Welcome Amy to Wikispaces!

Amy

Hey, I’m Amy! I am one of the folks behind Blendspace, the easiest way to create and deliver online lessons. I’m super excited to join Wikispaces and TES Global because we all share the same goal of serving teachers. Together we will work together to create even more delight in teachers’ lives.

My journey in “ed-tech” began when I was a computer science student at the University of Southern California. I fell in love with technology at a young age and taught myself how to program when I was 11 years old. As one of the few girls in my classes, I knew if I wanted to get more girls interested in STEM, the best place to do that is in the classroom. So I spent time in the classrooms of Los Angeles teaching young girls math. Given my love for technology, the only way I knew how to make learning engaging was through the use of technology. I put together lessons with YouTube videos, online games, websites, etc. However, finding good resources was hard and putting them together was also a challenge… Have you ever tried to embed a YouTube video in a PowerPoint?!

After graduating from USC, I worked as a product manager on Microsoft Excel designing to make spreadsheets more intuitive for everyone, especially students. But after three years in the corporate world, I knew I wanted to get closer to the classroom. I remembered the struggles that I faced when I was with my students; I asked teachers if they were still struggling with finding engaging lesson material. With more technology in the classrooms, the answer was an overwhelming “yes”. So I convinced my Microsoft colleague, Gabriel Cebrian and others to quit and join me on this journey of helping teachers through technology.

It’s now been two years since we moved from Seattle to San Francisco to join Imagine K12, the first edtech incubator. We built Edcanvas, rebranded to Blendspace, served half a million teachers and students and now we are here at Wikispaces! It has been an incredible journey as a edupreneur.

I never knew I wanted to start a company, I just knew that I wanted to make an impact in the classroom. Blendspace was a great start. Now it’s time to time to build upon that strong foundation at Wikispaces.

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Teacher Collaboration: What It Can Create

This past school year, my mother retired after 25 years teaching in a K-8 school in New Hampshire. At her retirement party I found myself surrounded by her friends, most of them teachers who I’ve known for years. Several use Wikispaces, and one explained that a 2007 YouTube video called “Wikis in Plain English” was her first introduction into what a wiki could be used for. This four-minute video shows how a group of four friends prepare for a camping trip by collaborating on a wiki page. By listing the items they already have, and creating a list of what they still need to bring, they are able to decide who will bring what.

The same teacher recalled: “When I watched that short video in 2007, it quickly made sense what a wiki was useful for: quick and easy collaboration!” She then recounted how she used Wikispaces to create an exercise for her students, and how (again, in 2007) she was advised by her school’s administration to cease using wikis altogether. As she put it, wikis at that time were considered “a low-class teaching tool.” Over the past decade wikis have become powerful and commonplace tools, especially inside the classroom, so we all had a good laugh at that.

But her story brought up a good point: what does the future hold for wikis and teachers? Even more than currently takes place, the near future will see teachers collaborating with teachers to become better teachers.

The dictionary defines collaboration as: the action of working with someone to produce or create something. By definition, collaboration creates something. On the near horizon, there are at least three parts that will come together:


Classroom

When teachers collaborate on these platforms, what exactly is created? If you watched the 4-minute “Wikis in Plain English” video, you saw a very basic collaboration take place between four friends, and it was easy to see what was created: the camping group discussed the needs of the trip and created a list of needed items, then decided who would bring what. The discussions and lists eventually informed them: ‘we have everything we need; we’ll have a great trip.’

Similarly, teachers can collaborate to become informed about what content is the most relevant and effective. The syllabus provides teachers with a structure that helps them plan and execute their creative vision of education. Teachers from all over the world will share relevant content, rate the quality of content, and integrate new ideas into their classrooms. This collaboration, and the content being discussed, will help them build a story within the structure of their syllabus.

The specific value that is created lies in the quality of content and the number of choices provided to the teacher to ‘create their story’ with. That is the real creation of teachers collaborating. What we’re seeing now and will see more of in the future is teachers collaborating, in a way, with the content itself. Teachers will only continue to have even better resources and methods to teach those resources.

In the next post, we’ll look at teaching content that exists as a living document, continually edited and updated, and why this can be so valuable to students.

What is your school currently doing to facilitate teacher collaboration? Teachers, how have you collaborated with other teachers in the past? Please share your insights below.

Posted in Classroom, Collaboration | 5 Responses

Welcome Sid to the Wikispaces Team


SidHi, my name is Sid and I joined Wikispaces not to disrupt education. I’m here to build useful education tools (i.e., more “ed” than “tech”). My previous jobs were at Kiva.org (where I learned how passion can be channeled for social benefit), Oakland Unified School District (where I learned the meaning of access, and lack thereof), and Yahoo (where I learned how to serve a large global audience). I’m hoping my unique experiences can serve the tireless educators of the world.


As a former educator, I know teachers don’t want to do any more work than they already have to. Students, administrators, and parents sometimes naively don’t know (or, even, forget) how internally motivated teachers are to do their job. Folks trying to sell things to educators also forget that too. It has to be more than just packaging widgets with some cause-based rhetoric. If we at Wikispaces do our job right, the products we build will require less work by teachers to accomplish their goals. In short, we are trying to make it easier, in an era of unprecedented technology (and equally unprecedented gaps in access). It will take time, a lot of work, and a bunch of teachable moments, but, hopefully, with your help and advice, we’ll get there. If you read How to Succeed in Education by the founders of Wikispaces, then you’ll find that I’m working with a team that is inspired, hard-working, smart, yet, very patient.

As an engineer at Wikispaces, I’m here to build. I don’t mind doing more work than I have to because, one day, it’ll save time for those that need it more than me.


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It’s #edcamp Season!

It’s #edcamp season! What is an EdCamp? EdCamp is free, democratic, participant-driven professional development for teachers.


Twitter and the web is on fire with Edcamp sign-up announcements as many educators around the world prepare to go back to school. We’ve been supporters of EdCamp from the start. Adam (one of our company co founders) spoke at the first one in Philadelphia 4 years ago, and now over 500 have happened! We’re excited to highlight the Edcamp lineup for this school year and encourage folks to start their own using wikis!

Dan Callahan, one of the founders of Edcamp, and chairman of the Edcamp Foundation, gave us a few tips for using wikis to organize your EdCamp.

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First, head to edcamp.wikispaces.com. There, you’ll see a list of existing events. See one in your neighborhood? Click on it and register and start dreaming of the fun learning you’ll have! You can also start your own by simply adding a new page to the home page.

“A wiki is an excellent place to get started to promote things,” Dan says. “A lot of people go to your wiki to look for your event, so keep it up to date. Thanks to all the features and widgets, it’s also really easy to add maps and other useful information for those attending the event.” The main EdCamp wiki also houses valuable information on how to organize, finance, and implement your own Edcamp as well.

Why go?
Twitter

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Tips for Using Your Wiki

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Are You Going to or Organizing an EdCamp?

Let us know in the comments below or tweet us with your site at www.twitter.com/wikispaces, we’re happy to spread the word!

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Welcome Blendspace to the Wikispaces team

blendspace-email-retinaWe’ve had the pleasure of knowing the team behind a great lesson building platform called Blendspace for a while now. They are super talented people who, a couple of years ago, decided to commit themselves to building products that would make a difference in the lives of teachers. And they’ve done a great job.

For those of you who haven’t used it, Blendspace is a beautiful and powerful tool for creating digital lessons that are tailored to students’ needs. The Blendspace team’s key insight was that teachers want to pull together different types of resources from different sources and turn them into lessons they can easily give to their students. And Blendspace has been used by half a million teachers and students worldwide so they’ve learned an enormous amount about how to help teachers do just that.

Of course passion for helping teachers and the development of great products by listening to those teachers are the two foundations of what we do at Wikispaces. In addition to that cultural fit, there’s a great product fit. We are currently working on making it easy to deploy the enormous number of resources TES teachers have shared with each other on the TES Resources platform. It is clear to us that the ability to use those resources in building fully formed lessons is going to be a super important part of what we want to build for teachers.

And so we decided that we wanted the Blendspace team to become part of the Wikispaces team and help us deliver on that vision. Thankfully they felt the same way and we’re thrilled to announce that Blendspace is now part of Wikispaces, and the broader TES Global family.

Blendspace, the product, will continue to operate and we have some great surprises for the passionate Blendspace users that you can read about on the Blendspace blog.

So leave a comment below to say hi to the Blendspace team, try out Blendspace for yourself, and if you’re interested in giving us feedback on what we’re working on together, drop us a note.

Posted in Classroom, Company, Wikispaces | 1 Response
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