How to Succeed at the EIA EdVentures Conference

The good people at the Education Industry Association invited us to give a talk based on our How to Succeed In Ed-Tech article at their EdVentures conference in Newport Beach last week.

It was a real pleasure to be able to engage with a group of Ed-Tech entrepreneurs, some of whom were just starting out, to share our history and think about how we can all do a better job building solutions that help teachers and students.

I met some really passionate new entrepreneurs working on exactly these questions and came away inspired by the energy they are bringing to their ventures.

My takeaway after the session was that there is of course no one right answer to any of the hard questions and that the key part of finding your own success is knowing who you are and what you want.

The conversation about how to build Ed-Tech companies we can be proud needs to be ongoing. Thanks to the EIA for making it a central part of their conference this year.

Posted in Business, Wikispaces | Leave a comment

Get Your Class in Your Wiki Painlessly: New Join Code for Your Students

You asked, and we listened! Announcing the arrival of one of the most requested features of all time, this blog post explains how to use a Join Code to make joining a wiki easier for students.

Try it out and let us know what you think!  Step by step directions below.

Join Meme

Here’s how to use a Join Code. 

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 1.03.26 PM

Go to Members at the top right of your page. Then you’ll see the Join Code option. Press Create Code.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 1.03.37 PM

Woo hoo! Now you’ve got yourself a 7-character code that lets other Wikispaces users join your wiki easily.

Full CodeThen, your students can simply go to the address where they will be prompted to log in and automatically become members of that wiki. If the students do not have accounts yet, they can either go to your wiki address, or the Join Code address. They will then be prompted to create an account and also put in your Join Code. Then they will become a member of Wikispaces.com AND of your wiki!

Join - Member

If your students already have accounts, they will automatically become a member when they go to the Join Code page address you receive.

Join - Has Code

If your students just go to your wiki address, then they will be prompted to go to the “Join page” to input the code.

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As a note, the code currently lasts one week and then you’ll need to add it again. You can also disable the code anytime you’d like. It shows up under “Members” as well as on the top of your wiki as long as it’s active.

Code
We were excited to see it in practice at ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education) this past month at Vicki Davis’ Wonderful World of Wikis hands-on session! Below, Eric from our team helps moderate the backchannel as dozens of eager educators used the join code to easily gain access to Vicki’s resource site!

Eric at ISTE

Let us know how it goes in the comments below. Have you tried the Join Code feature yet? For what class? And how have your students liked it? We look forward to hearing from you!

Posted in Wikispaces | 2 Responses

Creative Problem Solving

I am really excited to have joined Wikispaces as Director of User Experience Design. As a former teacher, I am thrilled to be back in the Ed-Tech world to help teachers communicate and work with their students.

I am a product and experience designer from Chile, based out of San Francisco. I come from the Learning, Design & Technology Masters Program at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and from the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (aka dschool) at Stanford, where I focused on designing new approaches for cross-generational collaborative communication platforms. My previous work includes communication & storytelling Apps and educational interactive installations. Formerly, I taught interactive design to children of all ages and worked in schools and non-profit organizations to help them create and implement arts-based and design thinking curricula which celebrated a collaborative spirit and incorporated new media technology. My teaching philosophy was about developing a strong creative process towards an interdisciplinary art practice and my teaching style inspired passion for lifelong learning by encouraging my students to incorporate real life experiences in their work.

Something that I really care about is to inspire learners of all ages to become design thinkers. Design thinking is a methodology for creative problem solving. You can use it to inform your own teaching practice, or you can teach it to your students as a framework for real-world projects. The design thinking process came out of IDEO and its founder David Kelley and the Institute of design at Stanford. As a style of thinking, Design thinking has come to be defined as combining empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality in analyzing and fitting various solutions to the problem context.

The main steps of the process, as describe on    https://dschool.stanford.edu/groups/k12/wiki/332ff/Curriculum_Home_Page.html are:

 

DesignProcess

  • Empathy: Design thinking is a user-centered design process, and the empathy that comes from observing users enables design thinkers to uncover deep and meaningful needs (both overt & latent). Empathy, by definition, is the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another.
  • Define: The Define mode is seen as a ‘narrowing’ part of the process. After collecting volumes of user information, it is time to distill down to one specific user group, their need and the insight behind that need so as to unify and inspire a team. The goal of this mode is to come up with at least one actionable problem statement (often referred to as Point of View (POV)) that focuses on the insights that you uncovered from real users.
  • Ideate: Ideation is the process of idea generation. Mentally it represents a process of “going wide” in terms of concepts and outcomes. Ideation provides the fuel for building prototypes and driving innovative solutions.
  • Prototype: The act of prototyping implies “building”, testing, and iterating and is, itself, both a flaring and a narrowing process. The flaring represents the proliferation of low-resolution prototypes developed as different aspects of the prototype are evaluated and the narrowing represents the refinement of the lower resolution models into increasingly complex and resolved models.
  • Test: The test mode is another iterative mode in which we place our low-resolution artifacts in the appropriate context of the user’s life. In regards to a team’s solution, we should always prototype as if we know we’re right, but test as if we know we’re wrong—testing is the chance to refine our solutions and make them better.

Learning the design thinking process really impacted my work. I constantly apply the design thinking process in my own work and I like to help others learn the process. 

I look forward to helping Wikispaces in our mission to help teachers help students and to seeing the amazing work that you all do using our tools. I am excited about how creative and social technologies can be applied to support learning, understanding that each new tool has the potential to radically change the way people learn and teach. I’d love to learn more about the Wikispaces community and the work that you are doing, if you are interested in sharing your experiences please kindly complete this quick survey: http://www.wikispaces.com/t/y/survey201405classroom/.

Posted in Wikispaces | 4 Responses

Business as a Classroom

Erin Connery joined the Wikispaces team recently as our Operations Manager. Be sure to tell him hello below and stay tuned for more thoughts from our new team members over the coming months.

I studied social innovation at Babson College and much of my education focused on entrepreneurship and social responsibility. After graduating I worked at a corporate social responsibility consultancy for three years. Our team comprised of entrepreneurs and academics and served as one of many parts working to improve the business practices of a multinational corporation (generating multibillion-dollar annual revenue).

The power in a large corporate checkbook was exciting to me; we’d tell them how to spend all that money and the world would become a better place! But I soon realized that while the corporate business leaders control a lot of money, and this money can purchase many things (our advice, branding, lobbying power) a large checkbook does not by itself create responsible leadership inside a corporation. Too often “corporate social responsibility” turns into branding and philanthropy.

This idea that responsibility wasn’t simply for sale, and couldn’t be purchased, resulted in a more serious lesson: creating a strategy to actually improve responsibility inside a large and complex company required focus that was deliberate and relentless. It required concentrating attention on the target with the power to implement change, which in this case was the managers and leaders inside a company.

When trying to figure out how to improve something without a clear definition of success, such as improve “responsibility” or “education” the business has to become much like a classroom. We spent much of the first year in conversation with their corporate team, listening and building personal relationships in order to discover how we might add value, trading role of teacher and student as we collaborated on ideas. This lesson about focus transfers to where I am today, at a company developing a digital classroom. A classroom is, by general definition, “any place where one learns or gains experience.” So how do you create “any place”—a digital platform that is customizable for a wide range of users (i.e. K-12 classes)?

Improving “education,” like improving “responsibility,” lacks a clear definition of success, and so requires the same rigorous focus. Unlike corporations, schools and teachers generally have very small budgets. The “education technology” field is full of companies designing technology to make these small budgets stretch farther. But great technology by itself cannot create a great education inside the classroom; it requires teachers. That’s what drew me to Wikispaces; this small company iterated its platform design based on the feedback it received from its users over the course of 10 years. This led to the simple and powerful objective it holds today: to help teachers help students.

It seems when the goal is to improve areas as complex and personal as “responsibility” and “education” there is no easy solution. The solution must be created, and we must treat business as a classroom in order to find the focus with which we develop that solution.

Posted in Wikispaces | 2 Responses

Featured Wiki: “Anything is Possible” with Ray Mirhsahi’s Projects

Ray Mirshahi teaches at Timberbank Junior Public School in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is a regular Twitter contributor to the educational community. He teaches ICT / Media Literacy in the morning to the whole school and Grade 3 in the afternoon, and we were so thrilled to be able to sneak a few minutes of his time recently to hear all about how he has used Wikispaces Classroom.

Ray uses this education-specific version of Wikispaces.com to design an engaging learning environment for students, and manages several different wikis as the ICT and Media Literacy coordinator. One worth a deep dive is his teaching resource site. He also has a separate wiki for his schooland for his class, where he shares short and long term curricular plans. Finally, he has a wiki for his students where students post work, share feedback, and are assessed by Ray. By creating separate wikis, Ray allows himself to differentiate the content and permission levels he’d like for different audiences. We think it’s a great example, and encourage you to give it a go! Remember teachers, you can have unlimited wikis.

Take a moment, relax, and watch as Ray walks us through his ‘student wiki’ using Wikispaces Classroom:

 

Ray has shared more here and be sure to say hello to him on Twitter. Thanks Ray!

Setting Up Your Navigation

Many teachers use the navigation bar on the right-hand side of their wikis to simply list all of their pages. Ray took it a step further: he edited the navigation bar to include specific links to his different classes, and even for his archived alumni sites.

Create alumni links using "edit navigation" in the navigation panel

Create alumni links using “edit navigation” in the navigation panel

Want to try it? Click “Edit Navigation” at the bottom of the navigation panel– twice!– and then you’ll have access to that whole space in the side panel to customize. Enjoy!

Click on "edit navigation page" to customize

Click on “edit navigation page” to customize

Personal Spaces for Each Student

Ray says, “We use wikis to allow students to collaborate, as well as let their individual voices to come through,” and that’s obvious as soon as you see the individual pages he has set up for his students where they can post things that interest them. Ray adds: “Students need their own safe social media spaces where they can work and play, and Wikispaces in my opinion is the best platform for that.”

To set this personal space up Ray created a new Project and then created a page for each student. This makes it easy for him to check on students’ work quickly and give them feedback. It’s so easy to do, the principal even comes in and leaves comments, which naturally is super-exciting for students.

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One Project, Small Group of Students

This is a great example of managing small groups of students working together in your class. In this case, Ray creates Projects and then only adds two or three students to it. He has a collaborative page where they can work on things together, such as this awesome “Ghost Ship” story. Then, he creates a page for their own individual work, where they can easily leave each other feedback and ideas.

Ray creates Projects and puts several students in each to work together.

Ray creates Projects and puts several students in each to work together.

One Project, All Students

As Ray says, “It’s so easy!” He uses a variety of Project formats based on the lesson and needs of each of his classes. In the case below, Ray created a Geometry Project and he uses it as an “extension of the lesson.” For instance, he has his students go to the topic they are studying and add to his digital activity, such as identifying vertices on a shape using an animation and having discussions about it, right there on the “lesson page.”

Create one Project, add all students to it, and you've got yourself an interactive lesson space.

Create one Project, add all students to it, and you’ve got yourself an interactive lesson space.

One Project, All Students, Uploading Files

Another use Ray has discovered for the Project space is creating one Project and then simply instructing students to upload their files to that page. This creates a lovely list of files that you can actually comment and give feedback on right there. In this case, for his Audio Jam project, he had students upload their .mp4 files directly to the page and each is able to easily be commented upon.

Uploading Files on a Project Page

Uploading Files on a Project Page

Want to try it? Create ONE Project, and then simply put your instructions on the home page and have the students just “Add File.” Then, go to “Pages” and you’ll see them all waiting for you to peruse.

Brilliant!

Posted in Wikispaces | 2 Responses
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