Pearls of Information

When we have something special, we treasure it.  When we treasure something, we keep it in a special place.  The Web is full of treasures: interactive tools, social networks, videos, images, blogs, wikis, and more.  There is so much, and it is overwhelming to fit it all into one place. For me, that special place is Pearltrees.

Just like Diigo, Pearltrees is a bookmarking tool that allows users to collect, organize, and curate information found online.  Individual preferences for classifying and organizing information help grow unique pearltrees.  Users can reorganize their favorite pearls within a tree in a very simple fashion – drag and drop.  It is just as easy to pick a pearl from someone else’s tree and add to own collections.  I love the fact that I receive notifications when any of my single pearls or whole pearltrees gets picked by another user because it helps me discover who has the same interests as me . I may choose to follow another users’ pearltrees or even organize a pearltree team, a place for people with the same interests to work collaboratively and grow collections.  The owner of a peartree completely controls who can become a team contributor.  For example, I have the Online Collaboration Tools team that is our “folksonomy” (Richardson, 2010, p. 91), a social community of educators joined by the same interest.  It helps us work smarter and more efficiently as we are traveling the roads of the enormous Web in an attempt to map out the most significant resources to support our passion.

Pearltrees provides users with tools to take notes and upload images.  The icon of each pearl is a visual representation of the bookmarked resource that allows users to preview the site before going out to the actual url.  Anyone can comment on pearls and converse about the topic.  It reminds me of Twitter; only favorite tweets are combined into a string of pearls.  With a premium account, users are able to highlight and post notes which makes Pearltrees very similar to Diigo.  I also love to see the statistics of my pearltrees: how many pearls are picked and by whom, how many comments are posted, and how many views each pearl has received in general.  In addition, every pearl can be shared with others with provided embedding codes and shortened links. Users are able to connect Pearltrees with their Twitter or Facebook accounts to make it easy to bookmark resources and post them onto multiple platforms with one click.  As Diigo uses Diigolet, Pearltrees uses Pearler to make it convenient to add web resources to collections.  If I am not sure where I want to add a certain pearl at the moment I pick it, the drop zone is the place where I can temporarily store the pearl until I decide how it should be categorized and to which tree it needs to be added.

Since Pearltrees requires a log in for creating pearltrees, elementary students cannot use this tool individually.  Teachers may choose to use this tool to provide young students with resources for certain topics.  However, middle and high school students can take a full advantage of this tool to work collaboratively to collect resources, curate information, and share notes.  I use Pearltrees to organize resources for teachers. Below is my Pearltree of online treasures:

azink and Inspirational / Assessment / Inforgraphics / Presentation Tools in Alena Zink (azink)

Organize your interests with the Pearltrees’ app for Android

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. California: Corwin A SAGE Company.

Sticky Learning with Wikis

About five years ago, I remember my first time reading the title of a presentation on wikis posted in the GaETC brochure and thinking that only people with a bizarre imagination could come up with a word like that. I had no idea what the word meant and how it could possibly be used in a classroom. I went to to the session to find out and was struck by the tool and its possibilities in learning. Will Richardson (2010) calls it a very democratic tool that allows people to collaboratively create knowledge, and I cannot agree more with his statement. Wikispaces is a presently used platform for collaboration in Forsyth County Schools, and every teacher and student has a private account under our own domain. Use of wikis is not in my future – it is my present. 

In our school’s future, I see wikis being widely utilized as a tool owned and driven by student curiosity, passions, and contributions. If “everyone together is smarter than anyone alone” (Richardson, 2010, p. 57), then teachers need to stop being gatekeepers of wiki creations. Let kids collect, show off, and share their knowledge in the way sixth graders do in Code Blue. Is it perfect? Does the teacher in me want to pull out a red pen and make recommendations and corrections? I know you’re nodding your head… But what matters is the process, the actual learning that takes place in that classroom. Locating, analyzing, and evaluating information for each doctor’s page involves reading, comprehension, and writing skills, and they are taught in such a relevant and purposeful manner. Maybe Thousands Project seems to be a simple list of items, but I urge you to think about the lesson kids acquire: learning is a collaborative process, and it should not be contained by classroom walls. The entire world is our learning community. If third graders in Let’s Go West are able collectively create a snapshot of US history, with links to additional resources and citations of images, then they will grow up to be valuable knowledge contributors of our society. 

Wikis make learning stick. They are not just an online publishing place. They are a domain of learning where each student is a digital citizen who plays a valid role of a contributor. As Vicki Davis said, learning with wikis introduces students to their future. As an instructional technology coach, I plan to integrate wikis into the process of collaborative unit planning with teachers and support them in implementation of this tool in their instructional practices. 


Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. California: Corwin A SAGE Company.

4Cs of Student Blogs in Elementary School

Five years ago, Konard Glogowski shared his experiences with blogs in the high-school classroom and described the Ripple Effect as a method to facilitate reflective talk with students and help them become evolving writers. It amazes me that today his post still has the ripple effect on readers, myself included! It is a thought-provoking, want-to-do-the-right thing kind of a post that inspires me to reflect on my teaching craft. If the focus of blogging is not mechanics of writing, then what matters? Since secondary and elementary levels are quite different, I’ve started thinking of what Glogowski-style blogging would look like in an elementary school. My ideas have shaped into 4 Cs of blogging in elementary grades. 
First C is for Connections…Writing a blog challenges students to search and connect with a topic. Blog writing is not journaling about events in one’s life, but thinking about information and connecting it with personal experiences (Richardson, 2010). Such writing requires critical thinking skills (Educational Origami refers to them as Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy): searching for information, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating multiple texts, and contributing new ideas by writing them in a blog.  
Second C is for Clarity…Writing down own thoughts may be easy, but formulating them in a clear and well-organized manner is usually a challenge for many elementary students. We teach organization and structure of many writing genres required by Common Core Standards and make students practice them in writing journals. Writing a blog makes writing process relevant and meaningful. Students write with a real audience in mind, and, therefore, they are interested in making themselves understood and excepted. With specific, targeted feedback from teachers and peers, students incline to revise, reorganize, and clarify their blog entries.  
Third C is for Comments…As I mentioned in my last blog post, comments are the pulse of blogging. This is when real teaching and learning take place. As teachers or students comment on each other’s posts, they become a part of “connective writing”, and that’s when the true learning begins (Richardson, 2010). While writing or reading comments on blogs, students revise their thinking, ask questions, clarify their thoughts, and become passionate experts of the topic. The Ripple Effect is what makes blogging a powerful tool for teaching and learning writing process. 
Fourth C is for Conventions…Of course, writing online should include correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Students should learn to revise and edit their blog posts multiple times before letting them go “live”. In addition, blog has its specific conventions that students need to learn to understand and integrate: good title, tags, properly hyperlinked sources, and references. 

Based on the 4 Cs described above, I developed a rubric that can be used to assess student blogs posts and comments in elementary classrooms : 


Educational Origami. (n.d). Rubrics – Bloom’s digital taxonomy. Retrieved from 

Franker, K. (2012). A rubric for evaluating student blogs.Retrieved from

Long, C. (n.d). Blogging scoring rubric.Retrieved from

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. California: Corwin A SAGE Company.

Richardson, W. (n.d). Retrieved September 6, 2013 from the Will Richardson’s Wiki: