Technology really CAN be our friend — even for folks who claim to have no computer skills and no clue how websites work! For teachers who are willing to venture outside their “technological safe zone,” RiverXchange offers an easy, low pressure way to gain valuable computer skills. We’ll provide basic training in a few hours, which is all you need to know in order to get your students writing on their individual page. A wiki workspace is one of the easiest website formats to learn. The only challenge is making time to practice what you and your students have learned.
Teacher Heidi Werling notes that she has benefited from the project as well as the students: “This has also been my first exposure to wikis and I am learning with my students. There have been times when I have been confused and frustrated, but I have gained my own sense of accomplishment as I have slowly become familiar with the process and format.” Returning RiverXchange teacher Kristin Ethridge says “I chose to participate again this year because I learned so much last year. The lessons, maps, activities and presentations that are provided to instruct the students are excellent and interactive. I feel that my students learn much more about the River and what it means to contribute to the health of the environment of the Rio Grande River Valley.
For returning teachers and black belt techies, we’d love to show you how to incorporate a few bells and whistles into your class wiki. If you’re wondering what a wiki is, click here.
During project launch in September, all teachers must attend an in-person (New Mexico teachers) or online (partner teachers) training to review expectations, and learn how to implement the curriculum and update the private class wiki workspace. We will cover the cost of substitute teachers for New Mexico teachers to attend the one-day workshop. The online training for partner teachers takes about two hours.
In addition to building valuable computer skills, RiverXchange teachers are provided with two fantastic networking opportunities: outreach staff from local water resources agencies, and partner teachers. Outreach staff are the guest speakers who will visit your class to deliver a hands-on activity/presentation. This means teachers are not burdened with learning so much technical content from scratch. As you get to know each guest speaker, consider participating in other programs run by these organizations. The local water utility, Cooperative Extension Office, Parks and Recreation/Open Space, and museum of natural history often have excellent free environmental and other programs for fifth grade students.
We developed the idea of high tech pen pals not only for students, but also for teachers. Through RiverXchange, you now have access to another colleague with whom you share at least a few key interests, such as teaching fifth graders, an interest in the environment, and a willingness to use new technology. You and your partner teacher will be able to see and read what is going on in each other’s class all year long. Maybe your partner teacher is handling a writing assignment in a unique way, or had students create and upload individual PowerPoint presentations (how did they do that!?). We highly encourage to discuss these kinds of things with your teaching pen pal! RiverXchange is a voluntary program with few requirements but many opportunities. We hope you will be inspired to follow the advice of one of our favorite TV characters (below).
Take chances! Make mistakes!
–Ms. Frizzle, from The Magic School Bus