Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Collaborize Classroom

        Technology is a very important part of educating well rounded, 21st century learners. More and more, technology skills are becoming part of employment requirements. According to the Iowa Department of Education, “technological literacy supports preparation of students as global citizens capable of self-directed learning in preparation for an ever-changing world.” Using technology in the classroom has to extend beyond word processing skills to really be useful to the students. Technological literacy should also incorporate cooperative learning. Students will need to know how to interact with their peers in an online environment, be it through commenting on blogs or participating in a discussion board.

         There is one website that I was recently exposed to that meets all of the requirements above: Collaborize Classroom. This free web tool allows teachers to create a website and then have online polling or class discussions. With chromebooks in the classroom, I can see the students engaging in class using this tool more readily and easily than hand raising allows. It also seems to be well designed for educators. When you register, Collaborize Classroom provides you with three discussions to get started. The first one is “Establishing Expectations for Behavior: Dos and Don’ts for Online Student Communication.” This is a great way to start an online discussion board. It rivals the class expectations discussion that many teachers have using chart paper at the beginning of the year. This topic shows me that Collaborize Classroom is designed with teachers in mind. They are just moving successful teaching practices to an online platform. The second step (as they call it on the website) is “Maintaining a Safe Space Online: Which Behaviors are Most Important.” These two online discussions are not only helping the students learn appropriate online behaviors, but they are also teaching the students how to use this website. As opposed to opening a new Google Doc and taking notes, we get to participate in polls and see the results. Using this tool for polling and class discussions would allow us to meet the same curricular goals in a 21st century way.

         As I was playing around with this tool, I saw one potential drawback. I was hoping that I could create a different website for each class I teach, but it seems like that is not possible. Instead, they have an option to create groups. It is difficult to know if that will meet my needs until I try it. I do want some separation between my classes, though. When I receive my class lists in August, I will be able to actually create my “groups” and see how it works.

Here is a screenshot of my newly created Collaborize website:

I also recommend that you check it out yourself. This is not a sponsored post, just a website that I found recently that I think will be a useful classroom tool. I hope you find it to be useful as well.