Teacher Reflections

Reflecting on the past few weeks with our third graders as their wiki project came to fruition, we witnessed student growth in several areas of the learning process. First and foremost, the excitement of the students never waned; they were eager to work on it at every opportunity. This, of course, led to discussions about using time wisely, with the reward being a visit to the computer lab to do some ‘wiki work’.
Without question, their research skills grew tremendously, both in the library and in the lab. Although logging on and off our network pages in Blackboard was required to access pre-selected websites provided by the teachers, additional research was necessary (and desired!) on several topics. Evaluating websites became a component of the research process as they began to pay attention to URL extensions, such as .edu, .gov, etc. Furthermore, the children became proficient in using common browser functions, as well as mastering the task of copy/pasting URLs for documentation.
As an adjunct to the research, much emphasis was given on the topics of plagiarism and citing of sources, therefore, language skills grew as the children gained confidence in their ability to communicate information in their own words. Additionally, written mechanics continued to develop from their desire to ‘have everything just right,’ which led to much one-to-one tutoring on their organization of information.
In the area of technology, the luxury of having a school wide network created exposure to the art of navigating folders, along with the ever important concepts of ethical behavior and respecting the privacy of others, as reflected in the school’s Acceptable Use Agreement which the students sign at the beginning of each school year. Peripheral devices such as scanners and digital cameras were used, as well as additional software. For example, Inspiration was used as a graphic organizer, while Timeliner was used to chronologically record events pertaining to the westward expansion.
There was much excitement as the day approached to upload all their hard work onto the wiki. One group of students was first given the responsibility of converting their scanned and digital artwork to jpegs. Another group downloaded their digital pictures from the camera, then uploaded them to the photo hosting site, Bubbleshare
(www.bubbleshare.com ) where I had previously set up an account for them. Next, using Bubbleshare, another group put together their step by step photos of marking the wagon dimensions in the parking lot. Each photo narration was created, then recorded by the students (along with many retakes!). Much discussion was given on the placement of the cowboy hat in each of the pictures, just for fun. All in all, it was a tremendous learning experience for both students and teachers involved. As with any project, mental notes were made for improvements with future ventures. Would we do it again? Absolutely.

Cindy Bode and Allyson Carroll