Sunday, September 21, 2008

Please Help Abby with Her Homework

My eight-year-old, third grade daughter just began an assignment for school. Each child received a composition book to use for their “travelogue journal.” Inside was pasted this greeting:
Dear Friend,

I am a student in the 3rd grade at Renaissance Elementary School in Castle Rock, Colorado, USA. I am learning about U.S. and world geography. With your help, I can learn more about many different places. Here’s how you can help me:

1. Complete one journal entry in my attached journal by writing about the city in which you live.

2. Send a postcard from your city addressed to me at the school address below.

3. Send my journal on to a friend or relative who lives in a different region of the United States or another country.
Then there’s some additional information, a “return by” date of April 15th, 2009, and her school address. Then in the next couple of pages each student wrote a little bit about themselves, what they like to do, and about the Castle Rock area. Each student is supposed to then mail this to someone they know in a different part of the country, that person adds to the journal, then sends it on to another person.

I think this assignment is fine as far as it goes, and we mailed it off to a friend in Kentucky on Friday. But, and you’ve got to know what’s coming, I thought this assignment was ripe to have a “virtual companion” to it. So, I haven’t asked for much on this blog (well, other than changing the world), but I’d like to ask those of you who are still reading this blog to consider contributing to Abby’s travelogue wiki. There’s an explanation on the wiki itself, but here’s the basic idea:
  1. Add your information to the wiki (first name, last initial, city, state/province, country).

  2. Upload or link to a picture (a “digital postcard” if you will) that’s representative of your city.

  3. Write a short description of your city.

  4. Then, if you want, send the link to the wiki on to friends or family that you think might be willing to participate. (Note – please not “send this to everyone in your address book!” – I don’t want this to be Fischbowl-generated spam.)

  5. Then, if you really want to go the extra mile, actually send a postcard to Abby at her school (pdf).
Now, I really have no idea if we’ll get five or five hundred responses, but I figured it was worth a shot (and it takes a lot less postage). Not only would you be helping Abby and her classmates learn more about the world, but also helping other students (and adults) that visit the wiki learn about the world. I think it would be especially nice if other students added to the wiki, in addition to adults, but we’ll see what happens.

Update 9-23-08: Wow! The response has been great. Thanks to everyone. That original page on the wiki has so much on it that it's becoming difficult to edit, so please add all new entries to the second page I've created. If you already have info on the first page and need to change/add to it, please email me with the changes and I'll update it (I've locked it now so that people don't accidentally try to add to it). Thanks again to everyone that's participated and, if you haven't yet, please go ahead and contribute.


  1. I had put in all of my info and saved it. I went to look for a picture and came back. I had disappeared.
    I tried.
    Diane P.
    Sherwood, OR

  2. A letter with postcards from Japan (and all the other places I've lived so far) should be on its way tomorrow.
    Great idea.

  3. @diane p - sorry about that, lots of people editing at once caused some issues. I hope to find time to day to go back through the history and "resurrect" some folks that got deleted. Perhaps you could check again tomorrow and - if I found you - add the picture then when it's not quite so active.

  4. Karl,
    I SO Agree that this assignment is/was RIPE for an online component. Perhaps her teacher will get it after she sees the wiki!

  5. Really enjoyed doing this, Karl----and I hope Abby makes an A!

    Shows the power that digital tools have to connect people to one another, that's for sure! I mean, I was like #183 on Abby's wiki---and you put this up yesterday!


  6. @Bam Bam . . . er, Bill. Thanks so much for added to the wiki. Pass it on to others you think might be interested around the world.

  7. Incredible response to your request, Karl. Please let us know what Abby thinks about this as well as her teacher and classmates.
    Travelogue Assignment 2.0.

    Will this teacher's 3rd grade Travelogue assignment ever be the same?

  8. @karen janowski - I've heard through the grapevine that the third grade teachers are thinking this might be easier and more productive next year, but I need to find a better space. I've done a ton of cleanup on the wiki because of folks saving over each other or accidentally messing up the formatting.

    I had considered Google Forms, which I think would've solved all the problems, but didn't see a way they could include a picture, only a link to a picture, so went with the wiki.

    Would be interested if anyone would like to show me a mock-up on a different space . . .

  9. Karl,

    A couple of things......

    First, I think I may be to blame for one of the issues with the formatting of the wiki. Sorry! I have only been editing wikis for about 3 months so I still have lots to learn.

    Second, last year Howie DiBlasi presented to about 150 teachers in my region (western Nebraska) and he showed your "Shift Happens" presentation. It literally completely changed my philosophy about education. It kicked me into gear and really encouraged me to embrace technology and use it in my classroom. They are editing a class wiki for the first time this week and I shared Abby's project with them. Thank you for being such an inspiration.

  10. Hi Karl and Abby,
    This was a great idea. Kudos. It was amazing to see some people I know on the wiki. I could tell because I know their names and where the live. Gives real meaning to the expression small world.