The actual journey began pretty simple a teacher wanting to expand her class website to include more interaction. Over the past three years I have changed our class website each year trying to find something that the parish smartfilter would allow and yet would include more student collaboration.
I guess I should give a little background here. When I first began teaching at our local high school I had a large yet typical class website. There were links to lessons, activities, philosophy of education, helpful links, etc. By second semester, each student had their own gaggle email account. Of course I was very excited about my little space on the web and truly feel it helped land me my job:) This job began as a one computer classroom and you wouldn’t believe where we are today! But that will have to wait for my “Growing from a One Computer Classroom” segment.
Gaggle was later blocked with an upgrade to our parish smartfilter. So each year I seemed to be trying to adding more and more to the site, doing site makeovers, and wishing it was more.
About five years ago I grew restless with the whole black marble composition book for journals, and set out to find a way to integrate our journals into the class website. Of course everything I found seemed to be blocked by our parish smartfilter. It turned out that I was just a phone call away from my answer. I called our regional TLTC center to see if they had any ideas. Janet had just recently been introduced to Nicenet at a training. Of course it was being used for teacher collaboration but it was perfect for my class. I simply added a link to Nicenet on our newly remodeled class website, added all my students as users, and began to post daily journal rather than write them on the board. I also adopted a policy from one of my Blackboard Professional Developments; each student had to respond to at least two other posts. By this time my one computer classroom had already grown to include a student computer center consisting of 5 computers.
Again feeling restless for more, I began to search for more ways for student collaboration. About two years ago I found out about Chalksite while attending the state LACUE conference. I had always turned away from these “cookie cutter” websites because I wanted my class site to be unique:) Chalksite had recently been unblocked by our parish, could be personalized using html, and had a way for me to email (within the chalksite system).
This year I reverted back to my own website and integrated a parish created message board. I did break the site up into blogs where the students could see everything about their class in one spot, but their only contribution was through the message board and posting of their work.
I created an area of the message board for our teachers to access information about professional development, technology tips, how to’s (fixing technology), etc. While posting to this portion of the message board, I followed a link sent from central office about a “good reading”. One click led to another, and some how I found myself reading about creating a flat classroom. It was ironic the timing because Janet, the former TLTC director, had just left my classroom the day before wanting to pow wow ideas for a new unit. We were working on a multi classroom collaborative project using a twist from the Flat Stanley book and wanting to incorporate numerous areas across the globe. I quickly printed numerous bits of information on the Flat Classroom.