This year I began using a wikispaces (free for teachers) to organize information for my students. My class wiki has homework links, a google calander of events, projects, images, etc. The kids raved about how easy it was to access information about class from anywhere. I decided to share the wiki idea with my colleagues during our staff professional development day. I completed two, one-hour sessions. While many teachers have begun to use wikis, two other social studies teachers in my building have used wikis to extend classroom discussion. Both are eighth grade teachers. One class is creating online projects and answering questions about specific events in their curriculum. The other teacher is using a program called PBWorks as a blog for students to communicate. Both sites keep students id anonymous; which the kids appreciate. Both teachers are finding that students are spending a considerable amount of time dialoging about school, their opinions on history, and current events. My students have begun to create an online textbook using a wiki. The site is untouched by me, the students are creating everything. In the spring I will open the wiki up for students to create pages about anything in history that interest. Students work is not for points, grades or credits. They are inspired by the idea that millions of people can see their work. Towards the end of the year I am going to have an evening program open to the public to showcase the students and the work they have done.
This week my students began using a FREE online concept mapping website to explore ancient Rome. Using their textbooks, students collaborated to create a formula for taking text and turning into a concept map (Web). In the weeks to come, my students will start applying their history textbook skills to their science text. The goals of this chapter are to teach students how to find information in their textbooks, organize that information in a visual way, and collaborate with each other to master concepts. Using Bubbl.us students can save concept maps, collaborate with other students, email, export, print and embed their work. Although we have not began the collaboration portion, students are independently taking time to review and correct/add to other students work. Several students have made comments about "how refreshing" it is to have the freedom to create notes that are formatted to the individual student. My principal is excited because I have incorporated textbook literacy skills in a digital format. My goal is to use Bubbl.us for the rest of the year and encourage students to use the program in their other classes as well.