Posts Tagged wikispaces
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.
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.
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
Projects 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.
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
In 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.
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. I have been so impressed with the dedication of our teachers to transform their classrooms with BYOT! In this series of posts, I am sharing some of their experiences from different grade levels in their own words.
Guest Post by Jennifer McCutchen (
Eighth Grade Teacher – Little Mill Middle School
My BYOT Transformational Journey
Using technology in the classroom was a paradigm shift for me as an educator. I can tell you it was hard to let go of the idea that I needed to somehow take all of my knowledge and transfer it to my students. After quite a bit of self-reflection and the BYOT initiative in our district, I came to understand the true meaning of becoming a facilitator of learning. I shared with a colleague that, as teachers, our job is a lot like a parent teaching our own children to ride a bike. As parents, we know how to ride a bike, but until our own children try it out on their own, they will never learn. It doesn’t start very pretty, there may be bumps and bruises along the way, but very quickly our children ride the bike…and do it well! The same can be said of my own classroom and using technology.
I began my journey by letting go of the fact that I am not going to be an expert on every device that walks into my room. Where I am not the expert, there is a student who is in every class! They love to be the expert and are eager to help each other. I asked students to find apps that they felt like were helpful to them to accomplish tasks that I would normally ask them to simply write and turn in. Students showed my apps such as “Show me” and “Skitch” where can draw my diagrams from the board, and then use them to make their own about different concepts. I could see a shift in how students communicate results in the lab. Students create lab write ups with rich discussion posts on WikiSpaces. They were now able to capture video to show chemical reactions. They could use voice overs to explain what happened in their own lab. They began sharing and analyzing student work; applying what they were learning to other situations. They asked such enlightening questions of each other, and made comments that I had never thought of! They compared data points on graphs, and analyzed why and how their results were alike and different than others. I could see the “light bulb” go off for students regarding human error and the scientific process.
A student summed up BYOT saying, “It used to be that just you (the teacher) saw our work, now everyone sees it. I want mine to be the best.” Peer pressure can be a great motivator, and combining it with technology makes it even greater!
I have learned to leave fear out of my classroom. I have learned to look at technology as a tool that allows students to learn more, do more and become more than they had been. My classroom has become an inviting and exciting place to learn, not just for my students, but for me, too!
This is Day 5 of a series of posts this week 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. Hopefully, this sense of community will lead to an effective BYOT implementation for the rest of the year as students learn and practice the digital age skills of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Please modify these activities to better suit the needs, interests, and abilities of your students.
Scenario: This week the students have begun to construct an online presence through their collaborative work in Wikispaces, Edmodo, and Edublogs with the combined use of school, home, and personal technology tools. By designing their online profiles in these digital habitats, they have personalized their learning experiences. By discovering and recognizing the abilities, interests, and strengths of themselves and of the other members of their learning community, they are positioned to develop a brand, reputation, and digital footprint that can lead to future academic success and someday maybe even to new career opportunities. Rather than to deliver a standardized curriculum that is assessed with traditional multiple choice tests, the vital role of the teacher is to guide the development of these individual and collaborative pursuits and passions.
Activity – Spark a Passion
This week, Shelly Terrell wrote a post entitled 10 Kids Transforming their World through Social Media. That well-written post describe the efforts of 10 children and teens who are making a difference with the use of digital skills and tools about their particular passions. One young teen, Adora Svitak gave a Ted Talk called What Adults Can Learn from Kids; she is an author who has written books, maintains a website, and speaks at educational conferences. According to her website, “Adora believes that everyone deserves the opportunity that comes with literacy and a good education.” In her efforts to accomplish this endeavor, she believes that learning with teachers and children should be “reciprocal,” and a major feature of this learning environment is “trust.”
Likewise, trust has to be a focal element in the BYOT classroom. There really is no way that a teacher cannot empower students to learn with so many different devices and use so many web tools without developing a learning community that is founded on trust for everyone in the group. As the students begin to explore and develop new interests and practice digital age skills, the teacher should model high expectations that sustain trust in the learning community.
Here are some ways to model high expectations:
- Celebrate diversity. Appreciate the differences among your students and recognize that those differences are important to the strength of the learning community as everyone has the potential to add something unique.
- Challenge everyone. A way of increasing rigor in the classroom is to expect everyone to achieve and complete high quality work that includes in-depth reflection and practice.
- Believe students want to do the right thing. This is a big issue. Some teachers are suspicious that their students want to break rules or view inappropriate content. Engage your students in their learning by empowering them to make choices and use their devices as needed.
- Follow the teachable moment. Don’t get so attached to your lesson plans and standards that you miss great teaching opportunities. Many of the best lessons in the BYOT classroom happen just in time at the moment they’re needed.
- Share your interests with the students. The students will be more willing to share and discuss their passions when they realize that their teacher is a real person with personal interests and aspirations.
Steps to spark a passion:
Share the stories of the students given in Shelly Terrell’s post and have them listen to Adora Svitak’s Ted Talk. As students get older, they often get more accustomed to being told what to do, and they need to understand that they are expected to get involved and make choices. Hearing about what other young people are able to achieve through their passion and dedication can be motivating.
Another great post to motivate students is Caine’s Arcade – What Happened During a Summer Freed From Texts, Tests, & Teachers coauthored by Lisa Nielsen and Lisa Cooley. That post relates the story of Caine who followed his passion and utilized his creativity to accomplish something amazing!
The following activity was inspired by a suggestion by Jeremy Angoff. Have students brainstorm ideas about current issues or events that they think should be addressed. Use one of the community’s online spaces for this discussion. An option is to use the short answer question in Socrative to generate responses and then host the discussion within Edmodo. Another student could accumulate all of the different options in one page in the class wiki in Wikispaces. The page could be called, Issues that Concern Us or Ways We Can Make a Difference.
Students can work independently or in groups to choose and research an issue. This is a good time to discuss safe searching, and what type of search engine to use depending on the age of the students. Have the students draft what they learn about that issue or concern in their student blogs in Edublogs. This activity also provides an opportunity to explain how to provide credit various online sources of information. The students should then reflect on what they could do to make a difference regarding their issue and develop a plan in their blogs for putting their ideas into action.
Homework (Post this assignment in Edmodo.)
Now that you are empowered with your personal technology tools in BYOT, social networking tools, and an idea you are passionate about, begin putting your plan into action. Document your strategies and activities in your blog so that you can share them with the rest of your learning community.
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 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
I have sometimes heard the misconception that before a school begins implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT), students need to be trained in the acceptable use of technology that has been predetermined by the district; however, many of the digital age skills that students are developing as they use their devices at school occur just in time as they are needed in the course of the process of learning. Just in time learning entails that as a specialized strategy is necessary to solve a problem or share a solution, then that skill is learned and utilized in a relevant way within the context of the work. There are several just in time skills that students begin to acquire within the BYOT classroom.
Just in Time Digital Citizenship
We have all heard of students making mistakes with technology or using it inappropriately, often with devastating consequences. Many of these issues occur because students are self-taught or peer-taught in how they should use their devices without the just in time guidance of a teacher. When students are empowered to bring their personal technology devices to school to assume more control of their learning, they can be coached in responsible ways to use technology. Students in the BYOT classroom, have the advantage of learning how to use their devices for instructional purposes with the facilitation of their teachers. Students continually practice and refine digital citizenship in the BYOT classroom as they learn with each other through the use of the same technology devices that they use at home. Skills in netiquette, the appropriate ways to communicate with others online, as well as strategies for ensuring Internet safety, can be encouraged by the teacher within the BYOT learning community.
Just in Time Technical Troubleshooting
As devices and applications continue to change, there is no one consistent method for resolving technical issues. Technical troubleshooting and instruction must occur just in time in the BYOT classroom according to the pertinent needs of the situation. Teachers and students learn how to use new technology tools and programs while they are being utilized, and students often provide the technical training for their peers and their teachers. Since students are utilizing different devices for instruction, they will have to become proficient with the technical aspects of their own tools and usually become recognized for their particular areas of expertise. In this way, students and teachers can develop critical problem-solving strategies for working and learning within a digital world.
Just in Time Collaboration
Learning how to work with others to achieve a common purpose is essential to the BYOT classroom because students are bringing different devices to school, and those devices have different capabilities. The students also possess different knowledge, abilities, and interests, therefore, they have to pool their resources and intellect and negotiate responsibilities for the learning. Groups need to be dynamic and fluid as students work together and with their teacher to share information and make decisions. Many Web 2.0 sites can be used to develop online collaborative spaces, including Edmodo and Wikispaces. Just in time collaboration can occur synchronously or asynchronously and capitalizes on the potential strengths of everyone in the learning community.
Just in Time Critical Thinking
Critical thinking with BYOT involves being able to distinguish among conflicting information and facts as students conduct research with their personal devices. Recognizing propaganda and determining the accuracy of content are other essential critical thinking abilities required by the digital age. Students need to develop the capacity to use reason as they formulate opinions based on what they already know and on what they have learned from their classmates and in online searches. Students learning how to make these decisions just in time can be nurtured by the classroom teacher through modeling, practicing, reflecting, and questioning. A great tool for posing questions to students is Socrative. It works across multiple devices and incorporates various types of questions, and teachers can easily create follow up questions to responses that students have texted and shared with the rest of the class.
Just in Time Communication
In the traditional classroom, communication is often one-way – directed from the teacher and toward the student. In the BYOT classroom, there is a potential shift in communication as students use their devices to discuss content they are learning with others, set goals for themselves, and share new concepts. This communication happens just in time as the students are encouraged to communicate, whenever and wherever, as a function and expression of learning. The lines of communication are now multi-directional and extend beyond the classroom as students can web conference through Skype with other students in classrooms around the globe. They can instantaneously publish their ideas by blogging using Edublogs or through other blogging tools. Blogs can become a lasting portfolio of student work, and this process of authorship helps students to develop an authentic and beneficial digital footprint.
Just in Time Creativity
With the abundance of free and inexpensive applications for mobile devices, students are able to develop new skills in creativity. In the BYOT classroom, teachers can help foster creativity as students utilize their personal technology tools to invent and design original products. These inventions are often constructed just in time as solutions to problems or for students to illustrate what they have learned in imaginative new ways. In this manner, students aspire to become producers of content that they find relevant rather than solely being consumers of static information that has been predetermined as meaningful for students. With netbooks and laptops, students can download the free, open source, program Audacity to develop podcasts and recordings, or they can record straight to their handheld devices. Students can also use the camera tools on their devices to take photographs and easily turn these photos into new creations with the use of iPhoneography apps (my favorite is Pixlr-o-matic). VoiceThread is a web tool (with an app for mobile devices) that can enable multiple users to upload their original photos and comment on them collaboratively.
One more note… Just in Time
By the way, just in time professional learning opportunities also emerge for teachers in the BYOT classroom as they learn alongside their students and discover new interests, skills, and strengths in the use of personal technology for instruction.
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?