Wikispaces For Designing Common Core Activities

Are you wondering where to begin to adopt the Common Core ELA standards? While there are many individual standards to sift through,it’s important to take a step back and look at the big picture to gain an understanding of the importance of the teacher’s role in designing  learning experiences to facilitate a more active classroom that supports students as producers.
The Common Core calls for the seamless integration of technology into the curriculum. This requires students and their teachers to develop digital literacy, a term defined by Wikipedia as:

“The ability to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies. It requires one to recognize and use that power, to manipulate and transform digital media, to distribute pervasively, and to easily adapt them to new forms.”

To truly embrace the Common Core Standards perhaps it is necessary for teachers  to put some distance between themselves and scripted curriculum and utilize their own digital literacy skills to become designers. Fortunately, there are many free and user friendly digital tools available for designing the types of learning experiences that will help students develop the skills necessary for success in school and beyond.
Choosing Web 2.0 Tools
Every designer needs a toolkit. A good starting point is to find and utilize a flexible online learning platform that supports a variety of multimedia. Choose tools that support video, audio, images, links and text to provide students with flexible learning paths to support their diverse needs. Choose tools that facilitate collaboration and provide opportunities to extend discussions beyond the classroom  24/7. To keep the focus on the learning instead of the tech, choose digital tools that are user friendly.
There are many tools that meet this criteria and it’s important to note that choosing the right tool for yourself and your students is a personal decision.  It’s not about the tool, it’s about how you use the tool for teaching and learning. My toolkit is filled with tools I use regularly, but one of my personal favorite learning platforms is Wikispaces because it’s a simple tool that has many useful features for designing and implementing Common Core aligned learning experiences.
Wikispaces: A Closer Look 
Wikispaces can be used as a virtual classroom to support 21st Century Learning and the Common Core.  This free and user friendly tool is used to create a collaborative website  that allows members to easily edit and contribute content.  K-12 educator accounts are ad free and they provide wiki organizers, or teachers, with the opportunity to add users, which means students do not need an email account to fully contribute. Settings allow wikis to be public or private and wiki organizers can control individual pages within the wiki.
Members of a well designed wiki spend time reading, writing and collaborating with others from locations near and far. The Common Core supports the idea of students writing and creating for an audience and a wiki offers an exciting way for them to become engaged in real world learning experiences with opportunities to publish for an audience. Here are some of the features that make Wikispaces a good tool for designing and facilitating Common Core aligned learning experiences
A simple widget lets you embed most Web 2.0 tools into any wiki page to provide students with multiple and flexible means of engaged learning. This makes a wiki a useful tool for supporting the unique needs of all learners.
A built in discussion area is available to facilitate the types of deep discussions suggested by the Common Core.  Users can start their own discussion and collaborate with others near and  far.  Users can moderate discussions and respond to ideas presented by other wiki members.
Designed specifically for classroom use, this feature has streamlined the process of organizing and implementing collaborative projects by allowing wiki organizers to set aside private space for project based teamwork.
Templates are like a virtual copy machine that can provide students with a starting point for any project. Save  time and provide built in support for learning by creating and using templates that include prompts, links, directions, formatting and more.

Ideas to Support the Common Core

Reading Informational Text, Writing, Speaking & Listening Standards

  • Create a template with links to multiple sources of informational text on a topic and provide students with a guiding question or prompt that requires them to gather information and write an argument or response to support an idea using evidence from the text. Use the discussion area to facilitate discussions about each of the student writings and allow students to moderate discussions about their own work. Teach students to respond appropriately to the ideas of others through modeling and extended opportunities to expand the walls of the classroom.
  • Utilize the projects workspace to facilitate project based learning activities that require students to collaborate and make decisions to find solutions to a real world problem. Allow students to present their knowledge and ideas using multimedia supported Web 2.0 tools, and use a widget to embed the projects on the wiki for sharing. Design nontraditional sharing activities that require students to be engaged with the content presented and respond to it through the discussion area.
  • Designate a section of the wiki specifically for building academic vocabulary. Allow students to use Web 2.0 tools to construct knowledge about the terms. Make this an ongoing activity throughout the year to create a relevant interactive reference for students.
  • Give students a voice by providing them with opportunities to regularly submit feedback and ask questions on the wiki.  Consider embedding a Google Form used as an exit ticket to collect information, or use any number of free tools for collecting information.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to remember that a tool is only useful if it’s used well.  Using digital tools to create digital versions of  the same things we’ve been doing for years will not help us meet the Common Core.  Instead, teachers must design learning experiences that require students to be active participants in the learning process.

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