Monday, October 31, 2011

Using Wallwisher

Alright so as I've said before, we have gone one to one in the sixth grade. This means that each student has his or her own lap top. One of the great side effects of this program is that I've begun using a few programs that I had only used sparingly in the past. My favorite so far is Wallwisher.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Wallwisher, here is a link to one that I had my students do on an outdoor activity that helped them learn about Carrying Capacity and Limiting Factors.

As you can see its a large bulletin board where anyone (in my case, my students) can post information, thoughts, or questions in a short little blurb. Really students should be able to go on and post a note in a minute or two.

Up to this year, I had tried to use it for kids to reflect on a particular lesson or unit. It had never really got off the ground because of the amount of time students were taking to get online, get to the site, post, and then share the computer with someone else to do the same (we rarely had a computer for each student, more like a computer shared between two people.) In fact, it would take upwards of 20 minutes for kids to make their post of 140 characters. To me, this didn't seem like a good use of time.

This year, I've found that I'm able to use it so much more. Students no longer have the wait time to get on. They are pretty much online right away and now that we have done a number of Wallwishers, they can get there quickly and make their post. Obviously there also isn't the need to share computers. The quick 140 character post is just that, QUICK. They do it in a minute or two, a much better use of time.

So what does all this have to do with anything outside of speeding up my class? Great question! I'm finding Wallwisher to be a great way for kids to do a quick summary reflection on what happened in class (particularly science class for me.) Then I'm able to take these reflections and see just where the class is in terms of understanding the current content. In fact, my student teacher, Matt, took a Wallwisher he had the kids make and organized it and then saved it as a PDF file. This gave me the idea of actually organizing the WallWisher into groups based on what kids said. I think this might allow me even more opportunity to check for understanding!

While I still prefer exit cards for individual understanding (particularly of on skills and in math) I'm finding that I really can get at whether I need to reteach something or not based on kids comments on the Wallwisher. I'm also finding that students are able to pick up information from one another and add on to thoughts that others are saying. I've yet to have students ask very deep questions on the Wallwisher but I'm looking forward to them answering one another on there.

Overall, I'm happy with how Wallwisher combined with our one to one initiative has allowed me to take my use of formative assessment into a different path and I'm looking forward to seeing what else I can do.

What are people's thoughts on Wallwisher? What other things have people used it for? How can I stretch myself and my use of it?

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