Monday, July 28, 2008

Wikis in Education

At the end of most school years, teachers sometimes have some flexibility in their schedules. Required content has been covered, so we have a chance to be a little more creative in our teaching. We also have the responsibility of covering state standards while keeping our students engaged in learning when summer is quickly approaching. By exposing students to new and exciting educational tools, we can accomplish both goals at once. At the end of the 07/08 school year, I chose to approach this task by having my 2nd graders create a wiki.

You may be wondering what a wiki is. A wiki is a set of webpages that can be controlled by multiple users. The wiki content can be modified by anyone given permission using a web browser. The now infamous Wikipedia has countless examples of wikis created by a collaborate team of contributors. I was first introduced to wikis last summer at the Florida Digital Educator Institute. We learned about two ways that wikis can be used:

1. Teacher created wikis - Teachers post content on the wiki for students to use for projects and assignments. My group made a wiki last summer for use during a Native American Unit - this was our first attempts, so don't judge too harshly! Hopefully, this might help you see how a teacher made wiki could be used in your classroom. Check out the Sidebar by clicking the tab on the right side of the page for more links.

2. Student created wikis - Students use a wiki as a collaboration tool, communication tool, or as a presentation tool for assignments and projects. I had wanted to try this one out all year, but wasn't able to find time until May. Luckily, we had covered our required science and social studies standards with a couple weeks left in the school year, so I was finally able to fit this in. My students researched healthy living choices as part of a PBL unit on what it means to be healthy. Using this information, they create a wiki, called Healthy Choices Healthy Kids. The content you see on these pages was created totally by the students. By the end of the unit, they were so proud of what they had created that they convinced me to let them share it with other classrooms in the school. The best part was when a 4th grade student made a comment that he couldn't have done this when he was in 2nd grade! Talk about making their day:)

As I said in an earlier post about blogging, wikis can also be used in numerous ways in the educational setting. Again, I also feel that giving students the chance to create their own is my favorite use of this technology tool, as it supports higher order thinking skills and gives them a chance to be in control of their learning.

Here are some more examples of wikis made for education:

A Sixth Grade Class Responding to Literature
Project Challenge - A First Grade Classroom Wiki
Second and Third Graders Using a Wiki to Communicate with the World
A Wiki Newspaper for a Middle School

Interested in learning more? Check out this information from Teachers First.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why Should Students Blog?

I found this video on Teacher Tube from a teacher in New Zealand that uses blogging with her students. This proves that the web creates a global audience for our students:)

Check out these blogs created by this video's author, Rachel Boyd, and her students:
Rachel Boyd's blog
Room 9 Nelson Central's 2008 blog
Their 2008 writing blog

Finally, here is Rachel's wiki with information about setting up your own blog.

Thanks Rachel for allowing me to share your great ideas with the world!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blogs in Education

Over the past year, I have encountered many interesting blogs dealing with education. There has even been a name attached to the people who embrace this type of blogging: Edubloggers. Blogging in education may be a hard idea to grasp for those new to technology integration, but by checking out some great resources, hopefully they will see the light! I want to share some different ways that blogging is used in education.

Blogging can be used as a classroom or school communication tool. Blogs can be created to keep staff members, parents, and/or students up-to-date on what is happening in the classroom or at the school.

Parkway Elementary School's Blog
High School Staff Development
Sheridan School Showcase
Mr. Reynold's First Grade Blog

Blogs can also be set up so teachers and students can share ideas. This is by far my favorite use of blogging in education, as it gives the students a voice. I will go into this in more detail in a future post - the possibilities are endless, even for the very young! Below are some examples of blogs used to enhance discussion and encourage collaboration in the classroom.

Literature Circle Blog for Upper Elementary
Literature Response for High School

Sixth Grade Social Studies Class
Middle School Writing - the students even have their own "pages"
Mr. Wolfe's Fourth Grade Blog - this one has entries written by the students
Kindergarten Blog - check out the student entries!!

Another type of education blogging is for spreading information among teachers. Professional educators can share ideas, success stories, and resources with a global audience easily through the use of a blog. Here are some examples:

A Geeky Momma's Blog
Bud The Teacher
21st Century Learning

Some companies specializing in technology integration have their own blogs, where information is shared on how to use their products. Here are some to check out:

Promethean Blog
Discovery Educator Network Blog

For more information on blogs in education, check out this information from Teachers First.

Here are some free places that you can start your own blog:

Blogger (the one I use for this blog)
Word Press

If you have a blog written for K-12 education, please feel free to post a comment with a link to your blog so others can check it out!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Elluminate and the Promethean IWB

A new idea I've stumbled upon this week - using my Elluminate vRoom with my Promethean IWB to collaborate with classrooms across the world. This occurred to me while working in Elluminate in one of my online courses for grad school, where I meet with my two group members once or twice a week and collaborate to complete our assignments. This is my first experience using a virtual meeting room, and I love it! First, we gather our ideas on Google Docs, then transfer to a Word document, which I can share with the other two members through Elluminate. We can actually watch as one person takes over another's computer (cool and scary!).

Anyway, let's get to the point of this blog. As I am watching other people take control of the Word document open on my computer, I begin to wonder how this might work with Activstudio, the software that comes with the purchase of a Promethean IWB. So later that evening, I decided to try it out. I signed into my vRoom from two separate computers, which were sitting right next to each other. I opened up a new flipchart, and shared it from my PC to my MAC.

It seemed to work at first, until I tried to find the main toolbar on the shared computer. Unfortunately, it was invisible (still looking into this!). Since the computers were side-by-side, I was able to look at the original computer to click on different tools and try them out. It worked! I was able to manipulate the flipchart from another computer. i was able to share control back and forth, experimenting with how two or three classrooms could literally take turns creating a flipchart from anywhere in the world. Of course, now my mission is to find out what was going on with the invisible toolbar - perhaps a compatibility issue between my MAC and PC versions??? Don't know, but am looking for the solution. I have since found one person who has used this idea successfully in the past, and she has been kind enough to offer to help me out.

Promethean IWBs are found throughout the nation and the world, so of course I am excited to find other teachers who would be willing to collaborate on a project integrating Activstudio and Elluminate. I would love to hear of any other success stories from teachers who have already tried this out. And of course, if anyone can help with the invisible toolbar problem, that would be great:)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dr. Labush's Links to Learning

Have to blog about this for two reasons:

1. I met Dr. Labush a couple weeks ago in a class we took on authentic assessments in PBL. We were in the same group, and he was a wonderful person to work with and a wealth of knowledge on educational topics.

2. His website has tons of great resources!!!

Dr. Labush's Links to Learning has links to websites for all curriculum areas and is geared mostly towards upper elementary students and teachers. As a teacher of the gifted, he includes some ideas for great higher-order thinking activities. Check it out:)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Teacher Toolbar

Today I stumbled upon another great discover - the Teacher Toolbar created by Professional Learning Board. This toolbar can be downloaded and it becomes embedded into your web browser, giving you access to many great tools at the click of a button. Here's what it looks like:

The toolbar contains links to many resources that are valuable to teachers. Here are some examples:

1. Professional development - Under the PD tab, the toolbar links you to websites where you can learn about professional development opportunities for teachers. Examples include information about National Board certification, the New Teacher Network, learning and personal growth tools, professional associations and organizations, research on multiple educational topics, events and conferences.

2. Classroom - This is one of the greatest features of the toolbar. Here you will find links to websites including everything from online school supplies, virtual simulations, and activities to encompass all content areas, including language arts, math, science, social studies, technology, art, physical education, special needs, and career and tech ed. Links are included for any grade level, K-12.

3. Tools - Another great feature! Here, you will find links to websites such as an online dictionary/thesaurus, calculator, citation generator, photo resizer, and many more! These are many tools teachers as well as students can find helpful when engaging in technology-rich classroom activities, such as problem-based learning. At the bottom of this section, there are even links to web 2.0 tools, such as blogs, podcasts, and social networking sites.

4. Tech - Under this heading, you will find information about virtual worlds, communication tools, e-learning, and using cell phones in education. There is even a section for free tech tools - online resources that can be used in student-created projects, such painting, word processing, audio recording, picture editing, and presentation creating software.

5. Grants - Currently, this tab does not have a lot of resources, but there are a few links to websites that list grant opportunities for teachers.

6. Misc. - There is a link to Skype, so if you use this application, you can access it straight from your web browser. They also have a place where you can suggest links to be added and an email notification option, where you can automatically be notified when you have new email.

These are just a few of the features available with the Teacher Toolbar. The toolbar is updated often with new valuable resources available at the click of a button. This is a great resource for both teachers just beginning to explore the realm of technology integration as well as master technology educators, who are always looking for ways to make teaching with technology quicker and easier!

Download the Teacher Toolbar by Professional Learning Board.