How to Introduce Twenty-Four Grade 7/8 Students to Their Own Wiki Site


Step 1:  Have faith in them.

Step 2:  Set up a page on your class wiki where they can click on their personal wiki link. This helps those students in particular, who chose a long, crazy name for their site. For example, http://ts37’sstupendouslywickedwiki….   Note to self: next year, no long, crazy names!

Step 3:  Give them time to explore, share, talk, move around, be amazed.  Take this time to fix password glitches and log-in issues.  Be sure to take a second to look around.  It’s like you hit a magic switch – they start writing, on their own, without a prompt!

Step 4:  Bring everyone back together to ask and answer questions, which helps to set the rules.  Ask them, “Why do you think we’re doing this?”  Metacognition skills surface.  They know.  “To show each other our work.”  “To learn about internet safety.”  “To show our parents what we’re doing.”  They realize the maturity level that’s expected of them, without a word from you.  They stop asking if they can add gaming links and wild videos. 

Step 5:  Show them the “how-to” page on the sidebar of your class wiki.  Tell them they can click here for instructions on adding pages and links to their own site.  Know however, that realistically, they’ll never use it; it’s more for you.  Kids click, click, and click again, until they figure it out on their own.  They will. 

Step 6:  Show them a great video with a message, such as Lost Generation.  Model how to embed it into a page.  They decide the video you showed is really cool and they proceed to embed that video with the powerful message into their own site.  It was their idea.    

Step 7:  Give them more time to play.  They forget they’re missing floor hockey in Phys. Ed.  They continue to write, on their own, WITHOUT SPELLING MISTAKES.  I am floored.  This writing has not even been peer-edited.  When I show my astonishment, they say, “Hey Mrs. D., someone’s going to see this!”  Make sure you close your mouth because believe me, your jaw will drop. 

Step 8:  Forget to eat lunch.  You are too busy complying with their requests to read their newly created pages.  Tell them to remind you on Monday of their great ideas, because there’s too many to remember right now.  Stop wondering if you’ll come up with enough creative projects for them to post on their site.  Tell the struggling grade 7 writer, with the “Caramel Sundaes” page, to show her idea to the class on Monday. 
“What’s the title mean?” I asked. 
“It’s going to be a weekly summary of all the good things that happened to me each week.” 
“Neat, but why the title?” I ask. 
“Because all good things seem to happen on Sundays, ” was the reply.  Cool. 

Step 8, Part B:  Prepare to meet a personal side of your students you’ve never seen before.

End of Day 1.            Repeat Step 1:  Have faith in your students. 

Thanks DDoc!

Podcasting and Pajamas in the Classroom: Best Day of my Teaching Career

     The title bears repeating.  Today was the best day of my teaching career.  Not only was it pajama day, and a Friday, but it was a day where all my students were engaged for the entire day at a level I’d not seen, producing work that showed the critical thinking I knew they were capable of.  They were happy and excited.  I don’t ever want to forget the feeling of today. 

     What made it so great?  Planning, technology, an awesome colleague and students’ respect for each other.  It had been a tough slog back to school.  Two weeks off over Christmas for some of my students was too long, and getting them to focus at the level they’d left in December was frustrating me.  I pulled out the good stuff – a read aloud about a cranky old (according to the main character, “over 40”) teacher who, to their delight,  died.  “Write a description about one of the characters you met today.  You’re making it into a podcast on Friday.”  The lure of a new twist was the ticket I needed.   Peer-editing and oral practicing were completed without complaint. 

     I had tried podcasting last year, and it was a struggle.  Students were stationed at computers in our school computer lab, which is divided into two rooms.  This resulted in a teacher (me) running in and out of the rooms in order to help students.  The two-room setup also limited the amount of sharing of ideas between students.  This year however, our school is fortunate to have a class set of mini-computers, plus a Smartboard in my room.  Heaven!  However, the mini’s also came with their set of challenges.  The night before the lesson, our French teacher, Mlle. R., sat with me as I made sure Audacity worked on one of the mini’s.  No go.  They still needed lame encoder downloaded on all twenty-four.  Mlle. R. is a star!  This morning, with tag-team military precision, she helped me download and test the required program onto each mini.  Students entered class, logged onto their mini’s, and we were away.  Smooth sailing.  As I demonstrated the process on the Smartboard, (in my pj’s) students followed along.  They were able to learn from each other as students called out suggested shortcuts they discovered along the way.  In addition, Mlle. R. had agreed to come into my room and help the students, instead of teaching them in her French class.  It made sense, since she would be moving my students onto French podcasts.  Having two teachers in on the training session, even for a short period of time, helped immensely.  The resulting first effort showed a side of some students I’d struggled to reach all year.  So while these productions were small, students were off to a good start.  They connected, predicted, summarized and articulated their thoughts in a way that pen and paper had not produced.  Cloud nine!  Listen to students’ podcasts.  Their resulting comments on our wiki Wallwisher illustrate their engagement.

     The afternoon brought similar success.  The project:  produce a Bitstripsforschools cartoon demonstrating the Particle Theory of Matter.  Students had their previously created planning templates ready.  Heady stuff for any day, but a Friday afternoon?  What was I thinking?  But picture twenty-four students, one hour before the weekend, hunched over, glued to their computers as they enthusiastically created a comic demonstrating a scientific theory.  I stood back, admiring how they shared with each other, as they linked science and art.

     I’m excited for the projects we’ll be moving into.  Voicethread is the next introductory training program I’m planning.  And yes, Mlle. R. and I will work together for part of that session so students learn the ropes. 

     Yes, today was the best day of my teaching career.    

2010/365 photos and Blogging with your iPhone

Today many of us joined the 2010/365photos project.  With that commitment made, I wanted to find a fast, efficient way to upload photos to my blog, using my iPhone (see the link under Blogroll).  Read on if you’re trying to do the same.  It’s so easy!  Install Flickit and Flickr (free apps) on your iPhone.  You can also install Photoshop, another free app, to edit pics before you upload. 

In Flickr, set up your blog under “Your Accounts”, “Add a Blog”.  Flickr walks you through each step.  Watch for the extension you need to add if you’re a WordPress user.  I missed this the first time (still sleepy from New Year’s Eve?). You can add as many blogs as you want. 

Now you’re ready to go.  Back in Flickit, upload a photo from your library or a photo you’ve just taken.  After you’ve selected your picture, tap it for the details menu.  Scroll to the bottom, where you will see the link to your blog.  Tap, and voila, you’re done.  So tomorrow, when I take my daily shot, I open Flickit, find the pic, tap it, tap my blog name, done!  Only 364 more to go…..

Day 1: 90 yr. old Bert fiddlin’ with his teenage buddies.