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A new hack for you: Appsmashing Wakelet, by Samantha Shaffner

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Read about Samantha’s brilliant ideas about appsmashing Wakelet, and using twitter chats in her ELA classroom!

One simple hack I’ve come up with during my practice is having my students respond to writing prompts from Newsela articles in a Wakelet collection. It is through this type of assignment that my students have engaged with the platform!

Sometimes reading articles, day after day using the same websites becomes a mundane process for students. Wakelet takes the boring out of the experience because when using collaboration to write as a group, the whole class is engaged with one another. This makes learning more exciting, fun, and engaging for students! We ed techies call this “Appsmashing”! 

As a teacher within the secondary ELA classroom setting, I have been using the “Appsmashing” technique shown below in my middle-grade ELA classes approximately 1-3 times per week as a means for formative writing assessment. Summaries, writing through literary analysis, and opinion pieces are the main types/modes of writing used for this best practice. Newsela is a common core aligned digital literacy resource that provides article links that can be embedded in Wakelet collections. 

How to Appsmash Wakelet with Newsela

To “Appsmash” as I have in the collections provided, I go through a simple process. First, I choose and embed an article from the site. Then, I create a prompt or borrow a prompt (even tweak an existing prompt) for this piece of informational text. I give step by step directions for writing and students use a collaboration code to add their own contribution to a class collection! Below are pictures of collections we have created that have been personally assigned to my students and saved, shared, and curated by me. 

These were all created using the collaboration features, and have really become a major way that we share our writings and ideas in my classroom both formatively and summatively. Check out the 3 examples below (I have almost 200 on my Wakelet profile!) and you can sense the student excitement and engagement with the pictures alone! As you can see here, my students love interacting with news articles and other applications that use Wakelet as a means to share and save work.

Newsela Appsmash–Example collection 1

Newsela Appsmash–Example collection 2

Newsela Appsmash–Example collection 3

I think we all can agree that data is both powerful and important when it comes from the students that we teach in our classrooms. Overall my students’ survey responses about their preferences regarding edtech apps showed they generally liked, very much so liked, or at least were ambivalent about my current practices with Wakelet.

I’ll take this as an overall positive as I continue to learn alongside my students in a digital age!

Luckily, a quick email to the Wakelet team is always enough to get someone looking at the issue or trying to improve the apps functionality and innovative capability. I will be incorporating some of the student comments within my current and upcoming curricula; will keep you updated on how my lessons develop and how my students respond and perform.

Always watch for updates with Wakelet! Noteworthy updates continue to creep into my email box almost bi-weekly (I’m an ambassador and long-time beta tester and community member). The very popular, very recent integration with Microsoft OneDrive includes a feature that not only provides text-to-speech, it actually translates and reads any selected text hosted on Wakelet’s platform into 50 or so languages. Educators are hopeful that this new level of accessibility can begin to bridge even language barriers!

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Samantha J. Shaffner is a secondary English Language Arts Teacher at Millennium Community School in, Columbus, OH. This is Samantha’s 12th year in the ELA classroom within an urban charter school setting, where she has also held a variety of administrative positions including director of blended learning and district testing coordinator.

Samantha has a passion for blended learning program/assessment design and implementation of best practices within the field of ELA education, and is an active/contributing member of both the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) as well as the Ohio Council for Teachers of English Language Arts (OCTELA).

Samantha enjoys writing and conducting research about cutting edge EdTech tools and applications, as well as serving as a Wakelet Ambassador.

Wakelet profile: @SamanthaShaffner9061

Twitter: @SamanthaShaffn2

LinkedIn: Samantha J. Shaffner