Post #7: Development for Final Project

After much thought, I chose to cover the ADDIE process as it relates to a PBworks wiki I already have and use with many of my students. About 250 of the almost 400 students I currently teach use my wiki for at least part of their school year for collaborative group projects. So how did I get my wiki to be such a valuable resource and tool? Here’s another video segment that explains and demonstrates:

Post #5.2: Analysis for NEW Final Project (this is the real one)

When I first approached this project, I planned to attack a “problem” that could involve a Google Site, blog, or wiki in its solution.  However, as I looked more closely at the ADDIE process, I realized that a better fit for this course requirement — something that would be learner-based — would be the PBworks site I already have been using with my students for two years.  The site itself has evolved some over the past two years, but I will review the process as it unfolded to become what it is today.

In February of 2008, I attended a workshop at SVCUE’s Technology Conference where Kathleen Ferenz spoke about what was then called PBwiki.  She had us actually work in the wiki, and within moments, my head was swimming with potential applications for my students.  The very next week I had the earliest iteration of my own PBwiki site set up and began trying it out with my 6th grade students.  The site has since changed its name to PBworks, and I have expanded my use of it to grades four through eight for several projects.  I’d like to take you on a little tour . . . . .

Post #5.1: Analysis for Final Project (changing it, though)

What problem exists in my work life that a blog or wiki could address?

I was a recipient of a We Are Teachers microgrant that awarded me $200 and an iPod Nano for a project I proposed on educating parents about Facebook and other online experiences their children may be having.  I used the money to pay for most of the cost of Adobe Captivate, which I am going to use to create tutorials for parents and students on using Facebook, including its safety features.  I will also be making some videos, both to share about the experience and to interview students and parents for video clips to include in the workshop materials.  I can use a wiki-type site to host all the files and information.

Parents need a site that is easy for them to locate and navigate, and I don’t want the resources to be hidden behind the wall provided by our school’s SchoolFusion website for a number of reasons:

  1. Some parents STILL don’t use that website and don’t know how to log in and/or navigate it.
  2. I want to be able to share with people outside our school community on a limited basis.
  3. The SchoolFusion site has a lot of features, but it still limits what I can do to those features and how they operate.  I want a platform that is easier for me to customize.

What will the site accomplish?  What gap between optimals and actuals does this program seek to close?  Students at my school are using Facebook.  The minimum age for an account is 13, yet students as young as second grade have accounts that I know of.  More than half of my middle school students (ages 11-14) are on Facebook, and many of them include me among their Facebook “friends.”  I am not sure how many of their parents can see what they’ve been doing online, however.  What we want: parents who are informed and aware, and students who conduct themselves online safely, morally, and responsibly.  What we’ve got is a very uniformed body of parents and students who are conducting themselves mostly in a safe and responsible way, as far as I can tell.  But there’s a lot I am sure I can’t see.

I think the best option for accomplishing the goal of sharing resources with parents and students is to set up a Google Site that I share with the entire world.  I will secure permission from students and parents to cover anything that includes images or video of students.  I like the way I can set it up so that people can leave comments on pages within a site.  This kind of site can be easily linked from an e-mail message to parents or an announcement on the school website, without requiring parents to log in to access the materials.  Sharing it with the world also means that others outside our school community can benefit from the tutorials and other materials.

Now, to answer a few of Karl’s questions . . .

  • Who are your users? Parents of my students, and possibly the students themselves; also potentially the entire world
  • What do you want them to be able to do as a result of using your web site? Access tutorials and other materials aimed at helping them and their students use Facebook responsibly and safely; communicate with their children about online experiences; plan to monitor student use of Facebook and other websites
  • What have others done that is similar? Common Sense Media is just one of many online resources for parents; Facebook for Parents offers instruction and tips for parents with kids who are Facebook-age; Common Sense Media even has a section on Facebook and parents: HERE
  • What performance drivers might prevent them from learning with this tool? (skills/knowledge, motivation, environment, incentive) I already know what some parents struggle with in using our school’s website, so I think Google Sites will be easier for them to handle.  They lack some of the skills and knowledge regarding Facebook, so this site will attempt to address that.  They’re very motivated, though some of them don’t realize what their kids are already doing online.  They have the required tools (computers and Internet access) to use the site.  The incentive (I hope) will be better communication and understanding between students and their parents.

Post #4: How I would use a wiki in my classes

Well, I already DO use wikis in my classes, so I think I will describe two ways in which I use two different wiki platforms at this time.  Where I teach, all my students have computers and Internet access at home as well as school-assigned e-mail addresses beginning in third grade.  This means that they can access the services and sites I describe below anywhere they can get online.  Both their PBworks accounts and Google Apps accounts are tied to their school e-mail addresses.

PBworks:

Beginning in fourth grade, I have my students use my PBworks site for group projects.  Each year, my students do a Google Earth placemarks project, so I give each group a research page and a placemark(s) page for their assigned topics.  The students first use the research page to gather information and sources to cite.  They then move their work over to the placemark(s) page, which is a template with all the HTML they will need already set up for them.  The text they need to change is in color and in bold, larger font.  This works well, but I usually have to help them fix things later when they accidentally delete the occasional quotation mark or greater-than or less-than sign.  Our topics for the Google Earth projects are as follows:

Grade 4: California Missions (one mission and placemark per group)

Grade 5: Age of Exploration (one explorer and four placemarks per group)

Grade 6: Volcanoes (ties in with presentations they give before and after, only one placemark per group)

Grade 7: World History standards (five placemarks per group, covering the entire year’s worth of social studies standards)

Grade 8: Lewis & Clark (three placemarks per group, with the entire grade level of students covering the entire Corps of Discovery’s journey)

I also have some group projects that do not involve Google Earth, where middle school students need to plan and create presentations.  Sixth graders present about assigned volcanoes in their science classes, so they use the wiki to plan their presentations.  They also later present as volcanologists during our school’s Ocean Week Habitat Parade when younger students visit their exhibits.  Seventh graders serve as docents in all the Ocean Week habitats for our parade, so they work together to conduct research and plan their presentations.  During this time, eighth graders assigned to each team offer their consulting services based on the previous year’s experience as docents themselves.  All communication happens in the PBworks pages assigned to each team.

I also use my PBworks site to give middle school students access to information during class, especially when there will be a substitute teacher or when it is likely that students will be ready for different information at different times, such as during our photography project.  I change the “middle school students click here” pages as needed to provide information and links that students need on a specific date or during a range of dates.  When I know in advance that I will be absent, I put everything for my middle school students on those pages, then I send them an e-mail reminding them to check the PBworks pages.  My substitute teachers have commented that the classes pretty much run themselves during these situations.

Google Sites:

We have Google Apps, and Sites is a part of that package.  I have my eighth grade students each create a site about their DC topics.  Each year, leading up to the annual 8th Grade DC Trip, the history teacher has the students research and write a paper on a topic related to one of the places they will visit in Washington DC, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, and New York City.  The students also present to their peers in history class.  I have them use their Google Sites to list information sources, gather images (with source citations and permissions as needed), create an outline (many use Inspiration or Webspiration to help with this), and host their presentation slideshow (made in Google Docs).  My sample site, which they use to guide them, can be found HERE.  I also use the “Student Sites” page of my site to link to each student’s site so that they can easily access their presentations during history class when it’s time to speak in front of their peers and teacher.

Last year I had the 8th grade students create additional sites with pages dedicated to different questions I wanted them to write about.  These dealt mainly with their feelings and opinions about finishing middle school and moving on to high school.  Our students are very close, and they scatter to a number of public and private high schools in our area.  Sometimes they have little choice in where they go to high school, and I like giving them a chance to write about how they’re feeling about this transition.  I also require them to read each other’s writing and leave comments for one another.  I am considering whether to repeat this assignment next year using Google Sites.

Risk Assessment:

If you visit the sites I have linked to, you will notice that on my PBworks site, you can view all my templates but none of the students’ work.  I have each student assigned to certain folders in which all the files he or she needs access to are placed.  There is a folder for each grade level (4th through 8th) and another folder for the Ocean Week Habitat Parade Docents pages, to which all 7th and 8th grade students have access.  Within each folder, any student CAN edit any page (except the template and direction pages which I have locked), but that does not mean that they MAY edit pages to which they have not been assigned.  I have a Wiki AUP Form (you can get it HERE) I require students and their parents to sign, and I keep these on file year after year, updating as needed when new students enter our school.  I review the agreement at the start of each wiki-based project.  I also demonstrate the Page History function which allows me to see who has made what changes when, and to see exactly what each student has written.  I also point out to students that being a member of a group means that I should see somewhat equal participation by all team members to all assigned pages.

For the Google Sites, it is possible to make it so that only members of our domain can see the student sites.  However, I have the kids make their sites and presentations viewable by “anyone in the world” so that it will be easy for their history teacher to access them quickly from class.  At the end of the year, I delete all links to the students’ sites and presentations, and I delete the accounts of graduating 8th grade students anyway over the summer, so all their work is gone at that point.

Post #3: How I Might Use a Blog at School

I’m more comfortable blogging for an audience of my peers, but I don’t mind my students and their parents reading it also.  I think that if I were going to start YET ANOTHER blog, I might write one for the parents at my school, on topics related to technology and learning.  I would start with some blogs about Facebook and other sites that kids are using, often without their parents’ knowledge or consent.  In fact, I had a parent come up to me today after school in the school library to ask what I thought of his seventh grade son starting up on Facebook.  The son told his parents we teachers “encourage” the use of Facebook.  While it’s true I’ve done two chapel programs about it this year, I made clear that I was not encouraging anything except responsible behavior online, no matter what form it takes.

I mentioned in another post that I started a podcast series, of which there are still only three episodes.  It was called “What Your Child’s Teacher Wants You to Know About Your Kid.”  I’ve been teaching for eighteen years, and I’ve been a parent for six.  I was much better prepared for parenthood by having more than a decade of teaching experience under my belt.  There are things that we teachers see, just by the fact that we work with SO MANY young people, that parents just don’t know based on their experiences with their own small number of children.  If I were going to start a blog for parents, I think it would be the written version of what I had begun with the podcast.  I actually prefer the podcast for this, but I’ve been doing a lot more blogging lately (one post per week plus two articles per month for HotChalk), and I have found that when I am paid to blog, I somehow come up with stuff to say on a regular basis.  My summer job is as a peer coach for a group of bloggers in a teacher fellowship program.  That’s on LiveJournal and I pretty much only ever touch that site in the summer time, probably because I’ve been so busy during every school year, especially now with graduate school.

I think I am going to focus on the blogging I am already doing, because I am just SO over-committed right now that I can’t even imagine embarking on a new endeavor.  I mostly write (the blog posts) about things that happen in my daily home and work life, and how they relate to education and/or technology.

The rubric for this course mentions risk analysis.  Since I am not having to discuss having my students blogging, there isn’t as much risk.  However, there are two considerations I DO need to keep in mind:

1. My (school) employer is a faith-based organization, and I also subscribe to the faith practiced there.  I tend to be very snarky and I like to use humor in my writing.  Anyone looking around enough on the Internet can immediately connect me, my HotChalk blog, and my employer, so I have to make sure that the way I portray myself, my school, and my life on there does not upset anyone.  I doubt I would lose my job over anything I write for HotChalk, especially since I avoid politics and religion (any good party-goer knows this rule) in my writing.  At least, I THINK I avoid politics . . . .

2. My family and our privacy is a concern.  I don’t really write any deep, dark secrets, but I have shared about our family history, trips we have taken, and activities in which we partake.  I don’t believe I have any stalkers out there, but I really need to keep an eye on details I might share in the course of writing.  Plus, my son (now age six) might object some day to his entire early childhood being available for all to read out there on “teh InterWebz.”

As for my idea’s practicality or feasibility, I have to say it’s working out well so far.  I’ve already written 23 blog posts and 11 articles, with one more of each due the same day as this post.  I sometimes struggle to come up with content.  One way I overcame this, at least in the short term, was to commit to writing an article about each of the six NETS*S standards published by ISTE.  I’m halfway through that series, so I know what my next article, which I will be writing tomorrow, will be about.  If I were going to recommend this adventure to someone else, I think I would warn them that it can be hard to keep coming up with content.  In fact, a friend of mine asked me via Twitter direct message this weekend what she should ask for a blog writing gig for a different website.  It’s a different type of situation, but the first thing I said was, “Make sure you won’t run out of stuff to say.”