This week I began to look at the world of Wiki’s. While I understood the idea behind them and how they worked, I had never actually thought about using them in my classes. So this week I explored their uses and looked at some examples of how they could be used in the classroom.
I was energized and excited about the possibilities. I began surfing the net to look at Wiki communities that dealt with middle school students. I was soon frustrated with the fact that many were difficult to participate in since you had to be a member. I posted to join five different communities and never heard back from one. That was frustrating. I finally found an excellent resource Wiki called Wikia.
It had an excellent middle school section that was full of great lessons, ideas, and activities. I spent a lot of time over the past week looking at the various resources for middle school students and was amazed. I have bookmarked this site and plan to use it. Since I was so enamored with this site, all my posts this week went into adding resources that I have found very successful for students over the past few years.
My first post was to add Teacher Vision to a list of web links started on this site. This has been a great resource to send kids to find information and for me to find good lesson plans on the current elections. You can see my post at:
The second post was adding to a resource page on Web quests. Here I added a Native American Web quest I have used the last two years with great success. You can see this resource at: http://schoolcomputing.wikia.com/wiki/8th_Grade_Social_Studies_Links. The third post I added to the games and activities for middle school students section of this website. Here I added an activity that requires students to help Mr. Bill become a law by answering a series of questions on the legislative process involved in creating a law. This post can be seen at: http://schoolcomputing.wikia.com/wiki/Games_for_Middle_School_Social_Studies
I firmly believe that Wiki’s would be an excellent way to get students engaged and actively participating in their learning. I am excited and currently working on ways to incorporate this into my classroom. Having students interact with each other to learn is the cornerstone of how students interact and communicate online today. This is a big part of how they communicate and to add this feature into their education seems to me to be a natural evolution of education. I really feel this could be very beneficial to many students today.
As with any online community or activity, there must be some supervision and monitoring of these activities. We as teachers must lay down ground rules on what can and cannot be stated on these pages. Any violation must be dealt with quickly and decisively. I have been very impressed with my class so far. All but one student stayed on topic and on task throughout their posts. I emailed copies of all of their additions to the forums, and I also have a filter that blocks an unnecessary language. So far it has not flagged any language issues. This monitoring does seem to be a bit overwhelming in the beginning, but once you get started it really does not take that much time. I have felt that I have been able to get to know some students much better. It is amazing how open students are in this environment. This also leads to discussing with students what is appropriate to discuss and not appropriate. I think that in this day and age learning communities like this should be blocked from the outside, and that you must be member to enter and see any post.
I must say the ideas that Wiki’s have generated for me have been extensive, and I can’t wait to work them out in my classes. I have had great success with blogs and forums, but this will provide more of a shared or collaborative environment that I think could be very effective in learning today.