding whether or not a video game is appropriate for your child. The following chart that they provide is an easy reference.

ESRBIf you have trouble finding a rating, an easy Google search with the name of the game and “rating” will help you find one.

At our school, we are very concerned about our students playing games that are rated M and above. These games should never be played by our students or around our students.

Now, you may not buy games that are rated M or above but your children may be watching inappropriate videos on YouTube related to games rated M or above. Or the game may be rated for your child to play, but the language used by the host of the video may be inappropriate. To find appropriate videos for your children to watch, just do a search of “family friendly” with the name of the game you are interested in. In particular, here are some family friendly YouTube channels on Minecraft. I personally love watching Stampy and Paul Sores Jr. with my family.

Another area to be concerned about are mods. Mods are apps or software that, when uploaded, modify the game in various ways. For example, a great game like Minecraft can be turned into a violent game through mods that add guns, blood, zombies, etc. Monitor the mods that your children are downloading onto your devices.

Online gaming opens a whole world of exciting and concerning possibilities. There are some games that allow for connecting with others through online chatting and game play. It is fun to play with friends and distant family members online, but it is easy to connect with strangers who aren’t who they say they are. If you allow online game play, limit the options of players only to who all of you know and preferably have met in person.

Finally, the amount of screen time our children are exposed to can drastically  impact their sleep patterns, behaviour and relationships. Set limits to how much time your children are playing video games and do not allow any screen time for at least an hour before bed time.

Thanks to My Dad, I am a Maker

My dad built the house I grew up in, and while this house was being built, I spent many hours on the worksite trying to stay out of trouble and helping as much as I could. I remember my brother and I spending hours looking for scrap materials like nails, wire and pieces of wood and creating new projects like cars, boxes, and mini-houses. He tolerated all this because it kept the worksite clean and it kept us busy.

My dad is  also really good at fixing things. Any toy, appliance, car that was “broken” magically came to life again with him tinkering. I learned quickly that he is good at fixing things not necessarily because he knows how to fix anything, but because he is good at tinkering and isn’t afraid at trying different approaches. He also perseveres because he can’t stand having to spend more money on buying things to replace the broken items! Having five children would do that to you!

22 years after my dad built our family home, my husband and I embarked on an epic project that put our perseverance, tinkering abilities, and emotional and physical strength to the test. We bought our first home, gutted it and renovated it… mostly all on our own. renovatingWe learned how to frame, drywall, paint, install windows, stucco, build stairs… the list goes on and on. I have to say, though, without my experience of being around my dad while he built a house I don’t think I could have done it… I don’t think I would have even attempted it.

I am grateful for the experiences I had with my dad because , even though the project brought us to the edge in many areas at many different levels, we did it and we are now living in something we worked on together. More importantly, my children are growing up in a house that we built and will be continuing to build as they grow up. I am glad that they get to experience what I experienced with my dad. Oh, and today, my 69 year old dad is in the middle of building another home!



Yes, You Can Teach Coding With No Tech or Low Tech



Image from Pixabay

Last week our Premier announced that all students from kindergarten to Grade 12 in British Columbia will have the opportunity to learn the basics of coding.

The education community and concerned citizens responded with many questions and frustrations, mostly about the lack of funding attached to this announcement.

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Coding is just another skill that is needed to understand how our modern world works, like learning about electricity and structures. I don’t think there is an expectation for everyone to become master coders after they graduate from our school system. Coding can be complicated. Kids aren’t going to be developing apps overnight nor is there an expectations that they do so. Some will take to it and eventually may have a career that heavily involves it; some will just grasp a beginners knowledge of it. Both results are fine. I think it’s great that what many teachers in the province are already exposing their students to is officially being put into our curriculum.

With that said, ideally it would have been nice for some sort of plan and funding to be released. Despite this, we need not panic. Here are some coding resources that do not require any tech hardware, internet connection, or a computer science degree to implement. They also won’t break the bank.

Computer Science Unplugged
This website is filled with no tech options to teach students computational thinking through games and puzzles that use materials you can easily find.

The no tech board and card game industry is growing every month, with new great titles added. Here are some suggestions.

Robot Turtles 2-4 players, Ages 4+
In Robot Turtles, players decide how their Robot Turtle moves on a game board with the goal to reach a jewel to win. There are different variations that can be played depending on players’ experience.

Code Monkey Island 3-4 Players, Ages 8+
Players are leaders of tribes of monkeys. The goal is to take your tribe around the board avoiding quick sand traps to a banana grove and score some fruit along the way.

The Code Master Programming1 player, Ages 8+
In Code Master, your Avatar will travel to an exotic world in search of power Crystals, but only one specific sequence of actions will lead to success.

Bits and Bytes 2-4 Players Ages 4+
Bits & Bytes is a card game. The goal is for each player to guide their character by giving them directions. At the same time they have to avoid obstacles like walls, bugs and the Seepeeu (CPU).

Robo Rally 2-8 Players, Ages 12+
Robo Rally is a board game where you control a robot to meet goals in a race across a factory floor. The factory is filled with obstacles like pits, lasers conveyor belts and other robots to slow you down or destruct you. The first robot to claim all the goals in the correct order wins.

Another area of great development are gadgets that don’t need any devices, hardware, or a WiFi connection. Here are some that are perfect for early learners.

Bee Bot
Throught the buttons on top of Bee Bot, children are able to enter a sequence of directions for Bee Bot to follow. Bee Bot blinks and beeps at the end of each command and allows children to follow the sequence. It is very easy to use and there are many games and projects teaches have created to challenge Bee Bot and students.

Pro Bot is a robot in the form of a race car. Just like Bee Bot, children can enter a sequence of directions for Pro-Bot to follow using the directional arrows on top. It also has a mode that allows users to add numbers for distances and degrees for movement.

Cubetto is a wooden block robot that is paired with a board that sends programs to it. Children use blocks and place them on the board. These blocks give Cubetto instructions on where to move.

Yes! You can teach coding with no tech or low tech!

If anyone has more resources that can be added to this list, please add it in the comments section below.

Thanks to My Mummy, I am a Maker



Making is fundamental to what it means to be human. We must make, create and express ourselves to feel whole. There is something unique about making physical things. Things we make are like little pieces of us and seem to embody portions of our soul.

-Mark Hatch, The Maker Movement Manifesto

When I was growing up, Mummy (and yes, I still call her Mummy) sewed a lot. I remember our dining room constantly being used as the spot to place projects all in various states of completion. Her sewing machine, a Kenmore that my father proudly purchased for her from the Sears catalogue lived on our kitchen counter. That Kenmore is still being used 35 years later.

I often wondered why Mummy sewed. What did she get out of it, what drove her to taking on more projects? Was it because it was a cost effective way to decorate a house and clothe five children? Was it because she enjoyed the compliments she received when people saw her work? Was it a time where she could escape from the busy life of a homemaker?

I guess it was all of the above in some way.

I have spent most of my life envying Mummy’s capabilities. I spent many hours on end watching closely and waiting while she worked. Off to the side I would collect scraps and hand sew clothes for my Barbie dolls, imitating the techniques my mother used. Sometimes I would fall asleep close by as she continued to work on through the night fuelled by the excitement of finishing a project before dawn.

I will never come close to Mummy’s dedication and proficiency at sewing. I still do like the process, though. I love picking a pattern, looking for fabrics, gathering all the notions and getting to work. Being in a fabric store gives me a warm feeling and gets me excited about the many possibilities. I also love the end product, even with all the mistakes hidden behind the seams and under the fabric. It feels incredible to produce something, especially something that is useful and creative at the same time.


As my 5 yr. old daughter sits the same way I did by my mother watching closely while I sew her “the most beautiful dress in the world” (her words!), I realize that when Mummy sewed she felt the same way I do now. It makes me feel human and whole again… simple happiness.

Everyone should have the chance to feel this way. I often think about our students who do not get to watch and learn from their parents making and don’t have the opportunities to make things on their own at home. The process of “making” is taking a back seat to activities like homework, studying, video games, working long hours at a job, watching Netfilx, etc.. We are living in a world where the craft fairs and farmers’ markets are more popular than they ever have been, but how many of us are actually creating rather than consuming?

We owe it to our children and students. They need to “make”. They need to see the adults in their lives make and make with them side by side… watch and go through the successes and failures together. Ultimately, as Mark Hatch states in the quote above, “Making is fundamental to what it means to be human. We must make, create and express ourselves to feel whole.”