If someone asks “Do you Wiki?” please don’t be offended! As an educator in the 21st century, it’s a perfectly legitimate question . The real question is “Do you and your colleagues at school have an online web presence?”I’m not talking about Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media. Do you have a website where your students can access tutorials, curriculum, and homework help or a place where they can showcase their work? If the answer is “yes”, give yourself a “High-Five!”. If the answer is “no”, consider some of the free website tools available to educators everywhere:
You can have a web presence in 15 minutes or less. Simply, sign up for a free educator account. Create a username and password, then watch a “Getting Started” tutorial. Once you learn the basics, the “point and click” simplicity of creating a teacher website will open up a whole new world of opportunities for you and your students.
Just ask Pennsylvania educator, Jan Abernethy. Abernethy launched her first classroom website in 2000 and has been perfecting the use of this electronic genre with her students ever since. This year alone, Abernethy has several classroom blogs, Wikis, a YouTube Channel, a Vimeo channel, a Weebly and a respectable following on iTunes. The number of sites grows exponentially once you understand that Abernethy has maintained a web presence for each class since 2000 and many of the sites are still intact today.
Abernethy provides some helpful tips to tech novices, “Any teacher that’s interested in technology… that is social media and networking…you have to have a network of other teachers that do it (use tech).” She explains, “That’s why I do so much with Discovery Education. They have a very large network of teachers interested in technology and Discovery does a great job of bringing us together and allowing us to collaborate with each other.” Abernethy also credits professional development opportunities as a support for using technology in education. Abernethy states, “A lot of my professional development is online, as well as conferences that I voluntarily go to during the summer and on weekends.”
Many school districts offer free or paid professional development to train teachers in the effective use of technology in the classroom. These trainings range from using interactive whiteboards, tablets, and mobile devices to creating your own teacher blog. Once trained, many teachers are rewarded with tech equipment and software user licenses for their participation. Contact your school or district technology coordinator to learn more about district-wide or school-wide training opportunities.
Abernethy is thankful that the Greenville (PA) school district and East Elementary school is so supportive. In the face of dwindling school budgets, Abernethy explains that teachers and administrators must be resourceful. “I have written a lot of grants,” she explains, “We have 14 iPads (in the classroom)…half of them are from a grant that I wrote and the other half is because last year, my class created a video. It was through Discovery Education and we won a video contest. We received some money and bought iPads.” She affirms, “The school is very committed to technology.”
Engaging students in authentic learning can be challenging and using technology is one venue to accomplish this goal. It can feel overwhelming, if you’re not comfortable with technology yourself, but one thing is certain—you’ll have a room full of digital experts that make learning fun with every keystroke and every swipe!