Case Study: Baltimore County Public Schools


“PBworks has far exceeded our expectations. We are using the wikis to not only enhance instruction for students, but also provide high quality professional development for our staff.”

Sharon Grimes


Sharon Grimes of the Baltimore County Public School systems tells us how to roll out PBworks to 103,643 students and 8,850 classroom teachers.


Training Wikis: and


Why did you start to use PBworks?


We faced several issues:


1. We wanted our students to be able to use 21st Century tools in able to collaborate effectively not only with their classmates, but also with peers throughout the district and indeed, the world.

2. We needed to enhance opportunities for research, writing, and editing for a real life audience and in authentic situations.

3. Our students do not have email accounts.

4. Safety and security of our K-12 students.


How are you using PBworks?

We've created a collaborative environment that allows teachers and students to see multiple models of outstanding writing.  Prior to using the wiki, teachers who wanted to highlight a well-written student response, needed to first copy it and then, make a transparency. Frequently, the text was illegible in places and because of the amount of work involved and time constraints only one or two student models were displayed.


We know from research that the more student models writers see, the more rich and well-written responses we receive.  PBworks provides the means for students to view multiple models 24/7 and as a result, to independently assess and improve their written responses.  In addition, the collaborative environment facilitates the development of peer review and editing skills.


What were you using before?

We shared Microsoft Word documents over a school-based server and/or used floppy discs.  This method was not only inefficient and time-consuming, but also did not provide our students with a diverse audience and multiple writing/editing opportunities.


How did you demonstrate PBworks to all those teachers?

The wiki, Teaching Thoughtful Learners, that the PBworks staff cloned for all 172 schools is helping us deliver instruction that is rigorous, relevant, and consistent across the district; in addition, it is an essential tool in helping us build students’ 21st Century Literacies.


The content in the wiki is based on current research on comprehension strategy instruction.  Each section of the wiki scaffolds use of and responses to one of the comprehension strategies that decades of research show proficient readers use: connecting, questioning, visualizing, predicting and its forward-looking twin: inferring, determining main ideas, analyzing and synthesizing, and employing fix-up strategies.  The collaborative environment allows students to not only learn from one another, but also to have "grand conversations," rich discussions about literature that extend beyond the confines of the classroom.


How are your teachers using their PBwork workspaces?

Staff-created wikis help students collaboratively build knowledge for an authentic audience and using real world scenarios.  For example, 10th grade students at Perry Hall High School use the following scenario to scaffold their research:


You are a member of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) assigned to find out more about and to fight injustice around the world. Each member of this four-person force will have a mission:


Perpetrators: Who are they? What is their motive and method/technique? When did they start perpetrating these crimes? Where are they?


Bystanders: Who are they? What is their motivation? Where are they? How long has this been going on?


Victims: Who are they? What is their motivation? How or why are they being targeted as victims? Where are they?


Rescuers: Who are they? What is their motivation and method/technique? Why have they been unsuccessful up to this point? Where are they?


Together, as a team, you will have to research an injustice, then report back to the UN General Assembly and recommend a course of action to be taken to stop this injustice.


How has PBworks worked for BCPS?

PBworks has far exceeded our expectations.  We are using the wikis to not only enhance instruction for students, but also provide high quality professional development for our staff. Teachers are excited by both the content and the opportunity the wiki provides to learn in a 24/7 environment.


What are folks saying?

One teacher has commented that the real power of PBworks is that it allows teachers to participate in professional development any time and any where without the necessity of traveling around the beltway after a long day at school only to arrive at a meeting tired and resistant to new learning.


Another teacher, Charla Helmers, comments:

"PBworks has been particularly responsive to the needs of educators by setting up a method for students to participate without having their own email accounts, which increases student participation.


In addition to video lessons, and online help that responds in less than 24 hours, PBworks is establishing an Education Portal that allows for educators to share ideas and suggested improvements via a link on the front page of the wiki.


The company has sponsored various webinars for educators to participate in both as learners and contributors, as well as has established a set of education mentors who display their application of the wiki format to curriculum.


All basic wikis are free; however, the premium accounts offer the ability for educators to cyber group students by limiting their access to certain folders or even pages, even when the wiki’s front page has been made public.  This type of security allows a classroom wiki to have sections that parents may visit for communication and sharing, as well as, secure work spaces for students.  The ability to add links, upload media, formulas, etc. create a rich learning environment for students and a means for them to display their creativity and learning.”

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