Students Discover Ancient Chinese Dynasties Using Totally Digital Tools!

This week I am away on an offline vacation. Rather than let the blog be dormant or rerunning old posts I decided to give some other people a chance to share their experiences and ideas with you. I hope you enjoy the posts.

I want to thank Richard for this opportunity to be a guest blogger. His site, Free Technology for Teachers, has shown us the best free
tech resources available today to actively engage our students.
Technology helps us to learn more about ourselves and others. Technology
helps us to do things better than we might do simply on our own.
Imagination, creativity, communication, collaboration and sharing with
others are all enhanced using technology.

Jobs, when introducing the iPad 2, explained that “…technology alone
is not enough. That it’s technology, married with liberal arts, married
with the humanities, that yields us the result that make our hearts
sing.” You can see Steve for yourself
We’ve felt that, haven’t we? That’s why we believe most fervently that
integrating technology into our teaching empowers our students to sing
their song, their way. This is one “song” we created!

year, our sixth grade students, their teacher, the ITR Teacher and I
began a study of Ancient Chinese Dynasties. What would be “new” for us
would be the experience of using only digital tools to learn about these
dynasties. We were familiar with some of them. We decided to use only
free digital tools so students could access them anywhere/anytime they
had Internet access as they completed their work. We also included the
art teacher so students could create clay pots and kites representative
of the Ancient Chinese Dynasties. All of us had much to learn!

We compiled a list of activities and tools that we would be using:

  • Having used Moodle, a content management system, I set up the outline for our class. While Moodle itself is free, you must host it – either on your school server or your own server.

  • Blogs – each user in Moodle has a blog; external blogs can be linked
  • Wiki – an activity module in Moodle for collaboratively creating content
  • Exabis ePortfolio – plugin added to Moodle so students are able to create individual ePortfolios

was the first time these students were relying totally on digital tools
to learn about a topic. This was a brand new experience for them and
they were excited! We started first with
saving online resources to study and use. Immediately, they understood
the concept of saving and organizing information (by creating lists).
They realized they could use Diigo for other subject areas and for their
own interests and hobbies. Highlighting helps information retention,
has become indispensable to us as teachers! What inspired us was that
they discussed among themselves the value of the information they found
and they helped each other to find other pertinent web resources.

they wrote blogs, created wikis, multimedia projects and art creations,
the level of sharing and collaboration was impressive. Yes, we did use
tests at the end along with their online evaluations to reach a grade.
But these students respected and valued each other’s ideas and talents
so much that, together,
created a solid body of content. They encouraged each other, too, which
involved reluctant participants! Every student was able to use their
voice and their talents to contribute to the class “song” and that was
music to our ears!

This short video, Ancient Chinese Dynasties, shows just some examples of our class work! 

taught students from PreK through 8th grade, I’ve seen technology
empower and excite students about learning. Now, I work with their
teachers to integrate technology into their curriculum and I see the
same excitement! You’re invited to contact me via email at or on Twitter @patmsmiley


Thank You Readers for 14 Amazing Years!