While browsing through the resources Joann highlighted this week in her post, I was struck by two things. First, there is a huge amount of free technology available to educators who want to bring 21st century tools into their classrooms. Second, I will need to do some serious research to figure out some of the terminology associated with these great technologies. If you are already incorporating some web-based tools in your class, good for you! Bear with me as I dedicate this column to the tech-newbie’s among us who still have a little (or a lot) to learn to keep up with our students. The internet is quickly becoming a big part of our everyday lives. Our students are using it outside of school, and web-based technology can keep our daily classroom routines fresh and relevant.
Many of the tools Joann referred to in her column this week are known as Web 2.0 tools. While the original internet was focused around the passive viewing of information, Web 2.0 applications allow greater interactivity and collaboration. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Blogger, and Wikispaces are sites based on user-generated content and are all examples of Web 2.0 technology. One application that is used by many teachers is a wiki. This type of website allows for collaboration between many authors, i.e. students in a classroom. Students and teachers in a class can upload files, embed multimedia presentations, and post images on a class wiki as the school year progresses. You can control the privacy settings to allow the content to only be visible to members of your class. K-12 teachers can create wikis for free on sites like Wikispaces. This type of technology and collaboration can be very useful for generating discussion and sharing ideas between students and teachers. Wikis are pretty simple to set up, even if you don’t have any website building experience.
Our Gateway members are at all different levels of technology integration. Have you already created a wiki for your class? Are you interested in creating one, or do you want to focus on other areas of technology? Do you currently use any Web 2.0 applications to augment your teaching? If we can work together and share ideas, we will be able to bring these types of applications into our classrooms much more easily. I will be posting questions on Facebook and Twitter over the next few weeks to see what technology you have incorporated, which new applications you want to add in your classroom, and what might be holding you back from implementing certain technologies. Be sure to follow us there, and chime in to let us know what you think! Your questions, comments, and successes in all areas of 21st century skills are a crucial piece of the Gateway. You are the driving force behind the resources we highlight and discuss every week.
I created a word cloud on http://www.wordle.net/ by pasting in the text of this column. This is an example of a quick and easy way to integrate technology into a lesson. I discovered the Wordle application on Jose Picardo’s A-Z Internet Resources for Education (See Joann’s column for the link). This is a very interesting exercise to assign, since students will have fun getting creative with the design of the words, and it helps show the important terms in a particular piece of writing. This word cloud only took about five minutes to create, and wouldn’t take very much advance preparation by a teacher.
This week, I challenge you to look over the resources Joann has presented in her Tech Tools post. Find a new type of technology that you might be able to use in class, and think about how you will implement it this week, this month, or even this year. You may want to have your students create a word cloud like the one I created on Wordle to turn in with an assigned essay. You can have your students create a cartoon strip with an application like ToonDoo instead of a book report. If you are thinking about assigning posters, try out Glogster, where students can create multimedia online posters. If you have a class wiki, you can even embed them there! Voki can be neat, too. Students create avatars and record their own voices. The avatars can present the information for them! All of these examples were pulled from this week’s highlighted resources on the Gateway. Take some time to browse through them yourself. I think you will find some really neat ideas.