Heather Wolpert-Gawron

CUE 2009

By on November 16, 2008

I have two sessions that I will be presenting at CUE in March this year.  I thought I’d share a little of what I sent to them to give you a little preview of what I’m going to be talking about.  CUE is a brain spa of three days where you get a chance to be inspired.  I am always honored to be amongst those presenting, because it was at CUE in 2005 that this Language Arts teacher was first bitten by ed tech. CUE gives tech-tentative teachers access to ideas, lessons, knowledge, and bravery.

CUE is one of those conferences that re-charges your batteries.  Come and see some of the most innovative teaching around.  Even if you are a person who can’t change a battery and still has a beeper who thinks this whole cell phone thing will all die down, even if you still love the ole’ slate and chalk system, the CUE conference surrounds you with people looking to engage students and achieve standards.  You meet teachers of every subject, from every grade level, from every school model, and all they talk about is how to make education better through communication.  
I mention this because getting your butt out of the classroom for conferences and other professional development is not on many teachers’ lists of “Cool Things to Do.”  But some of them are really worth it.  It’s worth it to get the sub, create sub plans, go to the conference, come back to find nothing was done, and re-teach the plans.  CUE is worth it.  

I’m presenting the following sessions:

“Podcasting with 50 Middle Schoolers – RU Crazy?!”I’ve done this session in the past to great success, so I won’t go on too long about it.  But I will say that this session will cover beyond the question of ”What is Podcasting.”  It will take it to the application level.  It covers how to create a Standards-based podcasting class, across multiple curriculum strands, for a diversity of learners in order to reach and inspire an entire community.  Podcasting can be not only educational for those students involved, but can also be educational and unifying to an entire district community.  Bulldog Radio demands high-level thinking and problem solving from its students, with the goal of communicating with families of many different backgrounds and learning levels.  

You also come away with great strategies on student-created rubrics, project-based learning, and student management and organization in both the classroom the computer lab.


“Collaboration-Blocked by a Firewall Near You” – We know about the success of collaboration and peer-feedback in the K-12 classroom.  We talk about the need to bring our students into the 21st century by teaching them Internet literacy and responsibility.  But what happens when what we know we should be teaching is blocked by firewalls and a fear-filled district Internet policy?

In the session, I will teach educators how to get around this issue using XWiki Workspaces, a Free and Open Source program that allows a classroom to become its own World Wide Web.  Using XWiki Workspaces, a teacher can easily set up a student blog, wiki, photo album, etc…that can only be read and commented on in the secure environment of a school site, classroom, or lab.

While there are some programs available out there (i.e. Echalk) that provide teachers with similar abilities, these options come at a cost: a high district price tag and dependency on tech coordinators and web builders.  Using XWiki Workspaces, a single teacher without tech experience and without educational red tape can use a single computer, desktop, laptop, Mac or PC to act as the server for their projects.

The key is that the program runs behind the school’s firewall.   That is why it is not blocked by it.  Also this guarantees that there is no access to the sites you create outside of that firewall.  Therefore, a district with fears of posting student work online doesn’t have to worry about the work being compromised or preyed upon.

We know that student online transparency important, but the fear that dictates district firewalls block student collaboration. We need to find a way around such fear.  With XWiki Workspaces a teacher can address the literacy and responsibilities that need to be taught while still following district policy. 

Down the line, of course, by showing a district how successful online collaboration can be, a teacher may open the doors to greater online transparency.  Sometimes it just takes showing the more nervous administrators the benefits before they buy-in to the future.


Hope to see you all in Palm Springs in March.


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