Present Pedagogical Ecosystem

Social networking is not a bubble filled with colleagues we know. It’s precisely the opposite – an enormous, continuously changing environment in which we choose to collaborate and learn from people we may not know personally. It’s a new pedagogical ecosystem that takes down classroom walls and makes our teaching transparent. We must allow ourselves to be vulnerable to appreciate the power of social networking in education. Unfortunately, many teachers are afraid to take that risk today.

Edmodo is a great example of a dynamic online environment that helps build a learning community in which every member is given a voice and empowered to influence another. I’ve used Edmodo for two years, and I find it to be a perfect platform for teaching digital literacy and writing. Either it’s a brainstorming activity or feedback on a rough draft, Edmodo offers features to do it effectively and efficiently. There is something special about being able to post a question, sit back, and watch kids think and communicate online. I know who my students truly are because Edmodo conversations let the students run the learning show while I am offstage, assessing their skills and academic performance. I love the annotating tool within assignments, too. This feature allows me to comment on student work submitted in any format (documents, Power Point presentations, images, and etc.), converse with a student about mistakes, and continue a one-on-one writing conference in this manner. One click, and students are able to see my notes, start revisions, or ask questions. As each draft improves, Edmodo keeps track of all submitted versions which enables me to see how well students analyze feedback and are able to improve own work. In addition, a few Edmodo apps that support writing instruction in a classroom are available for purchase. Teachers can join Language Art or Writing communities to collaborate with other professionals on specific topics, strategies, or lesson ideas.

To me, Google Docs are a well-packaged collaborative platform, and its possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination. I know many of us create documents and presentations to share with others, but we often forget the purpose of this tool: creating something together, revising, and perfecting it. I imagine Google Docs being an engine for writing instruction. For example, a document can be a place for groups to brainstorm ideas, categorize them, and develop a plan in the pre-writing stage. While writing rough drafts, students can evaluate each other’s work using requirements of a rubric and provide specific feedback to improve it. Writing itself can be collaborative: students may work in pairs to develop a story. Teachers would not need to carry thirty composition books home to read and comment on student writing. Instead, they can dive into it with Google Docs, comment on strength, and define weaknesses upon which students can act immediately.

I also imagine teachers writing together with Google Docs. Why not to set up a document that would serve as a lesson plan template? Teachers can divide and conquer multiple subjects or units at the same time. While one is developing lessons for math, another teacher finishes language arts activities. With no emails or hard copies, both have access to the ready-to-go  lesson plans. Google Docs can help us teach kids how to plan, execute, and evaluate work that is accomplished collaboratively. The same approach can be implemented when developing teaching or professional learning resources. Collaboratively created presentations and documents can then be implemented in classrooms and/or become a part of the school resource library. Below is an example of a short presentation that offers some suggestions on how technology can be implemented in writing instruction.

Honestly, I do not even remember what I did to gather and record information before I learned about Google Forms. Did I take notes on every response and then manually combined them into a data sheet? That’s a scary thought…Today, I use Google Form almost everyday. For example, I fill one out every time I observe teachers and provide feedback on their technology integration strategies. I have developed a simple form and set it up so the feedback is automatically emailed to teachers as soon as I click the submit button. The feedback is immediate, and I have a summary report for every observation I conduct. Then I analyze the combined data, represent it in numbers and graphs, and share it with the staff. I have implemented other forms for the kindergarten registration process, app suggestion surveysthe end-of-the-year technology check list, and many more. Just like social networking tools, Google Docs are a convenient way to support creativity, communication, and collaboration among teachers, students, and parents.

Portable On-Demand Learning

I thought I knew quite enough about podcasting to say I was ready to use it in my classroom. Explorations of podcasts in iTunes and reading about them on the web proved me wrong: I have had only a slight understanding of what this tool truly is and how powerful it may be in daily instruction. My head is spinning with ideas for podcasting in elementary classrooms, and I am eager to share this tool with teachers. Podcasting is an easy way to build lessons in which students are provided with opportunities to think critically, be creative, communicate, and collaborate with each other.

As I try to analyzes what has stopped me from trying out podcasting before, I realize that I always wanted it to be perfect: smooth transitions, no background noise, and studio-like performances from kids. Listening to many examples similar to Mrs. Clark and Mrs. Leiphart’s classes helped me realize that a podcast is a raw genre of communication in which “cracks and pops, obscure music, and “ums” and “ahs” are all part of the podcast genre” (Richardson, 2010, p. 113). Teachers do not have to spend hours polishing audio creations because, with technology tools available today, podcasting is a very time-affordable tool that allows learners to focus on developing powerful content and make technology integration invisible in a classroom. Students need to learn that the quality of the stories they share matters the most, while all technical bells and whistles of putting podcats together will improve with every try.

iTunes offers a colossal collection of podcasts on any topic. I focused on locating some that can be used with elementary students, and I was overwhelmed by the number of them. Using Storynory, a weekly podcast for young children, could be implemented in a classroom as a Listen to Reading center in which students would enjoy classic stories read by professionals. Brains On by Minnesota Public Radio should be a part of every science classroom. The topics discussed in this podcast are intriguing, and invited experts engage listeners in fun learning. Digital Inspiration podcast caught my attention because I love to learn different how-to tricks when it comes to using technology tools. I also found The Reading Room, a newly founded podcast in iTunes and an outstanding resource to learn strategies for teaching digital reading with Common Core curriculum. For my guilty pleasure, I subscribed to Life Habits by Karel Vredenburg, a podcast that addresses topics on social interactions, building relationships, and leadership skills. Listening to different podcasts made me think of how comfortable it was to access them. I was able to take breaks when I needed, go back when I wanted to hear something again, and share podcasts with colleagues by emailing out links directly from iTunes. It made me think that podcast is a perfect tool for portable on-demand learning.

There are many ways podcasts can be integrated in a classroom. Richardson (2010) speaks of recording audio conversations with experts via Skype and integrate them in podcasts – a strategy of which I have never thought before, but find useful. I also want to share the blog post from ClassroomTech on podcasting. It offers step-by step strategies for podcast integration that can be adopted by teachers in any grade level. Podcasts erase the cultural definition of communication as we’ve known it and offer opportunities for kids to unleash their interests and creativity.


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

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.