Saturday, August 14, 2010

New Tools for Back to School

By now, many teachers are already thinking, reviewing, planning and building material for the beginning of the new school year.  Here are two important tools that I will be revisiting this week as I prepare for this upcoming year: wikis (I use but there are many other wiki engines) and Prezi.

I'm sure that everyone has heard of wikis but not everyone has tried them as their digital classroom.  I've been working with wikis (love the alliteration possible with "wiki") for three years and I'm still convinced that they are the superior digital tool for the classroom.  I could go on singing their praises for a long time but instead I'll refer the reader to previous blog posts about the wonders of the wiki (there's that alliteration again!).  I'm including a prezi I made when I presented to LCEEQ in February 2010 about the digital classroom.

 Unfortunately, the prezi presentation does not stand alone and will only give you the briefest of ideas of how powerful wikis can be.  Readers can also use this public wiki I made to accompany that presentation. One of the great things about pbworks is the simplicity and accessibility of their platform. You can keep your wiki private and allow only your students to access it or you can make it public and still control who can contribute.   And all of this is FREE.  If you want more control, then you need to buy the premium version that allows you to hide and/or lock pages and folders.

My students appreciated the organization they gained because everything we did was on the wiki.  I created one page where I listed the topics covered (so they could also see what was coming in a few weeks), the assignments/homework and due dates but best of all, I linked the classroom resources to that page.  Not only did this remove any excuses like, "I was absent Miss" but I made that page public so the parents could be informed.  By the senior grades, parents don't want to be checking their child's agenda but if you add the url of this wiki page to your class syllabus that parents read and sign, then they will have access to this precious information.  It's so important to include the parents in their child's learning journey and wikis are a great way to do this.  Here's what that page looked like for the anthropology class.

Prezis are my favorite way to present anything because of the dynamic movement of text and images on screen.  Importance of ideas is created by hierarchy of text size and the zooming effect around prezi's infinite canvas. Embed prezis on blogs, wikis and webpages that you create for your classroom is very easy.  It is not very difficult to learn but I do recommend looking at the onsite tutorials to help you on your learning curve.  My students love prezi and last year began using it as a platform for presentations instead of powerpoint.  Anything to avoid 'death by powerpoint' is a good thing! Here's a tutorial that uses prezi.


  1. Nice post. I too like Prezi and I'm slowly moving my presentations from traditional slideshows to Prezi. I wish I could put audio in Prezi though. As you noted, Prezi by itself isn't the best. I want to put Prezi material on my site with lecture audio to go with it. As of right now, Prezi will only take flash based audio. Still, Prezi rocks for live presentations though.

    Question, are you using Wikis as your sole online learning management system, or do you use it in conjunction with other tools? (Moodle, Blackboard, etc...)

  2. Hey Chris,

    The college has a not very good and very expensive CMS that teachers must use. In the past, I've used It's free and in the cloud. As for the audio in prezi, I've found that a simple link to a video has done the job for me. You might try Aviary or for embedding audio but I haven't tried it on prezi yet.