User Generated Education

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Integrating Technology: Technology Tools to Develop a Collaborative, Participatory School Community Learning Space

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This year I have a new position as a part time technology instructor at a K-8 Charter School.   The principal and a few of the teachers/staff, not realizing how advanced educational technology has become, got excited when I demonstrated how technology can be integrated throughout the entire school curriculum.  The principal, being the change agent she is, understands that the integration needs to be a process . . .  that the first year of my employment should be in assisting teachers to see the benefits of technology integration, and how it can enhance the lessons and projects that are already doing.

As a learner-centric educator, I perceive my role as a tour guide of learning possibilities.  As such, I offer a menu of options for learner engagement (in this case, the learners are the charter school professional staff).  I provide instruction about how to use the tools and examples how they have been used in other educational settings.  But then I get out of the way to see if and how the learner uses the technology.  I may love a tool but learners may not – I then let it go.

For this upcoming year, I set up the following FREE educational networking tools to offer the professional staff at the school:

  • Social Bookmarking: Diigo
  • Wiki: PBWorks
  • Social Sharing:
  • Blogging Platform: Kidblogs
  • Projects and Student Pages: Thinkquest
  • Classroom Projects and Communication: Edmodo
  • Online Book Shelf and Discussions: Shelfari
  • Facebook (already established) – Parent and Community Communication

I will document if, how, and why these technologies are used throughout the year as a case study of technology integration in a school that has historically had a limited use of technology.

A Rationale for Integrating Technology Into the Classroom

Social Bookmarking: Diigo

Social bookmarking permits websites and online resources to be saved and compiled in a central location.  By setting up a group for a school or an organization, users can save them so all members of that community group can view and access them.

Diigo in the Classroom tutorial:

ANSER Group Link:

Wiki: PBWorks

A wiki allows a group of people to collaboratively develop a Web site. Anyone can add to or edit pages in a wiki — it is completely egalitarian.

In the Classroom

  • Encourage student-centered learning.  Even young students can build web pages, embed images & video, and post documents.

What can you do with a Classroom Workspace?

  • Class Resources – Publish class notes, PowerPoint lectures, schedules and policies; show off examples of great student work.
  • Group Projects – Build collaborative pages, start discussions and encourage comments.
  • Parent Outreach – Keep parents involved. Post assignments, key dates and volunteer lists. All available at home, from work, or anywhere.
  • Student Portfolios – Give students their own page to post content, upload homework, and share their work.
  • Expand Horizons – Share and interact with other classrooms or groups, across town or around the world.

Throughout the School

User Manual:


Class Example:

ANSER link:

Social Sharing: GRO.UPS

GROU.PS is a do-it-yourself social networking platform that allows people to come together and form interactive communities around a shared interest or affiliation. The functionality of any online group is limited only by the members’ collective imagination and ambition.  By giving any user the ability to create an easy-to-use, yet powerful, social network, GROU.PS is propelling online collaboration, communication and content sharing in a new socially-aware direction.

For those familiar with NING, GRO.UPS is being used as the alternative as NING has become charging for its services.  I foresee using the GRO.UPS as a central place to post the different classroom projects.  It permits uploading of photos and videos, and the ability to make comments and discussions.  Individual members can create a “My Page” which has some similar properties as Facebook.

ANSER Gro.up Site:

Blogging Platform: KidBlogs

Blogging is a means of self-expression that extends to nearly every social sphere — moms, entrepreneurs, soldiers, athletes – bloggers can be found in every walk of life, every niche, profession and people group. Everyone has something to learn or share in a blog community. It is that idea that makes blogging such an ideal method of learning for children. Surely Matt Hardy, an elementary school teacher, had this in mind when he created, a blogging platform exclusively for elementary and middle school students and teachers. The platform creates a safe and simple environment for students to publish posts and participate in discussions within a secure classroom blogging community.

Since this is a K-8 school, Kidblogs was selected as the Blog Platform.  This is a closed learning environment meaning only ANSER students who are registered by their teachers can use it.  If the school was upper level, I would  have recommended Edublogs.

Kidblog Tutorial:

Special Note:  I like Nicholas Provenzano’s idea of staring a Blogger’s Community-Café at his school – see and plan to offer this at my school.


Projects and Student Pages: Thinkquest

ThinkQuest is a protected, online learning platform that enables teachers to integrate learning projects into their classroom curriculum and students to develop 21st century skills. It includes the following: a project environment where teachers and students engage in collaborative learning; a competition space where students participate in technology contests; the award-winning ThinkQuest Library.

I think this is underutilized in education settings.  It was a favorite technology tool of  my gifted elementary student a few years ago.  It permits students to set up their own “My Page”.  It has many of the same attributes of Facebook – the ability to have a “My Page” where students can personalize their avatar, create polls, suggest links, upload pictures and create discussions.  This site can only be accessed by registered schools, their teachers and students.

I plan to create accounts for all of the 350 K-8 students as well as offer classroom teachers the opportunity to develop projects.

Example Student Page:

Example Project Page:

Classroom Projects and Communication: Edmodo

Edmodo is a social learning network for teachers, students, schools and districts. Edmodo provides free classroom communication for teachers, students and administrators on a secure social network. Edmodo provides teachers and students with a secure and easy way to post classroom materials, share links and videos, and access homework, grades and school notices. Edmodo stores and shares all forms of digital content – blogs, links, pictures, video, documents, presentations, and more.

This is a closed learning environment meaning only ANSER students who are registered by their teachers can use it.

Edmodo Users’ Guide:

(Need Log-In Code to be go to ANSER Site).

Online Book Shelves and Discussion: Shelfari

Shelfari is a social cataloging website. Shelfari users build virtual bookshelves of the titles they own or have read, and can rate, review, tag, and discuss their books. You can also create groups that other members may join, create discussions, and talk about books.

I introduced this site last spring during my interview.  One of the Junior High Language Arts teachers and a few of the students have been using this site throughout the past summer.

General Website:


A Facebook page is already an active part of the ANSER community.  It is used a parent-family informational and PR tool.!/pages/Garden-City-ID/ANSER-Public-Charter-School/190805753573?v=info&ref=ts&__a=24&ajaxpipe=1

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 24, 2010 at 10:45 pm

One Response

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  1. […] the school during the ten plus year history of the charter school.  As stated in an earlier blog, Integrating Technology: Technology Tools to Develop a Collaborative, Participatory School Community …, the principal got excited about the potential of technology integration across the curriculum […]

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