This post is a work-in-progress as we experiment with using wikis in the classroom and school environment.
- What is a wiki?
- Why use a wiki in the classroom?
- How to start an educational wiki for your classroom
- Things to know about Using Wikis in the Classroom
Activate your prior knowledge by thinking about wikipedia which is a a public encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Just like a regular encyclopedia, people can visit wikipedia to search for information.
However, unlike a traditional encyclopedia, the reader can also fix a mistake and add to the content of the encyclopedia. In short, wikipedia is a dynamic and living piece of information because readers are actively editing and updating the content as the world changes.
A wiki is a webpage that (permitted) members can collectively add to or change.
- The benefit of wikipedia is that as a living document, it has the potential to be current and up-to-date. You can view the history log to see all of the changes that have been made, so you can see how our knowledge about a specific subject grows and changes.
- The danger is that anyone can edit the page, which means the content is subject to vandalism and personal bias. As an “open-source” document (which means that anyone can edit or contribute to it), there are usually several good samaritans who help ensure the content is accurate and unbiased. After all, if I have one perspective about an issue and someone else has the opposite perspective, we can keep each other in check to make sure the content accurately reflects our viewpoint.
In practice, vandals get their IP addresses blocked and because all changes are recorded in the history log, it’s possible to undo vandalism. Ultimately, however, critical thinking and evaluation of the content must always be maintained.
- Wikis are the technology-equivalent to a KWL chart. At the start of the unit, you might create a KWL chart in your class to see what students know, want to know, and want to learn. Over the course of the unit, you might revisit the flipchart to see how your learning is growing. At the end of the unit, you could evaluate if some of your initial conceptions were correct.
A class wiki would allow you to create a KWL chart online. This could be done as a wiki for the whole class, a wiki per small groups of students, or a wiki for each student. As the unit went on, students would log into the wiki and edit the information in there to reflect their understanding of a concept.
- Wikis are a great way to document changes made in the writing process. During the editing and revising stages, you could have students TAG each others’ work (Tell something you like, Ask a question, Give advice.) They could log into their friend’s work and comment directly into the draft. The student would then be responsible for fixing and addressing the suggestions made.
However, the power of wikis comes from the history page.At the top of this page, click on the history link and you’ll see you have the option of comparing 2 drafts of this text. So you could click on the first draft and the final published version and the wiki will highlight all of the changes that the student has (or hasn’t made.)
- Another way to use wikis in language arts would be to comment on reading responses or metacognition journals. For example, the traditional method for reading responses / metacognition journals is to have students record their impressions of a text into a written journal which is collected on a (semi) regular basis by the teacher. However, this could also be done by using wikis.
Unlike a blog where you could only respond to students by commenting on a published post, a wiki allows you and your students to be completely interactive in the process. For example, you could go directly into the student work and pose questions that would lead to a deeper understanding of the text. The student could then go back and edit their work based on your feedback.
Teachers, parents, and students could use the history log to see how well they’ve revised their work.
Visit http://www.wikispaces.com/site/for/teachers. Educational wikis get the “private” version of wikispace for free (vs $50 per month)
- full privacy, only the people you allow in can see your wiki
- no advertising, your online classroom will remain ad-free. (The free “public” and “protected” versions of wikispaces have ads on the side and this may violate your board’s internet policy.)
- unlimited use, as many users, pages, edits, and files, as you like, no limits
- a customizable look and feel, so you can make it feel like home
Things to think about as we experiment with wikis in the classroom.
- You can bulk create accounts for students by emailing it to the wikispace help desk.(http://www.wikispaces.com/help+teachers#accounts)
- Students can work on the same pages at the same time (but different sections) because Wikispace has an automatic merging feature that can merge changes without interrupting the authors.
- You have a complete history of edits (and who makes the edits) which helps you in terms of assessment as well as keeping cyber-vandalism to a minimum.
- Student accounts can receive internal wikispace mail from other accounts. I imagine this would be from anyone in the wikispace system. (Apparently there’s a way to go in and turn off the messages option for each account, but you’d have to upgrade to the private label version to turn off messaging. Even if you go in and turn this feature off, students will be able to go in and turn it back on.)
- I think regular member accounts (i.e. students) will be able to add / remove other members and change the public / protected / private settings of the wikispace, although this may be a temporary bug. This seems wrong, but my member account seems to be able to invite other people, although the invitation didn’t actually let me gain access to the private wikispace. Can anyone else comment about this?
Interesting / Issues
- Student privacy and online security. Think about it.
- The service is provided for free because if your school / board gets hooked, you’ll need to upgrade to their enterprise model called private label where you can have site-wide administration. (i.e. turn off the messaging features for the entire board.)
- Wikis can be used to power your school website. Check out this example: http://arborheights.wikispaces.com/
- If you wanted to give parents access, you could either 1. keep it as a private wiki and create a parent account. (You could probably get away with one parent account, but then if a parent or student accidentally deleted some information, you couldn’t track it down to the individual. You’d still be able to undo the damage with the change logs.) or 2. make it a protected wiki which means the entire world could read the wiki, but not edit it. (You’d have to make sure to use pseudonyms and keep personally identifiable information out of the wiki.)
- Non-members can’t leave comments on the wiki, so even if you had a publically readable, protected wiki, you couldn’t have a student from the other side of the world leave a comment like you could with a blog.
- You don’t have as many customizable features as you would with a self-hosted blog, although this is on par with what you can do with a free WordPress or Edublogs account.