Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Effective Technology Integration Demonstrated

Robin Neal teaches English at Beaver Country Day School, a progressive, independent school in the Boston area. He has also taught in public and international schools and has experience at all levels from grades 6-12. He is particularly interested in technology in the classroom and how it can be used to create more dynamic, authentic educational experiences. His articles mentioned in this post are shared on edSocialMedia under Creative Commons.

In Students Fighting Slavery : A Classroom Example, he shared the experience of starting from teaching Harriet Jacobs’ “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”, his students wanted to do something for it, so that a project was initiated. They had some of the most authentic, inspired learning Robin has ever witnessed, learning that could not have occurred without the systematic use of technology. All of the work can be viewed in BCDS Slavery Project Wiki. They use Wikis, AnimotoJing, and pretty much all things web 2.0.

Wiki and Google Docs helped them organize everything….

The initial brainstorm of project ideas started with a class conversation and notes on a whiteboard. Within 48 hours, by adding the notes to our Wiki, the project grew exponentially. Over one weekend, my initial list of five websites blossomed into a resource far more sophisticated than I could create on my own. As the project continued, the Wiki and Google Docs allowed students, in different classes with different teachers, to share further resources, edit rough drafts of videos and letters, and create the project’s guidelines and assessment tools. We could not have moved as quickly or broadly if we did not have a way to share our work, asynchronously and outside the classroom walls.

What’s the difference from using web2.0 tools ?

Galleries of thought: Because we placed early drafts of letters and videos on the Wiki, students critiqued work at the formative stages. Certainly, the students improved their work based on the specific notes they received, and, because the students could review everything outside of class—multiple times—the feedback was more specific.

Yet, seeing everyone’s work in its evolving stages (on their own schedule and across various sections) had an even more powerful effect. Students responded to evocative work—powerful images, tight phrasing, figurative language—and wanted to make their work as good.

Darren Kuropatwa, a math teacher who blogs about teaching and technology at A Difference, calls such moments “galleries of thought.” I’m convinced that allowing students to explore work during the creation process is the most important, authentic feedback we can provide…and knowing how to embed media into a web page (which is as easy as attaching an image to an email) is all a teacher needs to know to create such galleries of thought.

How to find authentic audience and interaction so that authentic learning happens ?

Instant, Authentic Audience: Toward the end of this project, I installed tracking maps to our Wiki using the free online tools at Feedjit and Clustrmaps. I then began one class with a challenge: the students had fifteen minutes to “seed” our work across the Internet. They responded to various blogs, tweets, videos, and articles—on popular sites as varied as NPR and

Within twenty-four hours, their quick efforts bore fruit. People from Japan, Jakarta, Germany, and Italy visited our pages. Over the week, the hits continued to grow. One student was even asked to be a guest blogger. Because we could track each new visit, suddenly students realized that others were interested in their work, and the level of revision intensified. They were no longer creating something for me but for a global audience. Also, they were learning about an important topic not because they had to but because they wanted to. It is this shift in thinking that I hope will have a permanent effect on their lives and makes me passionate about technology and its influence on education.

In Making Grammar Sticky with Google Docs, he shared how to make students do self reflection and correction by keeping grammar journals in Google Docs. Details and documents he used are attached. The most important findings are …

By using student-directed grammar journals, grammar concepts became “stickier.” In other words, by taking a more proactive approach, the students’ mastery of language increased. Also, because I set up multiple resources and activities, the students used varied modes to learn. They could come back to a tricky concept like parallelism many times in many ways. Through this differentiation, I found myself, less often, making repeated comments on essays throughout the year.

Because the use of Google Docs effectively organized their work and allowed me (and peers) to easily give feedback, I was more likely to come back to grammar every week.

The two posts about teaching symbolics are inspiring, he gave step-by-step explanations on the implementation. He teaches in a school with one-to-one laptop for students, so the transitions from large group discussions to individual work time are instantaneous. You may need to adapt the timing depending on your access to technology. He used Flickr to have students create Symbolics onlinethe use of technology has created many pedagogical advantages: no limitation of space,  revision is easy (it’s possible to hold students’ language to a higher standard)expand the feedback loop, authentic audience, work lives beyond the deadline, work is easier to organize.

Symbolics: Making Abstract Thinking Concrete (Pt. 1)

Symbolics : How To (Pt.2)


Lately, in this Down with Posters, , these are web2.0 tools recommended by him.

Glogster EDU

A site specifically designed for building online posters, finished products can be embedded in blogs, wikis, and websites. The free-for-education accounts have become less generous, but it is still possible for students to complete very sophisticated, multimedia posters for free.

Vuvox Collage Maker

Using this tool you can make stunning, mixed media timelines. These timelines/collages are easily embedded elsewhere.

The easiest and most visually pleasing way to make Venn Diagrams I have found, but this site allows you to do much more, too. It’s a free way to make stunning organizational graphics.

Another free tool for making interactive, mixed media timelines.

This site allows users to create flowcharts, and video, images, and text are easily mashed together. It is still in Beta, so I have lost some student work using it, but it is free and very easy to use. Most widely known as an alternative to PowerPoint, Prezi can easily be used to graphically organize and link text, video, and images. Creating the path can be the most complicated part of using this website, but the organizational thinking required to do so is very important for students and not always required when making a traditional poster.

Essentially a free online version of Inspiration, this site makes brainstorming easy, and I especially like the ability to transform a mind map into a traditional outline.

Cmap Tools

Another way to make organizational charts. I have not used it, but many colleagues have recommended it.


Yes, I’ve saved my favorite for last. Many of you probably already know about—a company that seeks to obliterate the common PowerPoint. You can sign up for a free, full-access educator’s account that allows you to give students free, full-access account. I use this tool all the time and can’t recommend it enough. I like it so much, I pay for a yearly subscription. I don’t want them to go bust.


It’s not only about technologies, it’s how you use them that matters. Thanks, to this great teacher. Finally, enjoy this amazing clip which is as educational as entertaining when you learn about Google Docs in it ! 


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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