Posts Tagged 'wikis'

Wikipedia in the classroom?

This is of interest to classroom teachers and anyone else who cares about teaching and learning information literacy. If you are one of the lucky ones who gets to evaluate (and teach the evaluation of) online resources in the classroom without arbitrary content filters or system-wide bans, then here is some good advice regarding Wikipedia, framed in terms of curriculum:

If the curriculum is a closed body of information and skills to be transmitted to students, you should ignore Wikipedia and direct students to proven resources such as textbooks. Wikipedia—with its uneven quality, vandalism, and distractions—will disrupt this transfer. If your curriculum is an opening into critical thinking and knowledge construction, however, teachers must use flawed sources such as Wikipedia, alongside more authoritative texts.

It comes from the Point/Counterpoint column in the March-April 2009 edition of Leading and Learning with Technology from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The author is Thomas Hammond, a former classroom teacher and now professor at Lehigh University.

Some might take exception to Hammond’s reference to “proven resources such as textbooks.” Textbooks, along with all classroom materials, reside somewhere on a continuum of accuracy and authority and should be judged accordingly. They are not immune to critique.

Overall, I think Hammond does a fine job of cutting through the fog of fear and apprehension that shrouds Wikipedia. Quite possibly, educators could use his suggestions to teach about and through not just Wikipedia, but other collaboratively constructed knowledgebases and online communities as well.

And, no, that doesn’t make me feel all “warm and fuzzy,” as suggested by counterpoint author, David Farhie. Instead, Hammond’s argument gives me hope and a glimpse of the kind of classroom where I would like to teach again some day.

What do you think? Is there room in your curriculum for Wikipedia?

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My two wikis

Over the last several weeks and months I have been compiling two wikis to showcase my work as a graduate student at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. They are:

  • eMentoring Toolkit-a site for sharing 21st century tools and strategies to enhance mentoring and induction of new and novice teachers, and
  • Lubke’s Multiliteracies Site-the virtual home for coursework completed in my reading education classes, Spring 2008

I am using Wikispaces. In an earlier post titled Choosing a wiki, I explained how I ultimately selected this application out of the several dozen wiki platforms available online.

In very “wiki” fashion, my sites are continual works-in-progress. In very “un-wiki” fashion, they have been a solo effort, lacking input from peers, fellow students, or instructors. I wish I could say I have experienced the transformative power of wikis as forums for collaboration and consensus building, but at this juncture, my overall impression of wiki software in general, and Wikispaces in particular, is that of quick-and-dirty web authoring tool.

Oh, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun, too!

If you have an interest in eMentoring or multiliteracies/New Literacies, I hope you will drop by my wikis and tell me what you think.

Choosing a wiki

It is time to create my first wiki!

I’ve decided a wiki is the best way to showcase the links, resources, and artifacts for my independent inquiry on eMentoring tools. But with nearly one hundred different free, web-based programs for generating wikis, choosing the right one can be a daunting task.

In this post, I will share a little of what I know about wikis in general, and then I will share the process I followed for selecting the right wiki program for my project on eMentoring.

First, a little background on wikis.

Simply put, a wiki is an interactive, editable web site built around a specific topic. The best wikis grow and thrive within a collaborative community of users who share an interest in the topic.

Perhaps the most famous example of a wiki is the international online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. But there are many examples of small-scale wikis, too. Of course, the scalability, utility, and constructivist nature of wikis have led to their widespread adoption across many content areas in education. For example, the International Collaborative Literature Project is a wiki shared between two classrooms, one in Israel and the other in Canada.

The Classroom 2.0 wiki is a great resource for educators to share resources and links about web-based technologies in education. It has a section specifically about wikis. (Now we are talking about “wikis within a wiki.” Hope this isn’t getting too confusing!) Visit this page and watch the embedded video titled “Wikis in Plain English.” After watching the instructive video, scroll down to view an exhaustive list of potential uses for wikis in the classroom. This page also features links to specific wiki applications, examples of classroom wikis, articles and research on wikis, and many other resources.

Now, how to choose from the many free wiki applications currently available online?

Well, I started by reading the archived discussion on wikis at my favorite network for technology educators, Classroom 2.0. In this forum, teachers from all corners of the globe share their likes and dislikes about the various wiki platforms. These are invaluable, in-the-trenches insights from real folks who have already experienced the ins and outs of wikis in educational contexts.

The three most popular wiki applications discussed in the Classroom 2.0 forum are PBwiki, Wetpaint, and Wikispaces. These applications tend to meet educators’ needs in terms of cost (free), privacy and security settings, and utility/ease of use.

I also noticed from the discussion that as teachers grow more comfortable with the wiki concept, they are beginning to demand more artistic control over the design and appearance of pages. Consequently, many teachers favor Wetpaint, which allows users to choose templates and font colors. Even those who love Wikispaces indicate a desire for more graphic design capability. (But others say they prefer Wikispaces clean, simple lines.)

All three applications — PBwiki, Wetpaint, and Wikispaces — offer features to customize and “brand” pages, and all three allow users to embed videos and other multimedia files. Wikispaces recently released a customizable widget feature.

To sum up, much of what drives wiki choice is educator personality (a preference for simplicity over artistic control, for example) followed by the intended audience. Do you plan to use the wiki to collaborate with colleagues, or is it intended to foster collaboration within a class of fourth graders?

Next, I visited WikiMatrix.

WikiMatrix allows visitors to compare multiple wikis and identify the best wiki application to fit their needs. At this writing, it is possible to compare 97 different wikis on the matrix, so unless you arrive with a few applications already in mind, I highly advise you use the handy WikiMatrix Choice Wizard. The wizard performs an instant needs assessment after you click your responses to a short list of questions.

It took me less than five minutes to complete the wizard. In the process, I not only narrowed the list down from 97 to 19 wikis, but I also learned a lot about the basic considerations and motivations that go into the creation of wikis. This was a powerful exercise!

I also felt vindicated to see that PBwiki, Wetpaint, and Wikispaces made the short list spat out by the wizard.

After completing the wizard, it is possible to click a button to generate a comparison matrix. The matrix enables you to judge the apps on a number of different criteria such as costs, intended audience, bandwidth requirements, topic restrictions, and security features. The matrix contains loads of information but is not very easy on the eyes; be prepared to do a lot of horizontal scrolling if you want to compare more than six or seven apps at a time.

I was in no mood to look at 19 wiki apps, so I generated a smaller matrix focusing on PBwiki, Wetpaint, and Wikispaces.

In the final analysis I chose Wikispaces for my project because of teacher testimonials regarding technical support and responsiveness as well as the fact it was created specifically for small interest groups and educational settings. In the long run, I want to create a web site that educators with varying levels of techno savvy will feel comfortable accessing, reading, and possibly editing. What Wikispaces lacks in visual appeal (compared to Wetpaint), it makes up for in terms of ease of use.

And that’s what I think.

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"Educationized" wiki?

According to this news article, teachers in Charlottesville, VA, are learning how to use open, web-based technologies to create, edit, and share curriculum materials. Specifically, they are receiving training in Curriki, the brainchild of Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy. According to eSchool News online, which also posted a story about Curriki earlier this year, McNealy envisioned Curriki as “a way to provide disadvantaged teachers and students around the globe with open and unfettered access to high-quality educational content.”

That’s great.

What is not so great is how Executive Director Bobbi Kurshan describes Curriki: “We’ve taken the wiki idea and educationized it.”

This is horrible. It seems highly arrogant to suggest that wikis are anything other than educational to begin with. The whole wiki concept, after all, is based on community knowledge building!

I’ve explored Curriki briefly; it is indeed a free and open community with many members and lots of potential to grow and expand. But something about Kurshan’s comment just flies all over me, especially after I read her bio and noticed the many affiliations and former positions she has held with commercial enterprises, including Apple and Microsoft.

Be vigilant! The education profiteers are sweeping in to co-opt the homegrown, organic qualities of the read/write web.

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Choosing a wiki

It is time to create my first wiki!

I’ve decided a wiki is the best way to showcase the links, resources, and artifacts for my independent inquiry on eMentoring tools. But with nearly one hundred different free, web-based programs for generating wikis, choosing the right one can be a daunting task.

In this post, I will share a little of what I know about wikis in general, and then I will share the process I followed for selecting the right wiki program for my project on eMentoring.

First, a little background on wikis.

Simply put, a wiki is an interactive, editable web site built around a specific topic. The best wikis grow and thrive within a collaborative community of users who share an interest in the topic.

Perhaps the most famous example of a wiki is the international online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. But there are many examples of small-scale wikis, too. Of course, the scalability, utility, and constructivist nature of wikis have led to their widespread adoption across many content areas in education. For example, the International Collaborative Literature Project is a wiki shared between two classrooms, one in Israel and the other in Canada.

The Classroom 2.0 wiki is a great resource for educators to share resources and links about web-based technologies in education. It has a section specifically about wikis. (Now we are talking about “wikis within a wiki.” Hope this isn’t getting too confusing!) Visit this page and watch the embedded video titled “Wikis in Plain English.” After watching the instructive video, scroll down to view an exhaustive list of potential uses for wikis in the classroom. This page also features links to specific wiki applications, examples of classroom wikis, articles and research on wikis, and many other resources.

Now, how to choose from the many free wiki applications currently available online?

Well, I started by reading the archived discussion on wikis at my favorite network for technology educators, Classroom 2.0. In this forum, teachers from all corners of the globe share their likes and dislikes about the various wiki platforms. These are invaluable, in-the-trenches insights from real folks who have already experienced the ins and outs of wikis in educational contexts.

The three most popular wiki applications discussed in the Classroom 2.0 forum are PBwiki, Wetpaint, and Wikispaces. These applications tend to meet educators’ needs in terms of cost (free), privacy and security settings, and utility/ease of use.

I also noticed from the discussion that as teachers grow more comfortable with the wiki concept, they are beginning to demand more artistic control over the design and appearance of pages. Consequently, many teachers favor Wetpaint, which allows users to choose templates and font colors. Even those who love Wikispaces indicate a desire for more graphic design capability. (But others say they prefer Wikispaces clean, simple lines.)

All three applications — PBwiki, Wetpaint, and Wikispaces — offer features to customize and “brand” pages, and all three allow users to embed videos and other multimedia files. Wikispaces recently released a customizable widget feature.

To sum up, much of what drives wiki choice is educator personality (a preference for simplicity over artistic control, for example) followed by the intended audience. Do you plan to use the wiki to collaborate with colleagues, or is it intended to foster collaboration within a class of fourth graders?

Next, I visited WikiMatrix.

WikiMatrix allows visitors to compare multiple wikis and identify the best wiki application to fit their needs. At this writing, it is possible to compare 97 different wikis on the matrix, so unless you arrive with a few applications already in mind, I highly advise you use the handy WikiMatrix Choice Wizard. The wizard performs an instant needs assessment after you click your responses to a short list of questions.

It took me less than five minutes to complete the wizard. In the process, I not only narrowed the list down from 97 to 19 wikis, but I also learned a lot about the basic considerations and motivations that go into the creation of wikis. This was a powerful exercise!

I also felt vindicated to see that PBwiki, Wetpaint, and Wikispaces made the short list spat out by the wizard.

After completing the wizard, it is possible to click a button to generate a comparison matrix. The matrix enables you to judge the apps on a number of different criteria such as costs, intended audience, bandwidth requirements, topic restrictions, and security features. The matrix contains loads of information but is not very easy on the eyes; be prepared to do a lot of horizontal scrolling if you want to compare more than six or seven apps at a time.

I was in no mood to look at 19 wiki apps, so I generated a smaller matrix focusing on PBwiki, Wetpaint, and Wikispaces.

In the final analysis I chose Wikispaces for my project because of teacher testimonials regarding technical support and responsiveness as well as the fact it was created specifically for small interest groups and educational settings. In the long run, I want to create a web site that educators with varying levels of techno savvy will feel comfortable accessing, reading, and possibly editing. What Wikispaces lacks in visual appeal (compared to Wetpaint), it makes up for in terms of ease of use.

And that’s what I think.

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Archives:

Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn


"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

Train of thought:


These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy