Tag Archives: wikis

Going Paperless in the Secondary Classroom

Last week the New York Times published “Out With Textbooks, In With Laptops” about the digital makeover for an Indiana School District (10/19/2011).  After reading the article, I thought about my own experiences to reduce the amount of paper that I use in my classrooms.  The mission reduce the amount of paper given to students to a number that I can count with the fingers on both my hands.  Lets get this straight, I teach five different subjects and see 128 students daily.  One of the most disheartening things as a teacher is for a student to ask me is, “Can I recycle this or throw it away?”  It makes me think what do we hold valuable in our classroom and are there more effective ways to teach our students without making a photocopy.

The bigger questions here are:  Can one go paperless in a secondary classroom (when not all students have laptops or ipads)?  And, what are the most effective tools to help teachers reduce their paper consumption.

Let me be honest, I have tried and tried to completely eliminate paper in my classes and at his point in the school year I have given about six papers to my students since September.  Those papers include: the course syllabus, learning contract, wikispaces contract form, as assessment project and rubric, and one class reading.  But I do not want to make any more photocopies as we move forward in the semester.

This does mean that I have been spending lots of time revising and adding to my wikis that I use with my classes.  In addition, I have been reviewing many of my lessons I have done in the past and revising them into interactive SMARTBoard lessons.  I am having students write responses and complete assessment projects on the wikis.  The types of projects students create is also something that is revising to include videos, podcasts, blogs, and glogs.


What are you doing to go paperless in your classroom?  What are some of the challenges you are facing as you go paperless?






Tagged ,

The Tools to Set Up A Virtual Classroom



As teaching continues to merge with technology and the fact that our students already have in their hands portable learning devices, what are the necessary tools needed to create a virtual classroom?  Wikis, blogs, google forms, delicious, flickr and lots of other great suggestions.  Check out these ten suggestions from Darren Kuropatwa’s blog “A Difference.”

How would I prepare to teach a BYOD class?.

Tagged , ,

Technology and Teaching

My students know lots of things when it comes to technology. My colleagues, know a handful of things about technology. We are both immersed in technology, but different technologies. My students carry their cell phones with them all day in school even though the school policy requires them to keep them in their lockers during the school day. As soon as last period ends the hallways are a buzz with students on their phones, texting, talking, gaming, listening to music. Students try to hide their ear-buds and listen to their I-pods during lunch period or when class seems boring to them (more often than not). They spend their nights rushing through homework so they can get online and play games, I-M their friends, watch their favorite TV episodes online or create their own videos.

If our students are immersed in technology then why not utilize these tech tools in the classroom as teaching tools?

Technology in the classroom allows young people to demonstrate their tech savvy skills and apply them in a way that highlights their understanding and learning. Technology allows for creativity, inquiry and collaboration. Students can complete a web quest which emphasizes critical thinking skills and integrates media literacy. Why compete with technology and young people? Rather, use technology to highlight the strengths of young people and help invest them in the material we are teaching.

I strongly believe technology is vital to help students learn best and in turn, for my students to show me their understanding and learning. There is an infinite amount of ways to integrate technology in the classroom. When people asked my how or why I use technology in the classroom I show them what I have done. Then I list the skills we are building when we use technology in the classroom: Connecting to Prior Knowledge, Questioning, Predicting, Inferring, Summarizing, Supporting Claims and Providing Evidence, Synthesizing, Build Vocabulary. Retelling in Our Own Words, Sequencing, Monitor Learning, Foster Sense of Inquiry, Making Real World Connections, Creative Thinking, Collaboration, Listening and Reflecting, and Analyzing.

Books and technology both belong in the classroom. I cannot and would not pick one over the other nor would I be willing to give up either one. If students want to read on their Kindle or other device, I would say, “Go ahead.” As soon as something else emerges I figure ways to blend them into my teaching and classroom practices – mobile surveys, Google Docs, Glogster, Wallwisher, QR codes, the list goes on and on.

Anything to help my students learn best.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Why I Heart Wikis

In an attempt to create a paperless classroom I was introduced to wikispaces.com more than three years ago.  Since then, I have four different wikis for each of the classes that I teach in middle school.  Over time these wikis have evolved into discussion boards, journal reflections, assessment projects, and so much more.  What I love about wikis and have shared with many of my colleagues about wikis is that a wiki gives students the opportunity to build their knowledge in a collaborative way online and showcase student learning.  I created an animated short at xtranormal.com highlight more of my personal views about wikis.

What are the skills that we are building when using wikis with our students?

Here is the start of a list that I have compiled:  Connect to prior knowledge, questioning, predicting, inferring, summarizing, supporting claims and providing evidence, synthesizing, building vocabulary, cause and effect, retelling in our own words, sequencing, monitoring learning, fostering a sense of inquiry, making real world connections, creative thinking, collaborating, listening and reflecting and analyzing.

I find that if you are a teacher looking for ways to strengthen content-area learning and at the same time want to use cutting edge technology in your classrooms then wikis can offer you and your students many opportunities.  The fact of the matter is that so many of our students are on the computer and using social media for their lives outside of schools, why not bring social media (with a critical slant) into our classrooms and help merge our teaching and curriculum with students interests and computer savvy?

One of my biggest inspirations when it comes to technology in the classroom is Michael Wesch, professor of Cultural Anthropology and Digital Ethnography at Kansas State University. Wesch and his students created A Vision of Students Today, an eye-opening video about college students and their state of education juxtaposed with technology’s influence on their lives.  This video, created in 2007, has been viewed by more than four million people around the world.  There is also A Vision of k-12 Students Today online which addresses these same aspects of technology advancement and the lack of technology in our elementary and secondary classrooms.  If you haven’t seen these videos then I strongly suggest taking a few minutes to view them.  Afterwards, ask yourself “What am I doing in my classroom to strengthen student learning and incorporate emerging technology?”

There are thousands of teachers around the globe who are using wikis creatively in their classrooms to enhance student learning and deepen content area understanding.  To view some inspiring wikis created by teachers I have highlighted many at cyberteaching.wikispaces.com.

Tagged , , ,