D3: Letter to the administration

I am writing today to propose a new approach to our students and curriculum. As the Educational Technology and Elementary Library coordinator, I would like to implement Web 2.0 technologies in our schools. Web 2.0 refers to the tools available (often free), which create an online community entrenched in collaboration and sharing of ideas. The Open Education Resources Movement is based on sharing of ideas for improvement in student learning. This is a vision carried out in higher education as well. Currently, MIT has given public access to the materials and modules of over 1700 of its courses. Thomas Friedman addressed this notion of the need for collaboration and access of information in his book The World is Flat. Even in our small schools we need to be addressing the fact that our students will be entering a world where they will need to connect to other people and be competitive in their ability to access and synthesize information. It is time for educators in our district to embrace the technology that will help them professionally, and give them the tools to help more of our students achieve academically. In a study by LEARN (Leading English and Education Network), almost 80% of educators responded that they believed that access to web 2.0 tools through a social network had a positive impact on the learning gains of their students.*(https://learnweb2.wikispaces.com/Why+teachers+should+use+web+2.0+tools) Utilizing Web 2.0 tools such as wikis, blogs and online audio/video applications will help us build learning communities within our schools, and perhaps the outside world. These tools and the Open Education Resources movement have had a major impact on the way we teach and the effect this has on student learning. The following article illustrates the positive impact Web 2.0 tools can have on an elementary classroom. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/03/technology/techspecial3/03ethan.html?_r=3

The Web 2.0 tool that I am proposing is the wiki. Specifically, the use of wikis in our schools would greatly enhance the current curriculum for our K-6 students in Region 6. A wiki is a collaborative webpage, including links as well as multimedia. Wikis are very easy to set up and the wiki we are currently using is free. Teachers can use a wiki together to create a unit. As authors of a site, they can update, delete and change any aspect of the site from wherever they are working on a computer. See this video for a simple explanation.

Currently, several high school teachers have utilized wikis in their classrooms. They have found that they are a fantastic way to ensure that every student participates. One teacher expressed that it was the first time that many of the students participated in class, and that she can easily identify student understanding levels on a daily basis. Student work, including videos, presentations and artwork, can also be uploaded and stored on the wiki. Students, parents and staff can communicate on the wiki and all work is shown online. Students can only comment if they are invited, and our students use aliases (generated by the wiki) which identify the student to the teacher, but not to the rest of the viewers. Please view this video to see how schools are using wikis for educational purposes.

Working with wikis aligns directly to the Connecticut Frameworks for Information and Technology Literacy Skills. The Framework includes the following areas: Definition and Identification of Information Needs, Information Strategies, Information Processing, Application, Technology Use, Responsible Use and Assessment. http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/Word_Docs/Curriculum/itf.doc Wikis are great for differentiated learning. Audio and video files can be uploaded to the wiki to support learning. Students can have their own folders in a wiki to access the information and resources they need for a lesson. The wiki can include links for further learning, and support for parents who are helping their children with their learning at home. Our Professional Learning Communities could also use wikis to collaborate with teachers in our district. Common Assessments could easily be shared as well as the data/results and ideas for remediation. The elementary teachers from each school could collaborate at the grade level to meet requirements for aligned and district wide curricular goals. This is an easy way to share ideas with teachers, parents and administration.
The following is a list of wikis created in schools.


Things that should be considered in adopting wikis include the cost, teacher training, the safety of our students and the potential impact this committment will make on our students and our curriculum. As mentioned previously, the wiki currently used by the high school is free. For an fee, additional safety and storage options are available, and this would be worth investigating for our elementary implementation. Many of our teachers already know how to use wikis, so therefore the training could be done within district. We have taken safety precautions for students using the wiki. Students identities are not revealed on the wiki. There are several wiki providers available. The high school uses Pbwiki. This is a free program that is hosted online. The teachers and students have found this to be a tool that is easy to use. The help provided by Pbwiki is excellent. Pbwiki was initially chosen because it didn't have advertising and offered the username and passwords for student use. They provide fictitious names and passwords, so that all students are contributing anonymously (teachers know who the students are.) Outside comment/edit functions can be restricted. Wikispaces and Wetpaint are two other free wiki providers used by schools that we could investigate as we discuss implementation at the elementary level.
Teaching students about appropriate online presence would be essential for the success of their participation. This would become a part of our Acceptable Use Policy and curriculum at each level. These online skills are going to be very important to students in their personal interactions as well as their education and careers. Part of our mission statement is to prepare lifelong learners. Learning to successfully use Web 2.0 tools will be essential for our students to attain higher levels of education and success in the global workplace.