Monday, October 29, 2012

Incorporating Technology (Such as Social Networking) Into the Classroom

The majority of schools prohibit the use of personal computer devices in school; and the students are also prohibited to use school computers to access any type of social networking site because they are regarded as a waste of time and a risk to the safety of the students, particularly talking about those in elementary. But as the years go by, we are more and more immersed in and with technology, so much that there will be a time where schools can no longer turn their heads from, nor shut their eyes to technology and will have to embrace it and look for ways to efficiently incorporate it into their curriculum, daily activities, and lesson plans.

I understand why schools are afraid to let technology be fully integrated. After all, it would just raise one more flag to watch out to make sure students are safe, that they aren’t taking risky actions nor engaging in dangerous or improper conversations. But, the way I see technology is surrounding us, schools should turn the tables, teach students how to be safe and take precautions, and allow them to make use of the tools and benefit from those in a safe and educational rich environment.

Taking twitter for example, a very simple to use but robust social network tool, teachers could easily take advantage of the easiness and accessibility that it provides for posting and have the classroom post summaries or list major key points of an article or chapter that they may be assigned to read. All thought each post is limited to 140 characters, many of the available tools, such as Tweet Caster (, that allow you to post longer by adding a URL link (hyperlink) to your post that redirects to the full post when clicked.

One other way twitter can be utilized in the classroom, is by having students post (suggest) a hyperlink to a useful web resource, an interesting blog, video, or website that may further explain or exemplify a concept, or a related article, of the topic under study. Also students could tweet their reactions and/or comments to any book that they are reading.
It is only a matter of years before we are one-hundred times more dependent and involved with technology that we can even imagine. Today is the time that school can start taking action and incorporating technology devices and tools into their daily activities so that they do not become overwhelmed in the near future with so much technology that they won’t even know where to start, what, or how to use it.

Marco Cesar Saenz
Using Web Tools in the Classroom

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Empowering Students One Podcast At a Time

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We have previously discussed about the effectiveness and usefulness of utilizing text publishing tools, such as wikis, collaborative software, and web apps that allow students to create digital stories. Text is not the only thing students can freely publish, they can also enhance their blogs and/or other publications or documents with audio and video. With the availability and easiness of use of free pod-casting tools, there was no reason why pod-casts (in the form of either video or audio) would not become part of the classroom settings and empower students with more tools to express themselves and their ideas. And as it turns out, according to Will Richardson, in his book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, because of the easiness of the use of these tools, the possibilities of what to publish are endless and the projects can be as complex or as simple as one designs them to be.

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To give two examples of how pod-casts can be incorporated into the classroom: First, the yearbook class could prepare a series of video pod-casts on a documentary on the reflections and thoughts of the graduating 8th grade students, which not only can be uploaded to YouTube, a storage server (the school's or a free server such as,, or Gcast), or the classroom blog, but which could also be linked from the yearbook with a QR bar-code, which have grown so popular nowadays. Secondly, Students in 5th through 8th grade could record audio pod-casts on reflections, inferences, and synthesis of the different sections of their textbook units, such as history and/or science. These pod-casts could be created and posted easily on the Internet and if posted on a Blog, they could be used as a start up point for a discussion, students could ask any questions they have on a particular section and the rest of the students would be able to help them, answer their questions, explain the material in their words, and as a result, students will be teaching students. Also questions on the material covered could be prompted by the teacher and or other students in the form of comments to the original posts and students could be asked to discuss the answer to these and to formulate a final, complete answer for each.

Marco Cesar Saenz
Using Web Tools in the Classroom

Image 1, retrieved from:, on October 25, 2012.

Image 2, retrieved from: on October 25, 2012.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wiki-ing in the Classroom: Ideas for Using Wikis in the Classroom

                                                        (Image 1)

I'm new to 7th and 8th grade this year and I am teaching English, history, and science classes. We started working on the students' science project a few weeks back, where students, so far, have had to gather at least five bibliography sources for the first couple of days, then they created at least two outline drafts in a two-week period, created 25 note-cards with information from the bibliography sources that would address each point of their outlines, and as of this week, they have started working on the first draft of their background paper.

One thing I have noticed during these weeks working in revising and editing drafts, is that previous drafts and older versions of each assignment are usually discarded or lost by students. Edits and changes, and thus, the evolution of the outlines, of the gathered information, and of the project as a whole, are lost from one assignment to the next. As I was reading this week about Wikis, I continuously thought about how useful these repository tools would be for my students' science project to keep track of assignments, post instructions and suggestions for students to further clarify what was expected of them, and have a historical of all the changes that are made day to day and from one step to the next.

Wikis would better help students get organized and on task during their research process (Teehan, 2010), as of now, it has been hard to have 12 and 13 year-old students take good care of their 25 note-cards, keep track of the step they should be working next and deadlines, and avoiding misplacing the note-cards or previous drafts or losing these, and when they do have to turn in any one of the steps, it has been very hard to have the students remember to bring to school the previous assignments to see the project as a whole and in all its evolving phases (i.e. if the note-cards are due, they will bring the note-cards, but not the outline or the bibliography sources).

I liked the idea of using wikis as a storehouse for in-progress documents and a nice tool for publishing the finished projects. It would be very encouraging and exciting for the students to see how their projects started, how they evolved, and to have the finished results published on the Internet. Students would also be able to create post-assignment pages were they could also upload photos and video of the science fair to keep for posterity (Teehan, 2010).

One available feature of the wikis that would be very interesting to see applied in the project process would be the discussion tab. In this section, students could be encouraged to post any questions they may have about the project and offer or ask for suggestions to other students. Also students could be empowered and would gain greater ownership of their projects if they check and analyze each other’s work, will begin to teach each other, and will develop the students’ collaborative skills (Richardson, 2010). As of now, with the printed or written works, students are pretty much left out of the process of suggesting improvements, they are ignorant of the details of the rest of the projects, and are not able to compare and contrast their work to that of others in the class to find out and discover for themselves what they are missing or ways to improve their work.

Other uses for the wikis in the classroom would be (1) to publish step-by-step directions and rubrics for students and parents to use and consult, (2) for students to collectively assemble artifacts, publish summaries of the units studied and/or pose and answer related questions or explanations that can serve as a start point for future classes and will aid them when preparing for a test (Richardson, 2010), and (3) to post deadlines and upcoming steps so students get a more visual and detailed vision and understanding of the big picture.

Marco Cesar Saenz
Using Web Tools in the Classroom


Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Clasrooms (3rd ed.), Corwin Press. Pp. 55-70.

Teehan, K. (2010). The Library Wiki. In Wikis: The Educator's Power Tool, Chapter 4, pp. 35-41.

Image 1 Retrieved from: on October 11, 2012

Marco Cesar Saenz
Using Web Tools in the Classroom