Posts Tagged wikis

BYOT in the Gifted Classroom: A Perfect Fit

A Note from Tim: Forsyth County Schools in Georgia is in its fifth year of implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT).  The first year was spent on developing the infrastructure, and the last four years have focused on piloting the initiative, developing personal and professional capacity, and eventually spreading the practice of encouraging students to learn with their personal technology tools throughout the district.  In this post, teacher of the gifted, Abby Keyser, shares her experiences with using BYOT to teach gifted students.

Guest Post by Abby Keyser @abkeyser
Teacher of Elementary Gifted Students – Chestatee Elementary School

We are making a WHAT?  With WHOM?  These are the questions I was asked by my students after I explained our new project called the River Xchange.  I registered my students to participate in creating a wiki with a high tech pen pal class in New Mexico.  What was I thinking?  I had never made a website, let alone used Wikispaces.  Yet, here I was facilitating this project with my fifth graders, praying it wouldn’t turn out to be a disaster.  The key word is facilitate – to make easier or help bring about.  This word does not entail planning or leading through every step.  It simply involves guidance along the way; nudging back towards the path, but not fearing a branch in a different direction that could lead to the same destination.

BYOT_G1  I took a deep breath and gave them the web address to the Wikispaces wiki.  I gave them some freedom to try out the site while I monitored.  They navigated with ease, figured out how to use all of the tools and even learned editing from an Apple device.  This all occurred within about 20 minutes.  All while I was imagining the hours I would have spent trying to make sure I knew how each tool worked and how to teach it to the kids.  Pretty soon, my entire unit revolved around the Wiki.  The students were in charge of their own learning.  I would enter a few HOT (Higher Order Thinking) questions each week with related sites to use for research and they were off!  I started to see improvements in the voice of their writing.  Jaded, disengaged students started jumping on laptops to see how their pen pals had responded to their writing from the previous week.  A few girls who were interested in photography created a photo gallery to share pictures of our local watershed with our new pals in New Mexico.  Next, they were asking if they could upload crossword puzzles and Zondle quizzes to test their pen pals’ knowledge of our local watershed.  My classroom was alive with excitement created by making connections to the world beyond our school walls.

Global Passions Unleashed

BYOT_G2Projects like the River Xchange give gifted students a chance to expand their audience.  So many of my students are passionate about current events or issues bigger than what’s being served in the lunchroom.  School newspapers are a great idea, but if you really want to engage the hearts and minds of our gifted population, you are going to have to give them a larger audience.  Try asking them to create a persuasive argument on their opinion of American soldiers in Afghanistan.  Half of them will lean their heads on their desks and whine, while others will drudge through the task.  Then try telling them that they could video their argument to post on Edmodo for their classmates and parents to view.  A glimmer of interest shines out in a few.  Better yet, tell the students they can post their argument on Teacher Tube and email the link to a few choice state and federal politicians.  Now you have everyone in the room furiously trying to get their notes down on paper, so they can film .  They want to get their point across to someone out there.  They want their voice to be heard.  Oral presentations to a class of 25 or 30 just aren’t enough anymore.  Empower them; give them global access.

Exposure

Teaching Gifted at a Title I school has its pros and cons.  On one hand, you have access to many federally funded BYOT devices.  On the other hand, you generally don’t see a high gifted population at a Title I school.  Is it because the abilities just aren’t there?  Or is it due to a lack of exposure to environments and experiences that higher socio-economic populations generally have?  I believe the latter.  This is where BYOT devices are going to swing the pendulum.  Imagine teaching a child how to use a device appropriately to access information from places all over the world.  That would give him/her a whole new world to explore, tapping into the abilities already in place and expanding the child’s schema.  In the past, a gifted mind might have been stifled and unidentified in this environment.  Now we are able to compensate for a lack of exposure and expose their potential through the use of BYOT devices.

What We’ve Been Waiting For

BYOT_G4In education, we hear a lot about student choice.  The gifted students in my classroom all but demand it.  Not only do they want to choose the format in which they prove their learning, but now they want to give input on what apps, programs, or online resources we use to address a new concept or topic.  They are essentially writing my lesson plans for me!   By allowing the students to have a choice in how they will receive information and how they can show their mastery, we not only give them ownership of their academic success, but we also propel them into being able to make good choices in their future careers.  My first step in planning a new unit is, now, to meet with the kids for an exploration session.  We use BYOT devices to research our topic and pinpoint the aspects they are most interested in studying.  The students then find apps that may aid in our learning.  We always end with a discussion of how they would like to present their knowledge gained and who they would like the audience to be.  Without BYOT, this would most likely be limited to boring PowerPoint presentations to the class, or worse, tri-fold posters!

Finally, here is a story of an overexcitable child.  Like many gifted minds, Michael just couldn’t sit still and never seemed to be focused on what I was saying in class.  He was constantly fidgeting in his bookbag with something, folding origami, solving his Rubik’s cube or throwing karate kicks across the back of my room.  No matter how many times I asked him to sit down and pay attention to what I was saying, he was always getting off task.  I found myself wondering how I could harness his mind’s bouncy nature.  He seemed to always be doing five things at once.  That was it!  I needed to teach him how to effectively multitask.  This is where BYOT has saved my sanity and reigned in my kids whom I could never seem to engage.  I started by getting Michael to use Join.Me on my whiteboard during any direct instruction.  This enabled him to not only view what was happening on the board through his device, but he could frequently type in his thoughts or questions in the back channel discussion log.  This gave his mind something to engage in actively while still focusing on the topic at hand.  Now, Michael is always the first to request that I add the use of Socrative to our persuasive debates, as a discussion question board to review what we learned in the last class, or as a backchannel to blog while we watch a video.  Multitasking may be something that we do out of necessity as teachers, but our gifted students are born needing to engage in this way.  BYOT has connected me with my students in a way that I never thought possible.  It really is the perfect fit.

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Day 3 of BYOT

This is Day 3 of a series of posts to provide strategies for the first week of school in a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom.  These ideas are my suggestions for developing a learning community during the first five days of school that can hopefully lead to an effective BYOT implementation for the rest of the year.  Please modify these activities to better suit the needs, interests, and abilities of your students.

Scenario: Through consistent collaborative work with their technology tools, students are learning and practicing new uses for their devices.  Even though it is still early in the year, they are developing into a community with a common vocabulary regarding expectations for online communication and for the responsible use of technology.  Although every student may not have a device, the school’s technology resources are being used more than ever to facilitate instruction.  However, the students still need to learn additional ways to scaffold the use of their tools for a variety of learning activities.

Activity – Encourage Participation

On Day 1 of this week, the students began a wiki page about ways they could learn with their devices.  Continue to add to this list by having the students brainstorm specific activities they could complete each day with their devices.  For this brainstorming activity, have students use the Socrative Student app (iOS, Android) to encourage the participation of all the students.

Socrative

Socrative is a student response system that works on all web-enabled devices (including many e-readers), and students can download the free app for both iOS and Android devices.  At this time, teachers can sign up for a free account, and with the free teacher app (iOS, Android), they can lead the student response activity from their teacher laptop/desktop or from their handheld devices.  Socrative enables teachers to pose multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions.  The other activities that teachers can conduct are pre-made quizzes, exit ticket activity, and a space race game where students can engage, either individually or collaboratively in a game using a pre-made quiz.  Teachers can also manage and share their quizzes with other colleagues.

Students do not need accounts to use Socrative; they just select the link (on the Internet) or the app on their handheld devices.  Then they enter the room number that the teacher provides them from the teacher account and then join the room.  They are directed to wait until the teacher begins the activity (by asking a question or starting a quiz), and then they enter their names and begin.

For this activity, log into Socrative and select a Short Answer quiz.  Ask the students what ways that they can use their devices at school to complete tasks they already do without technology.  Instead of raising their hands to answer the question, have students submit their suggestions using Socrative and their devices.  If they do not have a device, they can use the Internet-based Socrative application from a school technology resource, or they can collaborate with a peer and submit an answer with one device.

Using Socrative is a more effective way to encourage participation than just raising hands because this models the expectation that all students have valuable insights to be shared rather than only the students who are more comfortable with speaking in front of the group.  After the students submit their suggestions, Socrative enables the teacher to have the students vote on the answers.  This polling can help to generate further discussion.  Another student can also be involved by entering all of these suggestions in Wikispaces within the class wiki page – Ways to Learn with Our Devices.

Here are some possible ideas for additional ways that students can use their devices to enter into the class wiki page:

  • Solve math problems with a calculator app
  • Use an online thesaurus or app during writing assignments
  • Define unfamiliar vocabulary words
  • Take notes during lessons
  • Enter due dates on a calendar
  • Research new concepts
  • Read eBooks
  • Participate in online discussions

Another suggestion for using Socrative is to have students submit their own questions (using the Short Answer option) that the teacher can then use in pre-made quizzes or as follow-up questions.  These questions can be based on new content or topics, and they encourage the students to think about what they are learning.  Try this activity by having the students submit questions about Responsible Use and then pose those questions to the class.  Their questions and answers can also be uploaded to the class wiki page – Our Responsible Use Guidelines – if additional recommendations are generated.

Homework (Post these assignments in Edmodo.)

  1. Develop your Wikispaces profile.  Yesterday, you created your profile in Edmodo.  Tonight, you should also develop your profile in Wikispaces.  Again, this personalizes the experience of working within a social network.  As part of your profile, you should upload an appropriate photo or avatar that represents you.  As always, if you do not have a computer at home to complete this assignment, you will be provided time to complete it at school.  Try to come to school tomorrow with a completed profile in Wikispaces.
  2. Download these apps: Research and download apps that help you complete the different class activities listed in our class wiki.  Recommend these apps to the other members of the class in our Edmodo group.

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Day 1 of BYOT

This is Day 1 of a series of posts this week to provide strategies for the first week of school in a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom.  In order to begin this series, I made three assumptions:

  • The principal supports BYOT (see 5 Leadership Strategies for Implementing BYOT).
  • Some background communication has occurred with parents and community members to achieve support for BYOT in the school.
  • The school has some type of wireless infrastructure and access for supporting BYOT or permits students to bring their own data plans.

Scenario: The students are entering the classroom, and some of them are bringing devices to school.  They have already visited the class during Open House, and learned about becoming a BYOT school, and the reality is that, as Jill Hobson, Director of Instructional Technology for Forsyth County Schools, has stated, “You’re already BYOT, but you won’t admit it.”  Therefore, many students already have devices in their pockets and backpacks and just need to know how to use them in new ways to facilitate their learning experiences.

Activity – Build a Community

In any strong community, members know the rules and expectations for how they should learn and work together.  Educators and schools often just give students the list of rules for students to follow, but BYOT provides greater opportunities for student participation.  Expectations for responsible use will be more meaningful to students if they help create them.  This process increases student buy in by make the guidelines relevant.

  • Discuss Responsible Use.  Have students provide examples of how devices should be used appropriately at school and what could happen when devices are used irresponsibly.   I would begin this as a class discussion because although many students know how to use their devices, I wouldn’t assume that they know how to use them appropriately within a school setting.  Remember, many students are self-taught or peer-taught in how technology should be used.
  • Facilitate the Discussion.  Guidelines for responsible use need to address the following issues: Netiquette, Cyberbullying, Plagiarism, Security, Maintenance of Devices, Privacy, Passwords, Appropriate Content, and Safe Online Searches.  As the moderator of the class discussion, the teacher can help to ensure that these topics come up during the discussion.  There may also be some additional issues that should be discussed that are relevant within your particular learning community.
  • Share Out about Devices.  Have students take out their devices and share them with each other by discussing with a small group or the whole class how they already use their technology.  There are several reasons why this sharing is important:
    • It acknowledges the expertise of students in their technology tools, and it shows that you trust them to be responsible with them at school.
    • Students are usually eager to share what they know about their devices, and this time to share helps them to make connections between personal uses of technology and educational purposes.
    • It helps students express the excitement of bringing their technology to school so that they are able to focus and work with their devices more constructively in later activities.
    • It allows you and the other students to help distinguish between all of the different devices so that everyone can assist with securing the technology and finding the experts on particular devices.
    • It helps you and the students to learn more about all of the different capabilities of the technology available within the classroom.
    • It is sometimes easier to talk about your technology tools in a new group than it is to talk about yourself, so it is a good way to begin communicating with others.
  • Begin a Wiki.  Go to Wikispaces, and sign up to begin a new wiki for your class.  I like this tool because the wiki is free, and I can add students into it even if they don’t have email addresses.  It is really easy to use, and it tracks each change that is made to a wiki.  If a student accidentally deletes too much content, I can revert the wiki back to an earlier edition.  Wikis encourage collaboration by empowering all of the students to produce and edit content that can be shared with the entire class.In your class wiki, develop two pages:

1. Our Responsible Use Guidelines

Have students use their own technology tools or school technology resources or work with a partner to add to this page within the wiki.  Based on the earlier discussion on responsible use, have students develop the guidelines and expectations for how they should use their devices at school.  They should at least address all of the topics that were suggested regarding responsible use.

2. Ways to Learn with Our Devices

Have students use their own technology tools or school technology resources or work with a partner to add to this page within the wiki.  From the sharing of devices, they should explain how the tools can be used at school for learning about new things, and students may even share new ideas and strategies through the wiki that they did not express during the discussion.

These pages can be revisited throughout the school year as often as needed.  Students are continually upgrading and getting new devices, and the wiki can be a source of good collective information.

Homework

  1. Have students share the wiki with their parents.  It encourages good home/school communication, and it is reassuring to parents that their child is learning responsible use.
  2. Have students download these apps: Edmodo, Socrative-Student, Comic Touch Lite (these links are for iOS devices – iPads/iPhones).  Some of these same apps are also available with Android devices, and encourage students to look for them with their parents.  For a more comprehensive list of apps look at this list: Apps for Mobile Devices.  If students do not have a device, reassure them that they can use the school’s technology resources, and many of these activities can also be completed with a variety of technology tools.

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Teaching the 4 C’s in BYOT

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has developed a Framework for 21st Century Learning that identifies key learning and innovation skills, otherwise known as the 4 C’s: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration.   In the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom, facilitating the 4 C’s becomes a logical extension of classroom instruction as students are connected to their learning and each other with their personal technology devices.  With their own tools, students are able to practice and develop the 4 C’s as the teacher coaches, scaffolds, and models the learning.  Of course, the students are the experts in their own devices, but the teacher has to create an environment that is conducive of exploration and inquiry so that students have the opportunity to learn how to learn with their technology.  One way the teacher can encourage this type of environment is by learning alongside the students.

Another strategy for implementing the 4 C’s within instruction is to promote them with the use of web tools and project-based learning.  Although there is some overlap among the 4 C’s  depending on how the tools are being used, I have provided some specific examples below:

Creativity – VoiceThread

A VoiceThread is an online slide show that enables students to upload and present images, documents, and videos and then share comments by writing or recording messages.  They can also draw on the slides in order to annotate them during the presentation.  Although VoiceThread is a great tool for supporting all of the 4 C’s, it can encourage creative expression with the students’ devices.  Students can take their own photos and create presentations to demonstrate what they have learned, and the other students can provide creative comments.  For example, in a study of similes (comparisons using like or as), a student can take a photo of an object with an iPod Touch and optimize it in a free photo app (one of my personal favorites is Pixlr-o-matic).  The student then saves the photo and uploads it into VoiceThread.  The other students can then provide interesting similies in their responses that involve the object in the photo.  There is an app for VoiceThread that can be downloaded on the iTunes store for iPods and iPads, or VoiceThreads can be created online on Macs or PCs.

Critical thinking – Socrative

Socrative is a web-based student response system that enables teachers to ask multiple choice, true/false, or short answer questions that students answer on their own devices.  Teachers can also create and save quizzes ahead of time for students to complete, or they can begin ad-hoc sessions during class discussions with students.  One aspect of Socrative that promotes critical thinking is that after asking an open-ended short answer question, the teacher can easily choose to have student vote on their answers.  Teachers can also have students participate in an activity in Socrative called Space Race in which students can compete in random or assigned teams to complete a teacher-made quiz and be the first to get their team’s rocket to the finish line.  I have seen this activity increase collaboration even in a high school AP Calculus class as the students worked in groups to solve problems and answer the questions.  It works effectively even if every student does not have a device because the students can take share a device to answer questions and the new concepts are more likely to be retained as the students learn them in groups.  The short answer option can be useful for the students to text in their own questions, and the teacher can then pose these questions back to the class or use them in a future quiz.  Socrative also provides a preset Ticket Out the Door to assess student understanding of the learned content.  There is a teacher app for Socrative (iOS, Android) as well as a student app (iOS, Android), so teachers are able to conduct the session from their smartphones or laptops, and students can participate via smartphones, laptops, or desktops.

Communication – Edublogs

With Edublogs, teachers and students can develop blogs for education that help to provide opportunities for communication in the classroom and in a global community.  When students have their own blogs, they are able to publish the results of their project-based learning and collaboration and share what they have accomplished with others.  Writing becomes more authentic as students have a purpose for their writing assignments, and students are able to customize their blogs according to their personal learning interests and styles.  Although a blog is useful for publishing creative writing, it can also be used to communicate technical concepts like the steps in a scientific process accompanied with photos of the activity.  Edublogs also publishes an annual list of the best blogs in education as well as additional web tools and apps on The Edublog Awards Blog.  This list can be a useful resource for teachers and students as they begin developing their blogs.  A teacher can sign up each student in the class for a blog, even in elementary grades, because an email address is not required.  There is no app for Edublogs, but blogs can be edited through the Internet browser on smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and laptops.

Collaboration – Wikispaces

A wiki is a collaborative space for teachers and students to construct their learning experiences together.  Teachers can develop class wikis in Wikispaces and easily upload all of their students, even if they do not have email addresses.  In the wiki, the teacher and students can encourage a sense of community in the classroom by sharing files and creating content.  As the students edit their work within the wiki, the teacher can track who made all of the changes to determine student participation. Like a blog, a wiki makes a good launchpad for encouraging BYOT.  Since the students are working independently or in small groups, the wiki gives them a place to continue their projects or assignments while the teacher is learning alongside and coaching other students in the class.  One example of how a wiki was used in a middle school math classroom, is that the teacher divided the students into groups to explain particular problem solving strategies and mathematical concepts.  In this manner, the students in the class actually produced their own math “textbook” as an on-going project that they were able to use as a resource.  Although, there is no app for Wikispaces, the students are able to edit text on the browser of their handheld devices, and they are able to use tablets, laptops, and desktops to complete all of their other editing in the wiki.

Some final thoughts…

The above resources are currently free, at least for individual teacher accounts, or a district may choose to subscribe to them in order to receive analytics or more customization.  Their use in the BYOT classroom can be a good way for teachers to begin implementing BYOT and encouraging students to bring their own technology tools to school to facilitate their learning.

What other tools and strategies can be used to promote the 4 C’s in today’s digital age classrooms?

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