Sunday, June 28, 2009
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
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."