I have been trying out various 2.0 and other computer tech tools in my 3rd and 4th grade classes for several years and will be using a class blog and wikispace this coming year. I had previously done these types of interactive applications on a local computer basis using just word processing software. Now that we have "reliable" internet access on site, we are ready to move up to the web-based versions. I've also used Photostory for digital storytelling/reports. Now I'd like to try Voicethread too.

This is the first year I'll officially be serving 1/2 time as a site technology integration mentor. No one else is doing this in my district so I'm hoping to get a few ideas from the many of you who much more experience. Many colleagues would like to begin using web based tools with elementary students and want to know where to start. I started with non web-based applications out of necessity, but I don't think is necessary now for others.

I have two main questions and would greatly appreciate your feedback.

1) For those who are ready to start, where do you think they should begin? Wiki? Blog? Digital storytelling? Other???

2) Do you have favorite 2.0 applications that are fairly easy for a beginner with basic computer skills to use?


Tags: blogging, elementary, getting_started, pd, wikis

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Hi Laura,
I teach grade 6 students and this year, they started using a blog. I'm now wondering what will be best, a blog or a NING ? What do you think? One a the aspect that I like with the NING in the langague option since I'm teaching in French.
You have to be 13 to use ning, so that is a consideration. It really depends on what you want your kids to do. You can see our blog here, if it gives you any ideas.
I would recommend Moodle. The teacher can frame the work in a way that suites him or her, and can start very simply. Just getting a class set up with forum capacity can be education-changing, and it's so easy. It gets the network thing going fast; brings learning into a different context, a community context. From there, it's easy to expand.
Podcasting may be as powerful; it's also easy.
Podcasting is a definite possibility. I heard some great examples of 5th graders in another district doing NPR style "This I Believe" persuasive essays via podcast.
I totally agree about Moodle - with a caveat. I've been using Moodle for three years quite happily because I have the technical skills to support it. It's not that it needs a lot of technical intervention, you understand, but it's best to have someone readily available. I would suggest that using Moodle for the sole purpose of forums is underusing it but that's just an opinion. Moodle is a VLE with content, assessments, polls, forums, wikis, etc. Also, the security settings on Moodle prohibit students from using multimedia in their posts so they couldn't embed sound or video clips. If you want to use forums, use the facilities provided in a Ning network. There's no need to worry about technical support and there are fewer restrictions on what people can include in their posts.
I assume you'll be helping 3rd & 4th grade teachers, yes?

If so, I would agree with others that some sort of "social bookmarking" service is the way to go. In my experience, most teachers have yet to move beyond saving site to "Favorites" on their local computer and most simply want their "webpage" to consist of links their students can access. (These are the same teachers that get totally excited when show them the "links" bar on Internet Explorer!). Delicious has been a big hit with upper elementary to high school staff with me but I'm not sure the primary grades have had as much success with it. Perhaps Buzka or iKeepBookmarks would be the way to go since it's somewhat folder based which little kids see better.

VoiceThread and YackPack have also been big hits with inservice teachers I have worked with, espcially the primary grade teachers since both focus on the audio input of users (children) rather than text.

Third, BlogMeister is an easy, very safe (moderated), and not-very-customizable (that's a good thing in my opinion) blogging tool for elementary students. Just look at what Kathy Cassidy and Jody Hayes have done with primary grade children -- the K & 1st grade students themselves write the blog entries!
I'll be working with K-5 teachers. You're right. Keeping it easy for kids to use without allowing for too much tinkering is important. I'll look a little closer at Buzka and iKeepBookmarks. I was using using Portportal for staff when I moved to that school to keep it as non-threating as possible for any tech-phobic teachers. I think they are ready to use/teach with something that has a bit more sophistication now.
Yackpack and Blogmeister look like great possibilities. Thanks for the great suggestions!
I agree with Gordon. Classblogmeister is a great tool to blog with students. There are so many meaningful connections to curriculum. If you set a purpose to your blog, such as lit circles, answer questions about math concepts. I created a wiki page to help me with a recent presentation on blogging in the classrooms. You are welcome to use it. I collected resources from many teachers to pull this together.


Click around. There's a page on using wikis for students as well. We started with publishing poems on a wikispaces site and required students to make comments on the page.
Personally I think wikis are a great place to start as far as the students.
You could incorporate the use of a wiki into a research assignment or book project. There are some great examples of wikis being used to develop a whole interactive lesson for a book, or to design a manual for something (like internet safety as Vicki Davis did). Our librarians used wikis as a simple way for students to post comments about award winner books they were reading.

There are many additional tools that are built within wikis, that you can then build towards. If they decide to try podcasting, then you can put the links to the podcasts on the wiki.
If they want to upload images, that's easy to do there as well. Pbwiki has a couple of chat features that they could use.

And there are numerous examples of schools across the country using a wiki site to build a collaborative project, which brings in the whole networking piece that is so key to web 2.0.

I think the purpose and the content of the lesson will really dictate the tools that are helpful, though, and it seems best to start out with that. Otherwise it just becomes a lot of tools with no purpose.

What are they trying to teach the students? That's where I would start from.

I believe you should keep it simple to begin with and add on.

A class blog would be another good addition, because it helps foster an interactive dynamic for the class.

One thing we did at my campus last year, was run a once a week, 20 minute morning workshop that was completely voluntary. Each week we shared/showed one web 2.0 tool or technology tool, and brainstormed it's use with teachers as well. The idea was really just to keep it simple, but to share what is "out there." Many teachers will seize on something that they see fitting into their program if they just know about it and can envision what it can do for their class.

Good luck!
I like the voluntary morning workshop idea. You are right. It can't necessarily be a one-answer-fits-all approach. To be effective, the standards being addressed and the needs of the students have to dictate which of several beginning tools a teacher might use.
I don't know if it matters what you start with, it's how you start. You do not have to include every kid. I found that a small group of adopters can get every one excited--ask for volunteers and start a small blog. I've written about our blog experiences (so far) at http://anotsodifferentplace.blogspot.com and you can see our classroom blog at http://areallydifferentplace.org

Same holds true with teachers---find a few excited people and nurse them along until they are comfortable, others will join. In our district, teachers are so busy with NCLB and high stakes testing that they are not standing in line to sign up for the "next great thing". Good Luck.
I agree, Nancy. It is the way I would go. It needs to be carefully managed though. It wouldn't do to give the non-participants legitimate grounds for complaint about being disadvantaged because they aren't getting the same information or level of service compared to the early-adopters.



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