Educational technology sites are often sorted into 3 main categories: social, creative/collaborative, and curation. Each serve a specific purpose. Social sites, as we know, keep us connected and allow us to share important (and sometimes not so important) information. Creative/ collaborative sites allow us to create new web-based content alone or in collaboration with others – valuable for both teaching and learning. Curation sites allow us to easily bookmark like-sites in one web-based page, allowing us to access our bookmarks from any internet connected device, not just our own computer.
When it comes to social media sites, you’re hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t use Facebook. Although I won’t really use it in kindergarten to enhance student learning directly, I can use it to effect students indirectly through communication with their parents. This year, I wanted to set up a classroom/teacher facebook page to help keep parents connected with what is going on in our classroom. Due to the specific demographics of my classroom, I struggle to have parents look at the information that comes home in their child’s binder, let alone read it. Some choose to not read information I send home – some cannot read it, no matter what language I send it home in. My ideas was to have a Facebook page where I could upload quick video clips in English and Spanish to help the home/school communication. Unfortunately, my idea was shut down by my school district. Although my district and school have Facebook pages, there is still a lot of fear around misuse of Facebook: misrepresentation, fear around controlling what others post on my teacher page, etc. I was told to try Edmodo. However, that doesn’t work for me. If parents are going to read information sent home in paper form, they’re not going to go out of their way to read another website. The beauty and ease of Facebook is that it’s all right there. If you subscribe to a page, the updates and posts are shown to you automatically. I was looking for ease of communication and Facebook has it. Unfortunately, I don’t have it (for professional use) yet. But I’ll keep trying.
When it comes to creation/collaboration tools, I spent some time checking out VoiceThread. VoiceThread allows the user to create an interactive slideshow or presentation that seamlessly embeds images, slides, or voiceover. You can record a video and/or audio alongside specific slides. One benefit of VoiceThread over Prezi or other presentation sites is that viewers have the ability to record voice comments on the information provided. It would most commonly be used for students to watch teacher created threads as part of a flipped or blended classroom. However, with adult support, kindergarteners could create short individual (or longer class) voicethreads that teach and or explain their thinking. I can see how older students would be more likely to create these threads on their own as part of a collaborative project or homework assignment. Again, if there is internet access and parental support, threads can be created to help support learning at home.
Curation tools are excellent ways to keep your information and tools in one place. You can keep different “boards” of sites so that it is easy to find and use. I tried out both Symbaloo and EduClipper and found that they both paled in comparison to Pinterest. Although they both seemed to do the job well enough, neither of them had enough content for what I was looking for. In addition, when you’re cruising around the internet looking for instructional tools, there is no “symbaloo” or “educlipper” button on people’s pages. There are, however, Pinterest buttons and that helps with ease of use. I don’t understand why we need to reinvent the wheel just for educational use. Also, things I “clipped” on EduClipper were hard to find. Sometimes they were there, sometimes they weren’t! That’s frustrating! There are reasons that the popular sites are popular – they work well! Again, due to the fact that this is kindergarten, I don’t see my students using these sites – they are just for my own educational and instructional use. I can see how it would be beneficial for older students to have accounts so that they may curate their own material in a safe environment that (hopefully) complies with child safety and security acts. In hopes of not being too negative, I will say that there is a great kinderchat Symbaloo that I use regularly. Although I won’t use it to create my own mixes, I love using this one!
Overall, there are great sites for social, collaborative, and curation of information on the web. Dig around, check out some of the links, and decide for yourself what works best. I, for one, choose to use the same sites I use personally for work – it seems to keep things more simple for me. However, I see value in having strictly educational sites. For older students, they are much more “safe.” At a kinder level, though, these sites are for me to better my teaching practice, so I’ll stick with what I have.