Frequently, I stumble across tweets that refer to blog posts about best Web 2.0 tools for education. Over 20 Free Digital Classroom Tools, The 100 Best Web 2.0 Classroom Tools Chosen By You, and 10 of the Best Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers are just a few to mention. I always get excited when I read these posts because novelty is a key to engagement in any classroom. Unfortunately, my eagerness dies out quickly since most listed tools can be used only by students older than thirteen years of age. The feeling of disappointment always makes me feel as though elementary students are left behind when it comes to having an access to a wide variety of online tools.
Thankfully, there is a magic pixie that comes to my rescue every time students need to create digital stories, prepare presentations, publish writing, make posters, complete graphic organizers, or design comics – Wixie, a Tech4Learning program that offers many possibilities for students to unleash their creativity. The software is completely web-based, and Wixie apps are available for Androids, iPads, and Kindle Fire that makes it a perfect tool for a BYOT classroom. Shapes, stickers, voice recordings, text features, layering options, and drawing/paining tools provide students with multiple options to express their thinking and demonstrate what they learn in unique ways. The library in Wixie is full of public domain images (Pics4Learning), backgrounds, and graphic organizers that can be used by students. Users can collaborate on projects and export/import each other’s pages to put together and present their group’s work. Students have ePortfolios in which they can place their best work and collect projects throughout a school year. Publishing projects cannot be any easier: students are able to copy and share a unique url for each project or embed them into blogs, wikis, or other online tools. In addition, creations can be exported as MP4, MOV, HTML, Flash, PDF, or ePub files. If needed, students and teachers can choose to set a passcode to access projects online. Such option may be a handy tool when students work on narratives and share personal information.
Managing Wixie projects and assessing student work are very simple processes that can save time for teachers. They access classes with a teacher account to monitor student work, align assignments to standards, and comment on individual projects. In addition, teachers are able to assign Wixie activities to students based on their individual needs to differentiate instruction. Creating a built-in rubric for each activity is a powerful feature that helps with standard-based reporting and academic progress monitoring. Teachers do not need to carry home loads of papers to grade and provide feedback to students. All of it can be done in Wixie. Collaboration among teachers is supported as well. They are able to develop projects/activities with specific rubrics attached and share them in the school’s shared folder where they can be copied, edited, and assigned by others. If sharing resources within one school is not enough, Creative Educator is an online community for teachers to share project and lesson ideas, post examples of student work, and support each other. Communication, collaboration, and creativity are evident components of Wixie.
Like with any online tool, users may face some challenges when working in Wixie. First of all, this tool is not free. An annual subscription is required for every student. We are lucky to have a county-wide license for this wonderful tool. I know I would do everything possible to get the subscription if it was not provided. PTA, technology grants, and Book Fair fundraisers can be used to sponsor the program. Another possible problem with Wixie is connectivity issues that can cause a disastrous lesson. To avoid it, I suggest using this tool for small groups, center rotations, independent work, or homework assignments instead of in a lab setting. Lastly, kindergarten students may have difficulties learning their usernames and passwords and not be able to quickly log in to Wixie without assistance. Implementation of Techno Buddies (a partnership between kindergarten and fifth grade classrooms) can be a solution to help young students learn the procedure quickly. Why not to think of a collaborative project between them, too?
As you may have noticed, I am a little be-witched by Wixie. Some teachers call it Wixie Wonderland, and I cannot agree more: the program is definitely has a magic touch that can transform any classroom into a student-driven learning environment.