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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Creating a Summer Reading Network

This summer I created a summer reading network that allowed me to monitor the progress of my AP English Language students. They are reading 1 Dead in Attic by Chris Rose and I have asked them to read and annotate the text very closely. I also wanted to monitor their progress by questioning them throughout the summer at varying intervals and compose a response journal. This is all standard, but how could I provide oversight and seamless communication with my students who are scattered around Philadelphia, the Jersey Shore, and Senegal?

Tools

  • Google Voice
  • Google Calendar
  • Blogger
  • Wikispaces
  • Process

    I first created a wikispace for our summer reading assignments and communication. This forum has always worked well for me and allows for transparency and ease of use. Plus, students can take ownership over the site and can make the site theirs. The wikispace is also a great starting point for students to post external links to their blogs.

    Once the wikispace was up and running I introduced all of my AP students to the website after school. I spent 30 minutes covering the basics of a wikispace - edits, posting, linking, etc. - and also showed them how I could see every edit they made. Yes, big brother will always be watching. Any time you use a wikispace, stress the history tool and how you can see everything that is edited.

    After I set up the wikispace, I had the students create a blogger account and give it a title. Their title could be anything they wanted as long as it was appropriate. Once they had their blog created they copied the link to our blog roll on the wikispace and created an external link on their name.

    I embedded a Google Calendar on the wikispace and would post new assignments via our calendar and post handouts using attached Google Documents. All of my students carry cell phones and probably check them more than my parents check the weather. I can easily type up a mass text message to my students via Google Voice and remind them to look for assignments and also any updates I have to convey. This allows for ease of communication and I can always be reached if they have a question. For those who like to be left alone in the summer, you may just want to stick to email communication or pigeons.

    The Results

    My students are reading weekly and responding to the assignments on their blogs. We are in constant communication via Google Voice and they check the Google Calendar embedded on the wikispace every Monday for assignments. They have are genuinely interested in reading each others blogs weekly and commenting on what their peers are writing. And remember, this is all happening during the summer months. My students are basically learning year round, only the classroom structure is missing. I feel confident and excited coming into the beginning of the school year knowing that my students were engaged readers and writers all summer.

    This type of assignment can easily be incorporated during the school year and it may be something you want to set up and have ready for the beginning of the school year. The setup is the most work for the teacher, but once you have the elements mentioned in the above process set up you can easily manage your class room in the summer and during the school months.

    This is the way I like to set up my classroom. You may want to explore other platforms for classroom social networking such as moodle, edmodo, schoology, facebook, etc. However, the wikispace has always been a platform that allows for seamless student participation and classroom transparency. Please provide comments if you have tried this type of assignment. I am interested to hear positive and negative feedback concerning your experience with building a classroom social network. Maybe you used twitter in conjunction or one of the aforementioned platforms for housing your student work.

    If you would like more information on this assignment and future assignments, please feel free to contact me.

Comments (31)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

Hi Sylvia,

I threw your question out to our Twitter community and this answer came back that I thought was useful from @jpstelz:

"@edutopia This link provides guidelines in cr8ing & using wikis from Vicki Davis' Blog, Tips for Teaching Wikis. http://bit.ly/96Z4Rb?"

For those that can't access bit.ly, here's the full link: http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2010/05/tips-for-teaching-wikis-how-i...(Cool+Cat+Teacher+Blog)

Also, we've done quite a few articles on Wikis that may be helpful: http://www.edutopia.org/search/apachesolr_search/wiki

[quote]Help! I don't know how to create a wikispace. I'm not even really sure what it is but it sounds like something I would love to create for my AP class.[/quote]

laura fleming's picture
laura fleming
LIbrarian for K-6 School

I chose to use wikispaces because for free they allowed me to very easily generate 500 usernames and passwords for my students. With PB Works the students had to provide an email address which I didn't want my students to have to do.

Diane Darrow's picture
Diane Darrow
Artist and Educator
Blogger 2014

This is awesome. I asked to be a member. I love the dialogue between the students, the titles are also interesting.

laura fleming's picture
laura fleming
LIbrarian for K-6 School

Happy to have you as a member! Feel free to post as well! With one group of 4th graders we taught them the proper way to comment online- see this voicethread http://voicethread.com/#q.b1152680.i6236562. It went so well that next year this will be a lesson I teach to all of my 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. Although their comments are good in the wiki, I think that they can be even better. This is how our students communicate and even if we don't use social media in our schools, I believe we still have to teach them how to be efficient and effective users.

Julia Van Dame's picture

It is great that you are using technology to gets students involved over the summer. Great idea! I like the idea of using this not only in the summer months but also during the school year. How long have you been doing this? Have you seen much progress in student involvement and achievement because of implementing this technology? Thanks for sharing this idea with all.

Julia Van Dame's picture

What a fantastic idea. How long have you been using the technology in this way. Have you noticed an icrease in student involvement since this has been incorporated? Thanks for sharing this with us!

laura fleming's picture
laura fleming
LIbrarian for K-6 School

Thanks! I have always incorporated technology into my lessons in one way or another- but this year I made it my goal to incorporate as many of the Web 2.0 tools out there as possible. The increase in student involvement and interest has been astounding. Plus the SM technologies allow for parents and families to be involved.

dennisar's picture

I do.

THE GLOG
Copy the embed code from the poster on Glogster. You'll find a button in the bottom right corner below the poster for copying the embed code. Here's a Glog poster I created: http://tinyurl.com/24gatdw

THE WIKI
Place your cursor on the wiki page where you want to place the poster and open the edit bar. In Wikispaces.com, for example, click on the widget button. Then click on other html. Paste the embed code, save it and voila! Now you have a Glog poster on the wiki.

Colleagues and the kids will be impressed by the poster design, but the kids will engage in the learning, which is just as impressive, I think.

Regards,

Dennis

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