Techie Tuesday: Wiki Anyone?

Most teachers and students have heard of Wikipedia, some in controversial circles.  But have you actually taken a look at wikis from an educational perspective?

Close to the same time Web 2.0 was coined, Wikipedia was blossoming into the current 2.5 million articles.  What made this encyclopedia different than any other?  The ability for everyone to collaborate in building it!

How could you use a wiki in your classroom?  Let’s start from the beginning.  What is a Wiki? Basically a wiki is a website that uses wiki software.  This software allows you to edit pages in real time.  Wikis are used in a variety of collaborative tools.  For this post we will focus on uses in a classroom.

You can limit wiki membership, so only your students are allowed to add and edit information.  You can also open membership to other classrooms for collaboration.  Wiki’s are for the geeky and challenged techie alike.  If you can type in Word, you can have a wiki.

There are so many uses of wikis in the classroom.  What better place to cover wiki information than the collaborative education queen, Vicki Davis aka @coolcatteacher (see below).

One of my favorite ways to use a wiki in the classroom in as a collaborative “binder”.  Previously I referred to this as a notebook, but it is so much more.  Each student has an account and instead of keeping a notebook, they are required to add to the class wiki on a weekly bases.  Each unit has a page, but today they started asking to add additional information such as “Welcome to the Classroom” to help students that enter after school starts, email directions, etc.

It will be interesting to see the changes over the next few weeks.

Here are a few more ideas for wikis in the classroom:

  • Class Website
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Research Paper
  • Student (or teacher) portfolios
  • Project

What is your favorite classroom wiki idea?

Have you Diigo’d today?

stickyWith the explosion of web 2.0 sites, it is sometimes hard to pick and choose sites most beneficial for you.  When it comes to social bookmarking, Diigo is a great option for not only you but also your students.

Social Bookmarking is replacing our basic web browser bookmark function or “add to favorites”.  One problem with the typical bookmark function, is the fact that your bookmarks are saved on that particular computer.  With social bookmarking you are able to access your bookmarks from any computer and there are numerous extra features!

Have you Diigo’d with your students today?

Diigo includes the social bookmarking features found in most services such as one click browser bookmarking, tags, rss feeds, and sharing.  It’s the special features of Diigo that makes it stand out over other sites such as and make it particularly useful in the classroom.  These special features include highlighting and adding sticky notes to websites!

How can you use Diigo in the classroom?  First you will want to get familiar with it yourself.   There are numerous tutorials on the web if you would like to get an overview before jumping into Diigo.  During this time you will also want to check on your district technology policies.  Next, you will want to use the basic functions with your students. The following is a possible avenue for introducing Diigo to your class:

  • Discuss Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship if not previously covered*
  • Send Home Required Contracts*
  • Create Student Diigo Accounts: You can apply for an educators Diigo account and create the accounts for your students which is especially important for younger students because you have control of their account, or have them create their own account with parent permission.
  • Add Teacher as Friend (as needed)
  • Bookmarking and Tags: Walk students through using the Diigo website to bookmark and create tags.
  • Sharing: Share a bookmark with your students.  Have them share one with you.  Then have them share one with a peer.
  • Diigo Toolbar: Students need to become familiar with the Diigo toolbar or Diigolet depending on your browser.  This might be an item you want to reserve for older students depending on computer access and technology knowledge. If they are not signed into a computer account that only they use, they need to sign out at the end of each class.

Next is the fun part, integrating into your lessons.  Here are just a few ideas:

  • Find a website (or two) that are great resources for a unit/lesson and add sticky notes to the websites.  This is a great way to add questions for students to answer and integrate higher order thinking skills.
  • Teach students about picking out key information by highlighting it on a website.  Then have them do the same on another site.
  • For your next group project, have students share bookmarks for information.  Better yet, pair up with another teacher maybe out of state or country and have those students build resources together for a collaborative project.
  • Point out copyright information with the highlighting or sticky note feature.
  • Share a great web resource with your students for each unit/lesson by sending them bookmarks.
  • When students use online resources for a written project such as a research paper, have them highlight the sections they used in their paper.  Then they can create a list.
  • You can also pose a problem or have students take sides of a debate.  Then they collect bookmarks, highlight key points, and add stickies to support their side.

What ideas do you have to Diigo with students? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

* It is especially important to make sure students and parents are aware of the potential danger of any online site that incorporates friends, public vs. private accounts, etc.
Sticky Note Image:

Tweet, Tweet, … tweet?

Addicted to Twitter

From the blogosphere to the cover of Newsweek, you are bound to have at least heard of Twitter.  You may have even created a twitter account just to find yourself talking to …. yourself and really not understanding the twerrific tweet fascination.

Why are some people’s Twitter experience totally different from others?

Let’s start first where we ask our students to begin when posed with a question–research. Before you get started in twitterverse, shouldn’t you know a bit about it?

I’m a teacher, so I wanted to find out how Twitter could be used in my classroom or to make me a more effective teacher.   I started simple enough by just creating an account and watching the twitterverse from the main Twitter page.  I must admit I wasn’t instantly impressed.  There had to be more to the whole “Twitter Phenomenon”. How were teachers using this when every other tweet wasn’t appropriate for the classroom?

Surely Google could help me out with this one!  I started searching for educational uses for Twitter and realize that my use of Twitter was probably going to be more to build my effectiveness as a teacher and not necessarily as a classroom tool for students.  Now, there aren’t any set rules for using Twitter, and this was just how I decided to use Twitter.

One great finding in my research was Twitter Groups.  I was able to easily join a variety of educational groups as well as groups that would help expand my resources for various units such as photography:) Day by day I started having people follow me from the various groups.  Day by day I read through great ideas and resources.  Day by day I continued to research.

One of the best suggestions came from @suewaters  One of her suggestions was to ask one of your favorite tweeters to ask his/her followers to follow you (not her exact words:).  Which also leads me to a great Twitter resource, Sue’s Blog.

Twitter has become one of the best ways I have expanded my PLN.  Here are just a few ways I have use Twitter since my first tweet:

  • Ask questions
  • Hash Tag posts while posting on f2f workshop
  • Save favorite tweets
  • Attend various meet-ups and PD internationally
  • Check out resources
  • Answer questions
  • Pretend I was attending NECC by following others NECC experience
  • Post resources
  • LOL
  • Search for unit and class resources using “search”
  • FOFL (usually @philhart or @johart )
  • ReTweet and be ReTweeted
  • and my favorite….shared a pic of my boys and 81 yo grandfather climbing a “mountain” hunting for shark teeth in Kansas.  Who would have thought someone in my PLN was actually interested in visiting Kansas?!
So, are you wanting to become a more effective teacher?  Maybe you would like to save hours of searching for the right resources.  Jump into the Twitterverse!

Why Let Students Blog?

The ringing in of 2009 also marked my students true endeavor into the world of blogging. Though their first official post, Welcome, wasn’t until late in the month of January, we began our blogging adventure several weeks prior.  To say that this adventure has been “everything I imagined” would be an understatement.  Instead this blogging adventure has become more than I could have ever imagined.
Why let students blog?  The list is infinite:  ownership of writing, connection to the world, motivation, authentic audience (not just teacher), multiple learning styles, prepare students for digital citizenship, gallery of class projects, students as teachers, parent connection,….
If you would like a true list of reasons for students to blog, it wouldn’t take more that an afternoon of reading blogs to run across everything from the top 20 reasonsto winning a T-shirt🙂 You can even hear about blogging straight from the mouth of students.  Why did my students start blogging?  I wanted them to be part of social technology outside of myspace.  I wanted them to actually see “outside of the box” outside of their town, their state, and their nation. I wanted them to take ownership in their education.  And I wanted my student from a town of less than 15,000 to see that they truly are part of this world and this world is open to them.  Any classroom can have a great journal with provoking higher order thinking questions, but that journal can’t interact with the students, it can’t ask questions, and it can’t expand students view and knowledge.
Over the last few months, my students have connected with other teachers and students around our nation and around the world.  After earning their blog, they were first introduced to Ann Michaelsen’s blog as well as her students. This helped us to start small and “straighten out the kinks” such as internet filters.  This collaboration has earned a post of it’s own on a later date, but basically we started with both of our classes posting about their hometown.  The students visited each other’s blogs and commented including many questions.  Ms Michelsen’s class was learning about American government so my students’ next posts were on our government including more detail about levels and branches of government. It has been GREAT! Both of our classes are now participating in Challenge 09, in which we complete various challenges each week.There are over 1000 students from all over the world participating in this challenge.

This post actually is leading up to the week 5 challenge to teachers.Ms. Wyatt is presenting at a conference in July, Blogging Safely in the Big Wide World”.  She asked teacher’s involved in the challenge to answer the following questions.  I have been wanting to post on blogging for quite some time, and felt it perfect timing to incorporate these questions and responses:
  • Why did you choose the blogging platform you are using? I choose Edublogs for our class blogging platform for several reasons.  First would definitely be the fact that everyone on Edublogs seems to be focused on education is some fashion.  I wasn’t able to find any blogs on topics that were inappropriate for my students.  Another great safety feature is that there are different levels of blogging.  This gave my students the freedom to create their blogs yet I receive copies of all comments and posts. I also like the gmail shortcut in which I could use my own email address and add a “+#” to the end.  That way none of my student’s email addresses were attached to their blog. Our technology coordinator also approved of the site and unblocked it for our freedom of use during school hours.  Last but certainly not least, would be the fact that Edublogs has a tremendously helpful group of people:  James, Dr. Mike, and Sue Waters.  James and Dr. Mike answer all you technical issues and keep everything running smooth.  Oh and fix thing that you mess up;)  Sue is the Edublog educator geru! Her blog is filled with tips, tutorials, and tons of ideas!  No matter which platform you choose, you will find Sue’s blog helpful.
  • What have you found most easy or difficult in blogging with students? The two hardest things for me would be internet filtering and letting go of perfection.  When we paired up with Ann’s class it took alittle over a week to get her blog unblocked.  Then each one of the student blogs had to be individually unblocked (another week).  We thought we were “good to go” until a student tried to post a comment and we found that all the comment pages for each student had to be unblocked:) The other difficulty for me was letting go of perfection.  It was hard to have students post without me correcting their writing.  But I wanted the post to be their writing NOT mine.  So we stuck to the original plan:  They write a post and have a peer check.  If at anytime they have a question or want an opinion, they can ask me.  Otherwise I just hold mini writing workshops at the beginning of “blogging time.”  Their writing has improved tremendously over the last few months!  Especially their attention to editing.
  • What have you done to make sure your students are blogging safely? We have had several mini workshops on digital citizenship. Students have posted and commented on social and ethical technology issues. One great resource is iSafe. Students post first name last initial only. All accounts were created using teacher email.  Copies of all posts and comments are sent to teacher.
  • What do you think students get out of blogging? confidence, digital citizenship, global connection, writing ownership, education ownership, collaboration, …..
  • How do you find ways for students to get their global audience? There are thousands of ways to get a global audience.  I choose to stay more within an area I already knew, Sue Water’s Blog. She posted a list of classes wishing to connect.  Another thing I feel helped grow our audience was getting involved with twitter.  Several of my “twitter friends” have taken the time to stop by student blogs and comment. Check out our class ClusterMap of global visitors!
  • What recommendations would you give to new teachers to blogging? 1)  Get involved in blogging yourself.  2)  Look at numerous teacher and student blogs for ideas. 3)  Have a detailed plan.  Here’s my class about blogging info. Ill be adding a page on this during the summer. 4)  Get involved building your own PLN through twitter, nings, etc. 5) Start small
It’s hard to put into words the benefits of blogging in my classroom.  The writing element itself is enough to win over an educator.  Just take a look at any student blog and compare their first post to one of their more recent posts.  The same is true about the comments they leave on other blogs.  It has been so easy incorporating other subject matter into my class through the incorporation of blogging.  The students connection to the world would be one of the greatest advantages!
Why did you choose for your students to blog?  What benefits have you seen in your class?

Techie Tuesday: All Aboard? Survey Results

Towards the end of January, I wrote an All Aboard? post asking for opinions on helping other teachers “see the power” of learning more about web 2.0 and creating their own PLN.  This post included a Poll Daddy survey of the following:

  • Where would you suggest a teacher get involved first?
  • What is your favorite PLN or Web 2.0 website for newcomers?
  • What web 2.0 tools should a teacher not be without?
  • List an activity you would include in a workshop for teachers.

Are you ready for the results?

Some interesting facts about this survey include the fact that all of the respondents took a little over 6 minutes to complete the survey and represented at least 5-8 countries.  The exact number of countries can’t be determined because three respondents were listed as an unknown location.

Here is the breakdown of the results:

  • Where would you suggest a teacher get involved first?
    • Workshop x 3
    • Twitter x3
    • Other x 4
    • Blog
    • Forum
  • What is your favorite PLN or Web 2.0 website for newcomers?
  • What web 2.0 tools should a teacher not be without?
  • List an activity you would include in a workshop for teachers. For these responses, I copied their ideas below.
    • Activity 1:  Pass out or take out your digital camera. Ask participants to form into small groups and give them a simple photography assignment. Give them fifteen minutes to go take the photos and then report back. I’ve done this, you can’t get them back in the room! They laugh, they have fun, they run all over (we took over the hotel lobby where I was doing the workshop!) and they learn how energizing, interactive and useful it can be to use digital photography and visual literacy in the classroom.
    • Activity 2:  Voicethread…learn how to develop one and try it out with students. Share it with parents.
    • Activity 3:  Create and add to a collaborative wiki. (suggested by two survey participants)
    • Activity 4:  I have never done this, but I just think it is the greatest idea.  I can’t remember where I learned it from- giving out your twitter name and mobilenumber and getting delegates to text your twitter account with instant feedback throughout the day.
    • Activity 5:  Start a blog with a local topic flavour.  Get them to begin posting and commenting before they leave. Then show them examples of educational blogs that are in use.
    • Activity 6:  Live interaction with others worldwide – eg through Twitter, Skype or virtual room
    • Activity 7:  Use blogs and wikis for teaching
    • Activity 8:  I would literally walk participants through setting up a blog and writing a post so that they could see how easy it is.
    • Activity 9:  Voicethread – find up to 3 images (use creative commons search if that doesn’t make it too difficult) and use it to describe a belief that you have about how students learn. Include text and voice recording. Invite someone in the room to make a comment on your voicethread. (Or, a small group could create a joint Voicethread of their main beliefs.)
    • Activity 10:  Form small ‘creative clusters’ so that people join with a friend or two to practice something new like Delicious or Google Docs. The biggest impact activity we have done recently is to Skype in another educator to join the chat.
    • Activity 11:  Just Tweet:)

    What does this tell me?
    First, I want to visit some of these sites that I haven’t incorporated.  I have checked out a few, and they were blocked by our Smartfilter:( Second, I should have found a way to incorporate “other” with a place to type the “other”.  I wonder if those three people in question on were referring to the same great place, and I just missed out on it.
    I’m really glad that “workshop” was one of the desired methods to lure other teachers.  We have one this summer and I hope it is met with a great response. I’m trying to get a few twitters out of the faculty before school lets out.  We have one so far, @ccroad.  She hasn’t had time to see it’s full potential yet, so drop her a line or two, and a follow.

    Lastly, I am extremely thrilled with the fact that the results show that I am on the right track with web 2.0 integration!  To think, this journey really just started in November.  The activity ideas are great, and will be implemented in same fashion.
    Was anyone surprised by ranking as one of the favorite web 2.0 site, but Diigo didn’t?  I am a Diigo user, so I would like to know if I’m missing something by not using