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Friday, February 22, 2013

You Don't Have to Re-Invent the Wheel to Ignite your Classroom

I think that teachers are a lot like pilot lights….we always have a little flame flickering waiting for something to ignite us so we can heat up our classrooms.   I have had some great professional development opportunities lately and I am lit.  I have been an imagineer in the Magic Kingdom of PD at FETC, found golden nuggets of wisdom at TCEA in Texas and got some sweet tips and tricks at PETE-C in Hershey, PA. 

I keep a Google doc called “Aha moments”  to record the highlights of my journeys.   I learn just as much presenting as I do being a participant. As I am one of those people that has to be reminded that I even have the world at my fingertips with a camera and Google in my pocket, my aha moments might be a bit less of a splash for you.
Don't re-invent the wheel!
One thing that I always think is eye opening is that we don’t have to invent everything ourselves. Back in the olden days, you may have had a colleague that would share that test or activity that they made up or maybe they wouldn't.   The thing is that technology has made it very easy to share with the world,  and not just for those people who are willing to stand up in front of the crowd and present.   With web 2.0 sites, everyone has the opportunity to easily share what they do in the classroom…so you don’t have to “reinvent the wheel.”
Use Web 2.0 Libraries and Galleries
A lot of the popular web 2.0 tools that are out there give people the opportunity to make their work public.  Before you use one of those tools, take a look in the “libraries” or galleries that already exist in a lot of these tools.  At best, you will find something you can use tomorrow, at the very least; you will find a model or example you can build off of.
Here are some prime examples:
Livebinders are a great way to organize links, pictures, and information on a topic that kids can use in class or at home.   There is a vast library of Livebinders that teachers have made and shared in their library.  Check out this timely one on US Presidents for kids or  Web 2.0 Tools for Reluctant Writers, Common Core Middle Grades Math which features a great tab for students!  Click on the featured binders tab and go through the list of topics on the right hand side to find a binder that suits you. 

Edcanvas is another way to present pdfs, photos and text, videos, etc. on a canvas – again that students can use in class and have access to at home.  Check out some of the featured canvases in the gallery in each subject area:  Photosynthesis, Physical Geography, How Big is Infinity?

Interested in flipping your classroom?  Get your students registered into Collaborize Classroom (it’s free!) and check out the great library of critical thinking questions based on short videos, photos, literature, science social studies, etc.   Register here for your own private classroom. is another way to flip your classroom – great short videos are accompanied by simple questions and critical thinking prompts.  Once again, there is a library of videos and a quick and easy format so that you can make them your own.  Take a look at the Case to extinguish the words Good and Bad or the 3 Minute Guide to the Bill of Rights.  You can even get professional animators to visualize your concepts. 

The SCAN tool at TregoED, which helps students learn how to see different perspectives and a write argumentatively, has a library of scenarios with built in problems to solve based on historical or current events for online discussions using the SCAN critical thinking strategy.   A great way to get them thinking and writing on hot topics.

Bottom line is that web 2.0 tools are by nature tools that we add content to and share!  Take advantage of the collaborative nature of these tools, read, revise and reshare!  It is a great way for all of us to ignite our classrooms.

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