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Beyond Classroom Walls

One of the fantastic sessions I attended at NCTE was called “Beyond Classroom Walls: Honoring Voices of Young Readers.”  It was led by Julie Johnson of Raising Readers and Writers, Katie Keier of Catching Readers, and Cathy Mere of Reflect and Refine.  Let me start by saying that all three of these women are the kind of teachers I would want teaching my daughter.  Their passion for working with young people was evident from the second each one of them spoke.  I picked up so many tips about how to incorporate new technology into the classroom from the 75 minutes I spent listening to them.  I only wish I had a classroom of my own right now.  One that was brimming with iPads and computers so I could try out all of the incredible things they suggested in their presentation.  Alas, I don’t have my own classroom now so I wanted to share some golden nuggets from their session so you can try these things out in your classrooms in the upcoming weeks.

In the past I used Edublogs to facilitate my students’ blogs.  However, another resource is KidBlog, which Johnson’s class uses for blogging.  I checked out the KidBlog website and it’s a lot like Edublogs, but seems even more user friendly.  It’s worth checking out if you want to administer and monitor your students blogs.

Wonderopolis has a question of the day, such as “How do touch screens work?”  Then there’s a little video and then it asks a “did you ever wonder” question.  Here’s what Wonderopolis has to say about the “Wonder of the Day”:

Learning is happening everywhere, all the time! We have bottled a little bit of that learning in each Wonder of the Day®. Experience a daily dose of time with your child to make the most of each and every moment together — learn something new, try out an idea, create a masterpiece, imagine possibilities. It’s easy. It’s fun. But the learning is big! (Retrieved on 11/27/11 from

When you go to Wonderopolis, one reads an article can also leave a comment.  The folks at Wonderopolis are really on top of the comments readers leave (i.e., they respond to readers’ comments).  In Julie’s classroom this site led to an “I Wonder” bulletin board where students post questions about things they wonder about.  Then other students pick a topic and research in order to look for answers.  What a great way to get kids excited about research!

Keier said, “Children need to be creators and producers of digital literacies.”  She reminded attendees that technology is a tool to make, create, and do.  In that same spirit, she asserted that technology play can be a powerful tool.  Keier has one iPhone (with the SIM card removed) and an iPad in her Kindergarten classroom.  In addition to traditional literacy activities, Keier allows her students to sign up to use the iPhone and the iPad.  She has downloaded a bunch of digital storytelling apps, such as StoryKit, Stoyrobe, SonicPics, and Fotobabble.  Some of these apps, like StoryKit, are so easy for kids to use.  For instance, StoryKit allows children to use their fingers to draw pictures and then they can record their voice to tell their story.  Then, the story can be emailed or uploaded to a blog.  If a class has a blog, then a StoryKit story can placed on the blog allowing for immediate publishing of the student’s work.

Other apps Keier recommended were: Splice, Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App (READ: Lots of literacy fun with Mo Willems!), Sculptor, Paint My Wings, and TocaBoca.

One reminder that the presenters gave is that we need to remember to think about curriculum first when we thinking about how to integrate technology into classrooms.  I couldn’t agree more with that premise.  I cannot begin to tell how many people I’ve heard brag about having SMART Boards in every classroom in a school.  I’ve often noticed that there are well-meaning teachers who have the technology in their classrooms and are first thinking about how to use the technology in every lesson rather than thinking about how using the technology will enhance the lesson.  Therefore, I believe that having a curriculum first, technology second mindset is helpful into making meaningful decisions about how technology will help students learn better.

Stacey Shubitz View All

I am a literacy consultant who has spent over a decade working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grade K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.

I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).

8 thoughts on “Beyond Classroom Walls Leave a comment

  1. We are so happy to hear about your attendance at the NCTE Conference and thank you for sharing your experience with others. We are honored that Wonderopolis was part of the session you attended and that you have included it as a golden nugget worthy of sharing. Wonderopolis provides endless learning opportunities for families, students and educators, as well as lends itself to the use of great resources from Read Write Think—another excellent resource for educators. Again, thank you for sharing your NCTE conference experience.
    Happy Wondering!
    Heike Imler
    Director of Literacy Services
    National Center for Family Literacy


  2. I have been using Wonderopolis in my classroom for over a year and my 5ht grade students are curious and posing amazing questions in addition to learning many new facts. I have also used many of the apps that are suggested and have posted about them on my blog. Your post really hit home with me!


  3. Lots of great information here! made note of many, but the one piece that should stand out to all readers is … having a curriculum first, technology second mindset is helpful into making meaningful decisions about how technology will help students learn better.


  4. Thank you so much for sharing what you took away from our session! I’m glad it was useful. It’s so great to learn from each other. I love your last paragraph, too. I’ve seen the SMARTboards and iPads become digital worksheets and that definitely should not be the purpose or focus for using tech in our classrooms. Great meeting you in Chicago!



  5. I agree with curriculum first! I use a Promethean board daily. I spend many hours planning lessons that match my curriculum with standards in mind. It helps me organize and deliver my lessons. After 30 years plus in teaching, I feel the Activeboard is one of my most powerful motivators!


  6. So glad you came back with some ideas! I learned a lot from my colleagues and came back right away and started exploring too. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Julie


  7. There is so much to articulate with students about using technology that, while exciting, I feel for teachers who now have even more to manage, BUT it’s so exciting too, & your words just showed that. I am teaching an online tools class now & with limited time, am struggling to choose just what we will do in order to best enhance what they’re already doing in the classroom. Don’t want it to be a ‘stand alone’ exercise just because it’s a great tool. Thank you for that final, thoughtful paragraph. That’s so important to this new technology explosion that’s occurring.


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