I don’t actually have students for another three weeks, but, like most teachers, long before a student ever walks through your doors, my mind starts turning to school.
It amazes me every year how much more of my classroom set up stuff I can do without actually being in my classroom. I need to go in to get my class lists, my schedule, and to hand paper on my bulletin boards, but besides that, I can do almost all of my set up from home. Welcoming letters, lesson and unit planning and all of my classroom tech infrastructure can be done from anywhere.
Today I decided that it was time to start looking at a few of my essential pieces: blogs and wikis.
I’ve used Idea Hive as my classroom brand for almost a decade. The site itself has moved around, starting at David Warlick’s Class Blogmeister, to edublogs when they were first starting out, to Worpdress.com, and then finally to my own self hosting set up. I still believe that having a central classroom space (I call it a mother blog) is important. It’s open to the world, I can post whatever I want on it and make it the homepage of all of my classroom laptops, forcing kids to see what I post on their each time they turn on a computer. I’ve thought a lot of the years to moving to a Facebook page or group as well as other technologies, but in the end, I’ve always stayed with WordPress as my platform. It is customizable, I can add plugins to it to add functionality that I might want, it generates an RSS feed for people to subscribe to, and, most importantly, I have control of the data if I want to add something or delete from it.
This year I have decided to start with a basic WordPress setup that I have added Buddypress to as a plugin. This will allow me or my students to add discussion groups and forums to our site. As the year goes on we can also add additional functionality such as wikis if we need them.
Eventually each of the students in my class will set up a space of their own. This year I’m thinking of doing it differently than in the past, working kids up from discussion groups to wiki contributors and then to “graduating” to their own space. I’m not sure about this. I’ll have to sort it out.
In opposition to most of the wikis I use in the class, this blog gets emptied every year. I think that each class deserves it’s own space to grow into. This means that each year this site gets emptied out and rebuilt. This gives us a clean slate.
I also took a look today at a wiki that I’ve been using since 2007. Studying Societies is a simple wikispace that I’ve used on and off for all of that time. This is a space that we use for our study of history. Keeping a single space for this long in a small town has led to interesting dinner conversations in more than a few homes as younger siblings check out the editing history of certain pages and find work completed by older brothers and sisters. They take great joy in reediting their work!
This space I don’t clean out from year to year as I want the students to see that they are part of a continuum of students who have worked to build up collected knowledge over years. They like to see what others before them have done and get the opportunity to add missing pieces. After this many years we are starting to compete with link rot when it comes to some of the images and videos that are embedded.
This will need to be a priority for this year’s incoming class.
The same tools – wikis and WordPress have been cornerstones of my classroom for a long time. But both of these tools are powerful and flexible enough that they evolve with me and my classroom. I can alter them and make them match different classes of students and my needs.