Mrs. Muñoz's Class Blog

Using Web 2.0 Tools to Instruct and Engage

Reflection: A Year Of Implementing Web 2.0 Tools In My Classroom

July 8, 2010 by Kim Munoz · 22 Comments · Things I Do In My Classroom

In the summer of 2009 I started using Twitter to connect with other teachers. I had no idea the influence it would have on my teaching, my classroom and my perspective on education. It was amazing to me to find so many like-minded and forward thinking teaching professionals sharing and collaborating online! Everyday I logged in I found so many useful resources and ideas that I couldn’t wait to try them out in my classroom. I knew it was going to be an exciting year, and if I was excited it had to spill over to my students. However, everything you do for the first time always has challenges and failures. This past school year was no different, but I’ve learned from them and I know next year will be that much better. So here are the tools we used this past year and what I learned about implementing these tools in my middle school computer lab.

1. Edublogs.com: The kids loved the idea of having their own space to share their thoughts and post their work/projects to the world. They were excited to see comments left by their peers as well as others from around the globe. It gave them an audience like they had never had before. Cluster Maps was a visual that helped the students see  that even though people may not post comments, their work and words were being seen.  Challenges: Students got frustrated at times that I wouldn’t just let them spew random thoughts whenever they wanted. They felt their blog was their space, (like facebook or myspace) and they should be able to say what they want. Although I gave time for free-writing, there were more structured blogging activities than they would have liked, but this is middle school. They are a tough crowd and hard to please, so I think at the beginning of this year I will be better at explaining how their blog is to be perceived. Resources: Last year Kim Cofino’s Blogging Guidelines helped me get started with a basic framework and gave me something to build on. Here’s a link in case you need that for your classroom as well.
**Side note: I only used Edublogs with my 8th graders last year and I will continue this school year, but I may use kidblogs.com for my 6th and 7th graders. I just need to research the idea more. The important thing is that everyone (my 6th, 7th and 8th graders) has a blog.

2. Animoto.com: This multimedia site was one of the faves of my students. I used it to teach the kids multimedia concepts and as a way to reflect over topics we discussed. I also loved using it to create introductory pieces to lessons to grab their attention. It always worked. Here are some examples of attention grabbers. This one was to introduce a conference presentation at TCEA 2010 and this one was to introduce a learner profiles lesson. Challenges: Only students with email accounts and that are 13 and older can sign up. Teachers have to do the gmail trick of adding a number to the end of their email address to create accounts for students under the age of 13. Ex: [email protected], [email protected] and so on.

3. Cover It Live: Although this site was intended for bloggers and media companies, I have found it very useful in education. If you have a website or blog, you can get a free account with cover it live, then embed a “live blog” window into your page. I used it for my students to comment and participate with each other during the speech President Obama gave to students in the Fall of 2009. I could have invited others from around the world–I did post it on twitter, but only minutes before we started. There wasn’t enough prep time to put together a big discussion, but the potential was there. I know a class in Colorado did this same thing and had a wider audience participate. I continued to use it with other teachers in my building and we were able to have our students share their thoughts with one another without being in the same room. It was a great experience. Challenges: Just the prep time. It’s not something you can prep for 5 minutes before class. The great aspect of Cover It Live is you, the teacher, have complete control as the moderator. No one will see anything in the main blogging window that you don’t want them to see because you have to approve it. I did have a couple of students that I would give this job to because it can become cumbersome for just one person.

4. Edmodo.com: This site was also one of my students favorites! It has a facebook feel to it so students can live in their social networking world but only with their assigned class. No one else can see inside the walls of a certain class period unless they are signed up as a student or teacher for that class. I would invite the principal and master teachers to sign up for my edmodo classes so they could see how it worked and how powerful the site was for students. I used this site to publish student work, post assignments, have students turn in assignments electronically and to give grades. Challenges: It’s more of an inconvenience than a challenge, but there is no gradebook integrated with edmodo… so what you grade you have to transfer over to your gradebook. The students love the instant feedback, though (a lot like in Moodle).

5. Glogster: The kids loved to create these online posters! I used it mainly for researching topics or for an “all about me” project. The great reward of teaching the kids this tool was that they used it in other classes when given the opportunity. Here is an example of what one student created in another class. Challenges: For some students the learning curve seem to be a bit high, meaning, they couldn’t figure it all out on their own. Doing a project together first helped the students learn all the tools.

6. Twitter: This was my biggest challenge of the year and the one tool I will change and revise it’s use of for next year. I’ve seen teachers on twitter that used Twitter in the classroom successfully, but my experience was not as great. I’m not sure if it was me, the way I implemented it, my students, their age, the subject area or all the above. I just know it was a struggle and I ended up dropping its use in the middle of the year. My idea, starting out, was that I wanted it to be used as a backchannel in class for students to post questions and answer each others questions without inturrupting the flow of the lesson. We practiced and had some good experiences, but inappropriate comments kept popping up and I would have to address them repeatedly. I also wanted to use Twitter as a way to communicate and collaborate with other classrooms but I never got to that point. We mostly used it to gage everyone’s reflection over a lesson or idea so that it was all compiled in one area. It was great as a quick assessment and it allowed everyone to participate, especially those that never raised their hands. I see it’s power in the classroom, but I think I will use another secure tool to teach them about appropriate responses and staying on topic. My students had a habit of using it like a texting tool and the classroom twitter page was not the right place for that, especially when the world is watching. So I will try using the facebook like feature of edmodo that I am familar with and I would like to dabble with todaysmeet.com as well.

7. Jing/Screenr.com: I LOVED making videos for my students! It put the students in charge of getting what they needed, when they needed it instead of being at the mercy of the teacher. It also helped not answer the same questions a million times. There’s not a huge difference between the two. I would create a jing video if I just wanted to send out a link to my students of the video and I would use screenr if I wanted to keep the video embedded in my blog for others to reference later. It’s a matter of preference, however the free Jing account does limit you to bandwidth usage. My students also really were amazed by the fact that I created something they could see online and that it was catered just to them.

I used several other tools that I’ll just list briefly here. I really loved Voki and created a Wikispaces page to show the kids how to embed them. Anything the students can publish I try to find a way to do that. It gives their work a broader audience and makes it easier for their parents to see what they do in class.  Myavatareditor.com was also nice for creating profile pics.

TED Talks Videos: The 6th sense was a video I used at the beginning of the year to get my students excited about learning technology and all the possibilities that technology brings to our future. I still had students reference that video towards the end of the year. TED has a ton of great videos to pull from that can relate to many lessons in your classroom.

So to wrap this up, all in all it was a good experience. The kids learned from each tool, but what I learned the most as a technology teacher, is it’s not all about the tool, but the content you have to work with to teach the tool. Without good content, the tool has little meaning or significance to the student’s daily lives. Did I always know how to create good content? No. I ran into some snags throughout the school year. At times my clear vision of how I saw these tools engaging kids in my classroom became blurred, but that is when I would go back to the drawing board, reach out to my PLN and get back on track. I look forward to taking these lessons and making them better for the next school year. I know some of my students didn’t like being “guinea pigs”, as many knew they were, but we all have to start somewhere and most importantly learn from our challenges and mistakes. Is there anyone out there that can relate?

22 Comments so far ↓

  • Mary Brebner

    Wow–this post is EXACTLY what I needed! Last year was my first year with 1-to-1 computing and this year, I’m in a new “21st Century Classroom” project with my district so I’m really on the lookout on how I can improve what I used last year and incorporate it all better.

    Thank You and good luck next year!

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  • Pernille Ripp

    Thank you for this reflection, I am about to embark on my first year deeply integrating tech in my 4th grade classroom so this was great feedback. I look forward to hearing more about your next year.

  • techmunoz

    @ Mary I’m so glad my post has helped. If there is anything else you need feel free to contact me. I would love to hear more about the “21st century classroom” project. Sounds exciting!
    ~ Kim Munoz

  • techmunoz

    @Pernille Good luck with your 4th graders this year! Integrating tech is an exciting adventure! :) Thank for your comment.
    ~ Kim Munoz

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  • Charles Herzog

    Thanks for sharing your experiences “going web 2.0″ last year. I did the same, and found it rewarding. I appreciate your candidness regarding using Twitter with the kids.

    I’m interested in trying Edmodo next year. You mentioned you used Edmodo “to publish student work, post assignments, have students turn in assignments electronically and to give grades.”

    Was this done via hyperlinks and attachments?

    Regarding giving grades, did/do you have any concerns regarding confidentiality?

    A question about commenting. Were you able to monitor comments for appropriateness without it monopolizing your time?

    Lastly, did you assess/grade their use of this tool?

    Again, thanks for sharing your thinking.

    @PJ_Vermont

  • techmunoz

    Thanks for your comment Charles!

    Edmodo has a great look and feel like Facebook, so all comments and published work show up in what looks like the news feed in FB. However, students can send private messages to the teacher.

    Publishing in Edmodo: My students would publish their work by using a hyperlink or an embed code to post into edmodo. For example, when they had to turn in an animoto assignment, if I wanted the whole class to share their video, they would use the embed code to turn it in, but if they only wanted me to see it, they would send me a direct message with either the link or embed code.

    Grades: All grades given are only accessible by the student. So there are no confidentiality issues there. It works a lot like giving grades in Moodle if you are familiar with that LMS.

    Monitoring: Some students would post comments that I deemed un-necessary and some in-appropriate, but only students from inside their classroom can see the comments. If I don’t find it first, a student will usually inform me and I will take the appropriate discipline action. I did not find it too cumbersome, but you do have to stay aware.

    Assessing the tool: I generally gave participation grades for posting reflections or for leaving so many comments for other student’s work. That was last year, so this year I may give a general quiz to make sure they are all aware on how I want to see them use Edmodo.

    Hope that answered your questions! If you have any others, please feel free to ask! I love the conversation. Thanks again Charles!
    ~Kim

  • Charles Herzog

    Thanks for the response. As we get closer to the start of school I’m certain I’ll have more questions.

  • Mark Barnes

    Wonderful and informative post. I hope many teachers see this, as it is truly helpful. Not sure how dialed in to edublogs you are, but I’d definitely recommend kidblog or 21classes. Both are much more user-friendly and better for education.

    There are lots of excellent how-to-videos on these blogs and some of the other apps you mention on my Web 2.0 video site, http://www.learnitin5.com.

    Thanks again for this powerful post.

  • Michael Tribone

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and reflecting on your year of integrating technology into the classroom. I found that the section on edublogs links to a mock site that fills with keyword specific ads.

    I believe that the correct URL is the following:

    http://edublogs.org/

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

    Michael

  • Alessandra Pallavicini

    Hi, I’ve read your post so carefully and found so much helpful information! I have been using some of the tools you present here too for some years now, but I have never used Edmodo. Do you think it might replace Ning? I really loved using Ning and my students too because it is so dynamic and gives them a lot of possibilities. But now I’ve decided to give it up and am looking for something which could give them the same chances. Maybe Edmodo could be the answer :)
    Thanks,
    Alessandra

  • Daneen Hanson

    What an awesome post! Thank you for all the information. As my school pushes all its teachers to integrate technology daily into the curriculum, I appreciate the ideas! Listing the challenges is helpful too!
    I plan to use a classroom blog with my third grade class this year (my students will help) for my students’ families and friends to see what we have done each week in the classroom. As this will be a new adventure for me, the link to Blogging guidelines will be useful!
    I agree with you about the content – you do have to have good content before you have the students use the tools. The whole point is to use technology with your curriculum and connect it for the students – not meaningless projects!
    Have a great year and I look forward to hearing more about how you integrate technology!

  • techmunoz

    Thank you Michael! I’m checking out the link and will correct it. :)

  • techmunoz

    Alessandra, I’m not sure if Edmodo will be the “cure all” for past Ning users, but it is a great starting point to try. It doesn’t have all the features of a Ning but students can collaborate, comment and share from within their own class period. I would love to hear your experiences if you decide to use it as well as any others from using Web. 2.0 tools. Thank so much for your comment!

  • techmunoz

    Daneen, I appreciate your feedback. The Blogging Guidelines link was a great find for me last year and I’m glad it will be of use to you. I wish you a great year as well and look forward to sharing more as I begin another year. :)

  • Alessandra Pallavicini

    Hi, here I am again after using edmodo :) I definitely like it and the way it works. My students have had no difficulty in using it and are now quite familiar with it. I like the way you can organize the materials you upload and the possibility to create subgroups. I like also the new communities where you can share with colleagues from so many countries. There’s a lot I have to learn of course but I will do it. Anyway, I understand what you mean when you say it is different from ning: yes, it is, but work here may be better organized and that’s not bad at all :)
    Alessandra

  • techmunoz

    Hi Alessandra,
    I’m so glad you came back to let me know how Edmodo worked for you! It is such a great tool and I’m glad you and your students are finding out how great it is. We love it too! I just showed it to 2 teachers yesterday to help them bring to life some class activities they had in mind, and they were excited with what they saw.
    I was interested to hear about the communities, I haven’t used that feature yet. I will have to check that out. Thanks for sharing! Hope your year continues to go well!
    Kim

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