Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Why Wiki?

Recently I sat down with a few colleagues to talk about wikispaces... I was asked many questions during our discussion and began to realize that many people that I work with are intrigued! I feel it is important to "spread the word" in a way that people are not feeling attacked or questioned. A simple approach always seems best when explaining why we should incorporate any "new" or "exciting" piece of technology into our schools. So the question then is... "Why Wiki?" My answer is "Why Not!" I compare my wiki to a textbook. The difference though is that my "textbook" is interactive, provides true ownership, and is updated daily to provide the student with an exciting learning experience. It is something that is used to enhance the class, the learning, and the teaching. It is something that the students use daily, whether in school or outside of school. It is something that is not used merely as a "cool website," but rather an integral tool to make the learning process more efficient. My students are engaged daily, excited about learning, and "raising the bar" every time we use the wiki, and therefore I feel it is something every student should have the opportunity to experience.


There was a mini debate on the #edchat discussion on twitter yesterday that compared new technologies to carpentry and construction. One person claimed that people want to get the newest, cutting edge technologies simply because they are new. He claimed that these "new technologies" are not needed and are not really useful in the way a lot of educators claim them to be. He compared it to a contractor having no need for new tools or the "newest model" when building a house. He related teachers using "new technologies" to a contractor getting the "newest toy" to build with... they are nice and "cool" but not needed. REALLY???

The first tools "contractors" used 100's of years ago were simply hammers and nails with a few basic accessories thrown in. Sure a house can be built using these tools, but how efficient is the contractor using them? What kind of quality will the final house actually be? The "new toys/tools" that are out today provide the modern contractor with the means to be more efficient and end with a better product. Isn't that what educators should be doing as well? Finding the most efficient way to deliver a quality and polished product... Sure, we can use the same "tools" that were being used 100's of years ago, but what quality will we be producing... Technology, such as wikis, are used to enhance and "build" the quality of learning. How can we not use it?

If I had the choice between a contractor who used the newest innovations to make my house the best it could be, or a contractor who ONLY used tools from 100's of years ago, I would choose the first... wouldn't you?

In the same way, if I had to choose between a teacher who used the newest innovations to help my child be the best they can be, or a teacher who ONLY used tools like worksheets, workbooks, and paper driven assignments... I would choose the first EVERY time, wouldn't you?

I believe that teachers must continue to learn in order to become the best they can be for their students. I am not saying that technology is the ONLY "new" trend that must be learned, but I feel if a teacher is reluctant to this, then they will most likely be reluctant to change as a whole. The world is constantly changing, therefore we must change as well in order to provide the best education possible for our students .

Enough of my soap box... On with Wikis!


Sample Wikis to Learn From

My Class Wiki (Twitter ID: cpoole27)

My Class Wiki: I use this in my English Class and the students are on it everyday, either in class or at home.

Thank you to Christina Spiezio for sharing this wiki! (Twitter ID: cspiezio)

Ms. Spiezio's Wiki: 7th Grade English wiki, Very well done with a lot of great ideas!

Thank you to Paul Bogush for sharing this wiki! (Twitter ID: paulbogush)

Good Social Studies Wiki: A lot of links and ideas to incorporate into your own wiki.

Thank you to Angela Cunningham for sharing these two wikis! (Twitter ID: kyteacher)

iclassroom: Wiki using front page with links discussing twitter, geography, and civics!

Tools for differentiation Wiki discussing differentiated instruction

Thank you to Tom for sharing this wiki! (Twitter ID: xmath2007)

nuIDeas: Great wiki with a catalog of online resources for the technology -integrated classroom

Thank you to David Kapuler for this wiki! (Twitter ID: dkapular)

Cutting Edge Technology: This wiki is dedicated to various web 2.0 technologies and is laid out very well!

Thank you to Will Richardson for this wiki! (Twitter ID: willrich45)

Will Richardson Wiki: Wealth of information on tech ed and more in one place!

Not sure who to thank for the following wiki's but they are good!

The Full Wiki: Combines google maps and wikipedia!

Twitter4teachers: A wiki that makes it easy for teachers to find each other on twitter!

Game programming wiki: Pretty cool wiki that has a lot to discuss about game programming language and tutorials.

If you have a wiki that you would like displayed, simply send me a message on twitter or comment and let me know! I would love to build this post with a good sampling of GREAT wikis!


Thank you to Jerry Blumengarten(Twitter ID: cybraryman1)for this awesome WIKI resource:

Wiki Resources: Everything from "how to" tutorials to advanced "wikiness" :)

Wikipedia... Good or Bad?

Wikipedia, in my school at least, is looked at as EVIL... I disagree totally. I know wikipedia is not a primary source, however if an encyclopedia is allowed, than why not wikipedia? I am not going to get into a heated debate about it, I am just going to post some links to a few articles. Read them and see what you think :) It may not change your mind but hopefully it will get you thinking!

Study: Wikipedia as accurate as Britannica

Reliability of Wikipedia (from Wikipedia)

Experts rate Wikipedia's accuracy higher than non-experts

Wikipedia Authenticity

I hope that this list has helped inspire you to create a wiki or at least indulge in the idea of learning about a new tool to incorporate.

Friday, January 8, 2010

What Is Literacy?

Dictionary Definition

According to the dictionary, literacy means: the condition or quality of being literate, especially the ability to read and write. The condition or quality of being knowledgeable in a particular subject or field: cultural literacy; biblical literacy; to acquire computer literacy.


I do not think anyone would argue that literacy, at its core, means to be able to read and write. I have seen, however, people argue intensely that literacy is ONLY reading and writing and nothing else. This bothers me...

I came across a great article today on "" which spoke briefly on this topic. Below is an excerpt from that article:

Child Literacy

It stands to reason that children who read and write more are better at reading and writing. And writing blog posts, status updates, text messages, instant messages, and the like all motivate children to read and write. Last month, The National Literacy Trust released the results of a survey of over 3000 children. They observed a correlation between children’s engagement with social media and their literacy. Simply put, social media has helped children become more literate. Indeed, Eurostat recently published a report drawing a correlation between education and online activity, which found that online activity increased with the level of formal activity (socio-economic factors are, of course, potentially at play here as well).

The full article "How Social Media Has Changed Us" can be found here:

If writing blog posts, status updates, text messages, instant messages, and such, motivate our students to read and write (literacy), than why are we not encouraging this behavior? Literacy has come a long way since the definition of the word was placed in the dictionary. So many skills, computer skills and beyond, have become part of what it means to be literate. Teaching kids simply to read and write out of a book alone is no longer enough. We need to teach reading and writing in schools in various ways and find the avenues in which students are motivated to go above and beyond in developing the skill. We need to change our mindset from "What do I want them to learn" to, "How will they learn the skill I am teaching in a way that matters to them..."

Side Note

Literacy today travels far beyond simply reading and writing. Skills are needed to become fully "literate" today that did not exist ten years ago. As I was reading I also found another great piece on "10 Ways to Learn in 2010" from Below is an excerpt followed by a link to the whole article. I really found this first "way to learn" interesting and pretty cool!

Learn through Visual Search Engines

How would you like your search engine to show results in a collage? Spezify does just that. It’s a visual search engine that draws content from all over the Web, particularly social media sites. Your collage might show a book from Amazon, a YouTube video and a page from a blog or web site. You drag the results to navigate the page and then click the graphic to view the media. Although the results might not be as robust as with conventional search engines, it’s a lot more fun. Other visual search tools include: viewzi, Kart00 and search-cube.

You can read the whole article here:

With the way media and "visual stimulation" bombard our students today, this type of a search engine could work wonders when motivating students to research and study.

Final Thought

I guess what it comes down to for me is answering the question, "What is Literacy?" There is a broad spectrum of answers to this question but I feel that in order for us to be able to answer it fully, we must first embrace the changes and shifts that are happening. Once we do, we will be able to define, for ourselves and our students, exactly what literacy is and what they will need to be literate in the future...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Do You Believe?

Do You Believe Any Student Can Learn?

Talking to many teachers through the years I have found that most enter this profession for different reasons. Some enter for the love of teaching while others enter for the love of kids. Some enter to make a difference while others enter to be in charge. Whatever the reason may be, we have people in this profession that are here for great reasons, and then we have some that are here for reasons that blow our minds. What it comes down to, though, is the student. The most important question, though, must be... do you believe that any student can learn? If you do, then you will be willing to do whatever it takes, use whatever method, whatever tool, whatever avenue it will take in order to help that student learn. You will be a teacher willing to adapt and meet the students where they are! If you do not believe that any student can learn then you will be stuck constantly "teaching to the middle," using outdated techniques because you are comfortable with them, and you will fight "tooth and nail" with anyone who proposes newness or change. The scary thing is that in my experience I find more teachers say they believe any student can learn but in reality aren't convinced of it...

Do You Believe In Making Excuses?

Most teachers who refuse to embrace change are the ones who are constantly making excuses! It drives me crazy that when I bring up any idea of technology incorporation or 21st century literacy, and am stopped immediately and told "that isn't for our kids" "our kids cannot even write a sentence!" "our kids are too low and that stuff is for high level or ideal students." To me, these are excuses that continue to empower the lack of change in our schools. When will we learn that 21st century skills, technology incorporation, and modern shifts ARE also literacy. Literacy is no longer limited to reading and writing alone. It is VERY important to teach writing and reading, and I am a firm believer that "proper" writing skills and "proper" reading skills must be taught. I am also a FIRM BELIEVER that new 21st century skills are just as important. If only these teachers would spend less time coming up with excuses and more time making a difference.

Do You Believe In Technology Integration?

Unfortunately, teachers still believe that technology integration is a simple power point presentation or a great word processing session. This is when I ask... what is different in your approach? A power point presentation is simply a glorified overhead in many cases and a word processing session requires little brain activity and little thinking or discovery. I do not blame teachers using these tools (I believe these tools are useful in their own right), but rather I blame the school systems and districts for not making it a priority to train teachers properly. Below are some simple sites and tools that could be used to integrate technology into the classroom for beginners. I feel that if technology is incorporated correctly then ANY and EVERY student will learn all the skills they have in the past but at the same time will take learning to a level that is impossible without technology. We must meet them where they are in order to enable their full potential! Below is a simple taste of some tools that can be used... just a little taste :) 100 Incredible & Educational Virtual Tours You Don’t Want to Miss. This site provides an opportunity for students to virtually tour many famous places, landmarks, and countries hot spots. It could be used as a great tool for research and gives the students the chance to interact and "tour" the actual place instead of simply reading information about it.

wikispaces What a great tool! My students use my wiki everyday and go onto it outside of school because they want to not because they have to! Wouldn't it be an amazing thing if we could find tools that encourage learning in a way where kids look forward to using it! My Class Wiki:

Lure of the Labyrinth: Nice game site where students in middle school practice pre-algebra through a video game interface. This is a good tool to use as an alternative to homework once in a while. It can also introduced to the students as something they would use to enhance their learning. It is definitely a site that students in middle school will like.

Thank you to Richard Byrne and his AMAZING BLOG for the descriptions below. Follow His blog for GREAT Technology ideas!

Vokle Vokle is a free service for hosting and recording live web conferences. Using Vokle you can host a live conference in which participants can chat with text while you broadcast yourself. You can also broadcast a conversation of yourself and another person who has their webcam enabled. The text chat room can be used to organize a line-up of people who would like to broadcast themselves to the other chat participants.

Edmodo A microblogging service designed specifically for educational use. Using Edmodo teachers can create a microblogging network for their classes. The latest version of Edmodo updates in real-time so that members of group can quickly respond to each other. Edmodo also provides teachers with a place to post assignment reminders, build an event calendar, and post messages to the group.

Synchtube is a new service for watching videos and chatting about them at the same time. Here's how it works; find the url of your favorite YouTube video, copy that url into Synchtube, and begin chatting with your friends while the video is playing. You can comment on the video and share thoughts inspired by the video while you're watching. Right now Synchtube is in beta and you can only have four people chatting at once, but hopefully that limit will be increased in the future.

Remember the Milk is a free personal organization tool that works online and with mobile phones. Many high school students are carrying cell phones with them so capitalize on that and talk to parents and students about using a cell phone to get organized. Remember the Milk allows students to add assignment due dates to their to-do lists via text, email, or directly on their account homepage. A word of caution, while this services is free, students could incur a lot of charges from text and data communication on their mobile phones so be sure to discuss these options with parents before having students use the text/ data tools.

These are simple tools that can be used to enhance interest and learning in and out of the classroom. There are many, fabulous tools, websites, programs, and hardware that can be brought into the classroom and beyond. It is not the tools that make integration work, it is the teachers who are willing to bring their creativity and passion into their day to day classrooms that really make it come together. It is our job as educators to give the students the opportunities and skills they need to succeed in the future they will enter. Instead of students "slowing down" when they get to school... wouldn't it be great to have them stay at the same speed or better when they enter our classrooms... We are in a world where information flies at the speed of light and students are used to learning at that same speed. If we do not teach them where they are, than they will truly learn through another avenue on their own. I, as a teacher, would like to make sure that my students learn the correct things and how to utilize the technology they have access to at a speed in which they are accustomed to. Even though students are "tech savvy" for the most part, many are still very ignorant when it comes to HOW to use these tools properly. When will we learn that it will take effort, passion, and learning on the teachers part in order to integrate technology fully. I truly believe that all great teachers never stop learning... With shifts happening day by day it will be these GREAT teachers (Including all of you in my PLN!) that will make the difference!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Do You Embrace The Shift?

Our World Is Shifting

Are our students "Powering Down" in school?

With our world shifting before our eyes and technology being infused in every aspect of how we live, are our kids powering down when they get to school? In most schools students must power down cell phones, computers, ipods, and any other technological system they may bring with them. This however is not the powering down I am speaking of... Our students may be slowing their brains down in order to "catch up" with the slow drag of school and what is being taught there. They are allowed text books, pens, pencils, and notebooks (with paper in them). They are expected to gather information at the speed of the class, work together in groups or individually to find answers in a given amount of time, and are expected to take what the teacher is teaching as eye opening experience! This is a picture that I find to be VERY similar to the classrooms twenty to thirty years ago. Twenty to thirty years ago students came to school and were enlightened by what was being taught. School was the only way they were able to learn about the outside world and all the opportunities therein! In today's world kids are growing up differently and are constantly finding information at the speed of light and have no need for a slower format. They have the chance now to gather any information they need on the internet and school, for many students, is just too slow and not offering information that they see as valid for the future. We as teachers must embrace the shift in learning and find a way to teach our students skills in such a way that they feel it is relevant to their lives and their futures.

Where are students learning?

Students are learning in school, however this is not the only place where learning is happening. We, as teachers, need to understand that it is our job to provide our students with the skills they will need in a future that does not yet exist. It is our job to bring, into the classroom, material that will be relevant to our students and their future. If what we teach is important to them, they will learn and strive to succeed. If all we try to do is instill facts or teach in a way "that has always worked" than we are not teaching them much at all. We must realize that students today are searching for what they will need to be successful in years to come. We cannot be afraid to prepare them for the unknown future that is ahead of them... if we are than we are doing them a major disservice. It is vital for us as teachers to learn how to embrace this shift and how to incorporate the technology and "new literacies" into our classrooms so that our students will have an "eye opening" experience each time they enter our schools.