You are on page 1of 7

Web 2.

0 tools have been proven beneficial within the classroom learning environment when purposefully integrated with the over-arching goal of what students should accomplish. Students in one 4th grade classroom learned about Twitter, Pinterest, blogging, backchanneling, and video podcasts to achieve their goal of educating others about the importance of archeology while helping them improve their abilities to understand non-fiction, content- specific works. These tools enhanced students critical and creative thinking, analysis, and problem-solving skills. Success was noted as students became digitally literate learners, developing and interacting with a professional learning network to facilitate their understanding of preserving the past through the use of innovative application of technologies. Class or subject area: Gifted and Talented/Archeology Grade level(s): 4 Specific learning objectives: Gather, organize, analyze, and apply information and ideas about archeology and the importance of preserving the past. Recognize and solve problems to develop and carryout a plan to help educate others about the importance of understanding past cultures through archeology. Think critically about possible solutions for making the biggest impact to understanding the past through archeology. Communicate effectively through writing, verbal expression, and visual presentation about the importance of archeological preservation. Work responsibly as an individual, a group member and a leader as they find a way to educate others about archeologys importance.

Creative Commons License: CC BY-NC-ND Author contact: Author Biography: Samantha Miller Anth is a teacher of gifted in the Rockwood School District in St. Louis, Missouri. She earned her doctorate in in Educational Administration from Lindenwood University in 2011. Karen Giesler is a teacher of gifted in the Rockwood School District in St. Louis, Missouri. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching recipient, and Rockwood Outstanding Service in Education awardee. Her self-authored unit, Lasers in Use was recognized as a national model in curriculum design by the National Association for Gifted Children. Activity Summary

Anniversary Book Project


Understanding Past Cultures Through Archaeology

By: Karen Giesler and Samantha Anth

Archeology is a cooperative undertaking involving a variety of scientific disciplines that illuminate the unwritten history of past cultures. Archeology is an important field of study for two reasons: First, the worldwide remains of the human past are a precious and irreplaceable resource found in a fragile environment threatened by destruction. Secondly, the sites and remains that have somehow survived are our sole source of knowledge about the vast majority of past cultures who shaped the world as we know it today. Archeology is a necessary and important endeavor that can reveal human selfknowledge and can provide lessons for the future. The unit curriculum helps students understand the significance and thrill of archeology so they better understand the importance of preserving their past. Throughout the unit, students must decide, How we can help educate others about the importance and value of understanding past cultures through archeology? For professional archeologists, locating and extracting prized artifacts can be a demanding and time-consuming process. To successfully unearth significant research and meticulously sift through the soil, professional archeologists need to be familiar with and skilled at using a variety of tools. While archeologists have tools such as brushes, tape measures, and rulers to uncover the hidden past; student archeologists have turned to electronic Web 2.0 tools to sift through the overwhelming amount of accessible information. These tools included Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, backchanneling, and video podcasts which helped students share the importance of the past while they seized the opportunity to learn from their professional learning community. Twitter: One of the most important tools archeologists use to understand past cultures and civilizations is primary and secondary sources. These information sources are non-fiction works written at an adult level, contain content-specific terminology, require extensive background knowledge, are densely written and appear in a variety of media. These characteristics present formidable obstacles for 4th grade students who have had limited exposure to non-fiction, expository writing and may not be reading at grade level. Twitter was the logical choice to introduce Web 2.0 tools to the students. From personally using Twitter to form my own Professional Learning Network, I saw great possibilities for improving students abilities to read non-fiction, content-specific works, while exposing them to a vast arena of experts and an opportunity to share about archeologys importance. The 140 character limit on Twitter eliminated many of the obstacles faced by young readers. Twitter increased their contact with multiple written communication forms, but it also asked them to think critically about what was important to share. The added benefits of this tool were that students could track the audience of their messages, make adjustments to the types of tweets being sent, follow other professionals in the field, and analyze how to convey their messages in the 140 character limit. Opening and maintaining a Twitter account provided many opportunities for decision making, creative and critical thinking and problem-solving. The students took the lead in every aspect of this project. First, to obtain a following on Twitter an image must replace the egg. Students split into groups; one groups task was to design the image. The art group decided to focus the image around archeological artifacts learned about in art class. Another groups objective was to create

a name for the account, adopting Dig It! Archeology from our unit name and @Jr_Archeologist as our handle since the students were not professionals, but amateur archeologists. A group also wrote a description of the class in the specified character allotment, deciding it was important for others to understand that the account was a group of students pursuing a mission to help others understand archeologys importance. Choosing other Twitter users to follow was also important; students critically analyzed users descriptions, pictures, and tweets to determine if they would assist in our goal of education. Each component of the startup involved students in critical thinking and problem solving to determine what image others should see and what that communicated about the classroom and archeology. Tweeting was the next step. First, students read tweets of those that they followed, determined the types of information others conveyed in their messages to understand what was important to tweet in their own messages, and thought critically about how to shorten their individual messages when over 140 characters. Hashtags were also discussed as students noticed them on other tweets. For this group, students noticed a common use of #archeology or #archaeology that accompanied all archeology tweets. Helping students understand that hashtags increased exposure by collecting tweets about the same specific topic was essential for proper Twitter use. Students decided that a hashtag for our topic was essential to increase our followers, as well as to expose more people to our archeology messages. In order to tweet, students scoured the internet for up-to-date articles, read and retweeted other tweets, shared personal blog posts, and communicated insight into their classroom projects. An ongoing part of this venture had students constantly monitoring what messages of theirs were retweeted. They also focused attention around increasing their follower base, as well as whom they were following. When the students observed customized backgrounds, they decided their account should have a unique design and created one. Pinterest: Pinterest was identified by students as a valuable Web 2.0 tool for collecting various forms of information, explaining the importance of the finds, and sharing them with a varied audience. Students realized, from their personal lives, the value of sharing information via Pinterest, and felt that it supported the mission of educating others about archeologys importance. A Pinterest account was created after the Twitter account. The students decided on JrArcheologist, as Pinterest does not allow the use of underscores. Students saw the benefit to using similar names and linking both the Pinterest and Twitter account because it improved the class connectability for Google rankings, especially since Google ranks searches based on the interconnections between pages. For Pinterest, students utilized the Twitter image and description to help other Pinterest users learn about them. Four boards were initially created, as students wanted to identify their own categories instead of using the predetermined categories that they saw did not meet their needs. The four boards: cool archeology finds, archeology news, things we like related to archeology, and ideas about the past were selected as a class and the first set of pinners began searching for ideas. The class decided it was important to offer various opportunities to pin an item. Students preferred Pinterest to Twitter when video and picture sharing because the image was immediately portrayed and viewed with the item. They also chose Pinterest when their explanation statement was larger than the Twitter 140 character allowance. As students pins were repined, an analysis occurred in the classroom as to why certain pins received more exposure and how to increase exposure for all pins. It was determined that a high repin rate was based on pinning recent items and providing a complete

justification statement telling why the student felt the pin was important. Blogs: Blogging was a natural extension to the work students had begun with Pinterest and Twitter. The difference between blogging and the other Web 2.0 tools was the opportunity for students to express their opinions and work to strengthen their written voice. This allowed them the added benefit of working to support their individual opinions with their own learning experiences. Blogging also made students constantly consider their varied audiences as they were never sure who the reader might be or his/her intended purpose for reading the blog. Blogging provided the students with individualized, specific feedback on their work from the audience. This specific feedback afforded students the opportunity to respond to blog readers, as well as modify and make adjustments to future blog posts., the platform we used, provided each student an individual page, logon name and password. Each student had the opportunity to write his/her post and submit it for review before being posted. This type of double-check ensured that what was being posted was truly a students work of excellence. The focus of the blog post was always on getting students to think critically about their learning; although grammar and spelling are important, they were not the ultimate focus to any blog post. In order to start the blogging process, the class first determined what the criteria should be for each students blog post. Students discussed in small groups what they felt was important for a post and shared their ideas with the whole class. Then the class decided on the specific, necessary components. The student-identified criteria became the basic building blocks for each blog; something that every student must follow before submitting a blog post. (Figure 1) Example Blog Post:

Video Podcasts: Video Podcasting was also determined as an important way to educate others about the unit question. Students believed that videos would allow them to share messages, supported by facts obtained from researching, tweeting, pinning, and speaking with experts. The video podcasts provided a creative avenue for students to explore their thinking, while conveying messages to others. Student identified criteria, a worthy learning endeavor, was also determined for the videos. Having students identify and create their own criteria for projects helped them see the necessary pieces, as well as stay on track with what was important. Students had a stronger buy-in when they had a hand in creating their own criteria for projects. Small groups decided what was necessary, shared this information with the class, and then the class decided what was essential. The student-identified criterion was used for every video produced. (Figure 2) Designing, developing, and finalizing a video was a complex process. The first major stage was the plan. Students were provided an outline of the amount of time daily that was available to work on tweeting, pinning, blogging, and videoing. Students had to determine a realistic plan for each day in order to achieve success in all areas by the end of the semester. This plan meant that students had to determine what days they would research, when they would write their scripts, if they would contact an expert for an interview, what days the filming/audio recording would take place, and how long they would allot for video production and editing. Students determined what would work for them, individually, and worked according to their plans. They researched using the internet, Twitter, Pinterest, and books. They found experts in their topic by using contact emails on websites that they determined to be beneficial to their understanding. Some students also contacted previous guest speakers to ask for additional assistance. Students then emailed experts for interviews. Students used flip cameras to film the various video components which might include: an interview, demonstrations, diagrams, and experiments. Some groups selected Audacity, a free audio recording program, to record their voiceovers. The students had to understand copyright rules and how to find images that were free from copyright, royalty, or allowable under creative commons. The groups then used MovieMaker Live to combine all of their pieces into a video production. Using the tools in the program, they cut clips, aligned pictures with words, inserted audio, created title and credit slides and created a finished piece. The video pieces would not be complete without the option for others to provide feedback. The videos, once completed, were posted on SchoolTube where others could watch and provide feedback to the students. Students also utilized Twitter and Pinterest to share the videos they created in order to elicit feedback.

Backchanneling: Backchanneling allowed students to discuss their experiences, thoughts, and opinions with one another and the world, while they received information in class. Backchanneling, through, was used with every guest speaker brought into the classroom. Students logged in to share their thinking and questions, while the guest speakers shared their knowledge about the subject. Backchanneling provided the students with several opportunities that they did not have during traditional guest speaker presentations. 1. Students were able to share their thinking with the world. Todaysmeet allowed anyone to join or listen in on the conversation. Each backchannel opportunity was shared via Twitter. 2. The quiet, shy student could ask questions or share thinking with ease. 3. Side conversations were limited. 4. The teacher had the opportunity to monitor the discussion, ask questions of the presenter, and answer questions as needed. 5. Students had to be conscious of the image they were portraying. 6. Concise, clear messages in 140 characters or less were still important when determining the key information to share. 7. Students could record questions or ideas when they come to mind, even after the presenter had moved on to a new topic. This way no ideas were lost. 8. Transcripts could be printed and referred to as needed. 9. The speaker could take the transcript and return with answers to questions not covered during visit. 10. Students acted as practicing professionals. Backchanneling has become a common practice at professional conferences. With all of its benefits, backchanneling challenged students to determine the fine line between focusing on the technology and on-line discussions and focusing on the guest speaker. Reflecting on their individual participation revealed the importance of being an active listener and participant, while sharing information with others. Press Release In addition to the various Web 2.0 tools in the classroom, students also wanted to educate the local community about the use of these tools and the benefits of using them in the classroom. To accomplish their goal, students wrote a news article which they submitted to the district communications department. This resulted in their article being posted on the district website, picked up by local media, and blogged about by a college archeology

student in Michigan. Web 2.0 tools have proved beneficial within the classroom, not only for non-fiction, content reading, but also to help students understand and communicate about the importance of archeology. Connecting with other experts has broadened students knowledge bases as they learned about recent archeological events around the globe. Previously we were not as up-to-date on archeological finds, experiences, and opinions. The use of these tools also helped students become more conscious when sending messages out into the world. The students critically analyzed each message they prepared to send to determine if it satisfied the criteria and correlated with our idea of helping others understand archeologys importance. As previously stated, archeology is a cooperative undertaking. Through the thoughtful and intentional integration of Web 2.0 tools, the sphere of influence and impact on and of my students has expanded in ways never thought possible. These technology and social media tools have enabled my students to connect and interact with practicing archeologists, challenged them to up the ante on their work as responsible consumers and producers of digital information, and given them a voice in the cooperative archeological efforts to educate others about the importance and value of understanding past cultures. Figure 1 Figure 2