Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July - New School Year

Thinking about the new school year that begins on Aug. 17.  I've spent a wonderful month off fostering two dogs, one that had foot surgery.  Also done a lot of house cleaning and removing and remodeling.  But thoughts of the new school year are creeping in!

Two ideas helped me a lot last year and one was having a class wiki.  It allowed me to post my plans online, post student work samples, with permission, and explore ideas while teaching over 650 students.  This easy to edit wiki (you can get a free one at http://pbworks.com ) allows editing anywhere.  You can choose to allow comments, keep a private wiki, or a public, interactive wiki, or a public, invite only interactive wiki.

Another great idea that helped me teach and was easy for students to access was using a school level Google Apps for Education.  We had some ethernet issues, and often had 8 computers that would not load the student home folder from the school server, so using Google Apps allowed these students to do genuine work and continue with everyone else in the class.  Students only have 40 minutes per week in my class, so our time is valuable.  We use the docs (presentations, spreadsheets, too), video, and the students absolutely love the webpages or "sites."  Who wouldn't rather create a webpage than write a report?

Two other good experiences last year were using Glogster (the edu version) with 4th graders and a Voicethread project with a school in Australia.

The wiki was free (but you can upgrade for a fee), Google Apps for Ed was free (only a charge for the online domain name), Glogster.edu offers reduced rates for classrooms, Voicethread also has a free version (but limited in the amount of threads) and a paid upgrade.  Many other web 2.0 tools are available with free versions and paid upgrades.  These tools are helpful in introducing ways to share information rather than writing the standard report.  These tools show students that many options are available and can be chosen to present information.  This goes hand in hand with information gathering and sharing in the classroom, adding to interest and thinking skills in figuring out how to use these applications.  Allowing students to collaborate with each others locally and at a distance, offers more opportunities to think, reason, and express themselves while working with others.  Our 3rd graders participated in a project through icollaboratory.org and enjoyed the experience.

Edtech offers many opportunities to our students and using them helps our students listen to others, hear other points of view, work in collaborative projects, share individual work, and many more.  Don't be afraid to try web tools.  Get a permission slip from the parents of each student; give the rules for use and misuse; be positive in sharing, and start with one tool at a time.  Use it with a small group, extend it to the whole class, share your success on a wiki, and try another new tool.  Ask for feedback from students and families about using the tools.  It is amazing!

Woohoo - another school year is coming!