Sunday, June 28, 2009

National Conversation on Writing

Just submitted this video that I made with my sophomores this past year to the National Conversation on Writing project. We made it at the beginning of the school year, but I had trouble uploading it to You Tube or Teacher Tube. Just tried Vimeo with great success. Guess I'll be using that for my video projects in the future.

wikispaces in the classroom

In the recent e-newsletter from Wikispaces there was a call for sharing stories about using Wikispaces. Here is my response to them. It's a little pro-wikispaces, but as I was writing it I realized that each year I am finding even more ways to use and tie this resouce into the daily work of my classroom. Here are a couple of non-Wikispaces wikis that I used this year as well: Black Ice literature circles, A Thousand Splendid Suns book study.

To Wikispaces:
I began using wikispaces in my high school English classroom two years ago. In 2007 I learned about the power of using web 2.0 tools in the classroom at the VAIS (VA Assoc of Independent Schools) annual technology conference. After feeling overwhelmed, and a little inadequate because I was "behind the curve," I quickly started my own blog and wikispace. This is my main resource for my students now. On it I share my curriculum, classroom resources, and publish student work. Students have enjoyed using the discussion board feature to comment on each others' work. I have also created wikispaces for particular projects throughout the year. I have juniors work cooperatively in literature circles online. Here they complete their homework to prepare for the in-class group work, then record their group notes for the day. In a senior level course this year, students worked cooperatively to create a class novel. They used wikispaces to share their ideas and early drafts with each other to help them develop cohesive characters and plot lines. My sophomores have used wikispaces to work with a partner to complete research and present historical topics to their class.

I love using wikispaces because it is flexible and easy to manage. It has helped me take my previous lesson plans to a new level, making them more effective and meaningful to my students. My focus as a 21st Century teacher is on engaging my students in my curriculum to foster their own appreciations and curiosity in persuing the subject beyond my classroom. Wikispaces gives me the place to do this transparently online. Getting my students to think and work online cooperatively with each other and with me, is one of the greatest values of wikispaces that I have found.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I was a little jealous this year when my husband was featured in a local magazine Virginia Neighbors for his extraordinary teaching and cycling (I can't say "hobby" it's more like a "lifestyle"). This week I got my own notoriety in the PLP (Powerful Learning Practice with Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach) newsletter. I posted the entire article below, which sums up my intensive personal learning this school year.
Seeing Tech in a Different Light

By Mary Worrell

Jennifer Clark Evans is an English teacher at Fredericksburg Academy in Virginia and a member of the PLP International Schools Cohort. She's been teaching for 12 years. As the year-long PLP experience winded down, Evans had a chance to reflect on her personal experience and what she'd learned along the way.

"PLP has been an interesting process. I felt all along I wasn't sure what I was doing, but I've been using technology in the classroom for a while," Evans said. "It really gave me a chance to get outside support and ideas and make connections outside of my little school. That was the most advantageous part for me."

Even though Evans had been using technology, including wikis and blogs, in her classroom for some time, the way she viewed incorporating it changed over the course of the year.

"Whenever I think about my lesson planning, I'm always thinking about the benefit of doing it with technology versus just paper and pencil," she said. "I'm much more careful to ensure that using the technology is an advantage. Now it's more purpose-driven and more transparent to me and the parents than before."

Evans incorporates blogging into her classroom.

"I had my students involved in the blogging and they showed me the many different advantages they got out of the blog," she said. "Students were discovering it for themselves rather than me just telling them."

Another tool Evans uses in her classroom is wikis to enhance literature circles where students work in small groups together to study a book.

"Traditionally they would prepare homework on paper and bring it to class. With the wiki they can post it online and the group can see their homework," Evans said. "It much more ensures that they do their homework - their team is counting on them. And they can see how other people do their homework and can improve."

While Evans considered herself a veteran to incorporating technology in the classroom, her view of it changed over the course of her involvement with PLP.

"It's to the point where I don't realize I'm using it in my lessons with students," she said. "It's not an add-on, it's just a part of what we do."