This week is parent teacher conferences. My new plan for this year is to use my laptop to show parents the student blogs and our class wiki. We have our conferences in the gym so I had our IT department get me a 25 foot cable to connect to the internet through the gym closet. I am excited to try this format for conferences.
My gut feeling is that many of the parents do not know or have not looked at their student’s blogs. The other thing that all teachers are doing is passing out “business cards.” The cards are color printouts of our names, e-mails, and class blogs or wikis. Again we are trying to get parents to visit the sites since this is the first year that we have all created them.
Has anyone else done this or something similar? How did it go for you?
With my recent posts about the challenges of getting connected in the ed-tech community, I was very happy to see a twitter mentor project on the twitter4teachers wiki. This is what I could have used in March when I signed up for twitter.
First, the story of my decision to use twitter. I had to learn about twitter as part of my “23 Things” class. It was Thing#21 and I did not like twitter. Re-reading my post is funny as it is obvious like many people I did not “get it” or as I recall I did not spend much time trying to “get it.” So I had no use for twitter and focused on reading blogs.
In March I attended my first MACUL conference. The first session I attended after the keynote was by Steve Dembo in the main ballroom. There were screens on the ends of the room that were very hard to see. I missed a link that I wanted so during the session I quickly joined twitter and asked for the link using a conference hashtag. I got an immediate response from Kevin Galbraith. After the presentation I went up and asked Steve (who I had never heard of by the way) about how to actually be heard and have conversations on twitter. I remember he explained that it was a catch-22 that no one was listening until you built relationships with people and that took time.
Well I think the time it has taken me is what led to my frustration blog about NECC and the difficulties of engaging the edu-blog community. The reality for me is that I personally knew no one on twitter or using any social media for that matter. I had no idea who to follow or how to build a PLN. I could have desperately used a guide to get me started on worthwhile blogs and tweets to follow. I since have worked hard to find some great educators to engage with. I now consider myself slightly beyond “newbie” stage with some great twitter friends who share and stretch my thinking.
But this wiki is exactly what teachers new to twitter could use. This is a great way for tech-ed leaders to mentor other teachers. A big part of my frustration with growing my twitter PLN is how hard I had to work to build it, not because I am lazy. My family would say I am addicted to twitter.
My real concern is that I want to share all of the great things that I am learning with the other teachers in my building and district. I do not think that the majority of teachers will work as hard to build a PLN. I reference Scott Mcleod’s excellent post today about enabling teachers by too much handholding when introducing technology to teachers. For better or worse, I agree with the comments that I would rather enable than to have teachers never try to use it at all. So I commend this wiki and hope that mentees will find it and use it.
I am in my 4th week of going “paperless” in my two 8th grade classes. You can see our class blog at woodtech.edublogs.org The students have created their own blogs, but most are not past the template stage yet. I have created a post where we will document in the comments how many pieces of paper we use and for what purpose.
We are taking a break from blogging and building balsa towers. We used a wiki valleywoodtech.wikispaces.com for our research. We will improve our blogs and post about the towers when we finish building them.
Greg from Middle School Tech Teacher and I are also giving an in-service training to teachers in our district on how to use Google Reader and Delicious. We are looking forward to spreading the news of Web 2.0!
One thing I would like to recommend first to everyone in the 23 things class is that they add a subscription to RSS on their blogs. Once you do the RSS assignment you will see how important it is to make it easier for others to follow your blog. I, of course, am getting lazy to actually visit your blogs and want them on my reader 🙂
Also you can sign up for an RSS feed to your own blog’s comments in Google Reader. That way you can monitor if your blog has received a comment without actually going there.
I have created my first wiki: Cool Crete. It is a place that lists links of interesting websites about concrete. I am not totally obsessed with concrete, but it was the easiest thing I could think of to quickly build a wiki.
Wetpaint was easy to use and get started. Since I do not really want to maintain this site I did not use all of its features. But it has a really nice setup for evaluating your wiki as far as helping you get traffic on it. You can e-mail all of your friends and it helps with setting up titles, tags, and headings for search engines.
I did not mess with the picture part of it too much because they had to be formatted smaller than my images I have conveniently on hand. I would like to be able to add my own background to the template to make it more interesting.
The basic posting of starting a thread was very easy and I think students would be able to use a wiki well. The future use that I am thinking about using wikis for would be a site dedicated to my WebPals project. It could be a place to invite classes to participate, explain how to participate, and discuss problems/solutions.
Overall, my feeling right now is that I like blogs better than wikis. Maybe because I want to control content. It seems like anything in a wiki could also be in a blog with a discussion in the comments, but perhaps the discussion nature of wikis encourages people to be involved with them.
The first wiki I would like to talk about is Vicki Davis’ Cool Cat Teacher. I like her wiki because it is basically a bunch of links to conferences and articles she has presented. It also has a lot of information about Flat Classroom which is very interesting to me. Under her RSS instructions she has great links like this one How to create your circle of the wise
which gives advice on how to pick your feeds and lists her own personal feeds. The negative of her wiki is that her navigation tools by subject area did not work or were just empty???
Another wiki I like is etoolbox It is full of resources and links. The navigation tools to subjects on this page work! It explains many Web 2.0 applications and gives video demos, example sites, and more. It also shows how to use specific software like Garage Band and Pixie.
The wiki that I am most familiar with of course is Wikipedia. I love to use Wikipedia personally and have not discouraged students from using it either. It is a great source of information especially about current events or pop culture. I have not come across inaccuracies in it though I know that they exist. I think people overemphasis that it is not 100% accurate. Encyclopedias and textbooks are not always accurate either but they have been used for years. I think the multitude of users helps Wikipediato self-monitor “its facts.” In my experience most students just google what they are looking for and assume they have the “truth” no matter what website they land on. Rather than discourage its use I think a better method is to teach students to be critical readers and thinkers no matter the source. I would like to hear other’s opinions on Wikipedia and student’s use of it.
My first thought on wikis is that maybe I can use them to blog and have students blog and get around the district’s annoying filter!
My class is very project based so I also might have students create a wiki of resources on topics such as pop bottle rockets, balsa towers, and hot air balloons. I could start each class with a KWL on the topic and then have them research what they want to know and create a wiki with the results and links.
For the landscaping class that I will team teach with the art teacher, students could create a wiki of design ideas and resources.