Play #6 – Using a Wiki in the Classroom

Play #6 – How might you use a wiki in your classroom?

As a student teacher I have not had an opportunity to use wikis in my practice; however, I was thinking of a situation where a wiki would have been a useful tool for my daughter when she was required to make a study guide in grade eight science class.

After the class had completed all the science units in May they were instructed to go back through all the units they had studied and create study notes for the final exam. Working together with 2 other friends they divided up the units and, independently, began making notes on word.

A few problems quickly arose.

Firstly, if you were diligent about keeping your notes organized from the beginning of the year it was relatively easy; however, not all of the students had done this so it involved going back through disorganized notes, quizzes and the text to pick out important information on topics that were discussed 7-9 months prior.

A second problem was that some group members were more diligent about making up their study notes than others.  Thus, in my daughter’s case, she ended up redoing some of the work of her classmates because of missing information.

A third problem occurred when the word document disappeared into cyberspace one late night (due to operator error with saving) and she had to start everything again…in tears.

Finally, after all their hard work, the teacher never looked at their final study guide, nor  provided any feedback on how they could have done it differently.  In the end, I am not even sure if my daughter found this a useful tool for studying, which was the purpose of the whole exercise in the first place.

After witnessing my daughter’s frustration with the assignment, I started to think about how I would have approached this task differently.

I think it is very beneficial to make review notes on a unit; however it would be more beneficial to do this immediately after the unit is complete rather than waiting until May and doing all the units at once.  Also, collaboration is important because if one group member forgets an important point then other group members can add to the discussion. Forming a group and then working independently within the group is not collaborating!

This is what my plan would have looked like:

  1. Students form a study group in September of 3-4 members
  2. There is a clear expectation from the onset that all members must contribute content to the unit summaries.
  3. They set up a wiki during the first unit that becomes a working document for the rest of the year.
  4. As they work through each unit they can add important information to the wiki, including written notes, videos, diagrams, and images.
  5. At the end of each unit they can review what they have created to make sure that they have a good set of notes that they can review from in June
  6. After each unit the class has a show and tell where different groups share their wikis so that students can see how their classmates organized their notes and improve on how their organize information for the next unit.

This could work to individual strengths as well.  Students who like to write can do written notes, students who are more visual may contribute good diagrams to the wiki, and other students might be able to search for videos or other media that will help them with their learning.  The end result will be a personalized “textbook” of all the important concepts that students need to demonstrate their mastery of.

Good study habits do not just happen, they have to be taught.  Often we tell students to create study notes without giving them guidance on how to do this.  How do you read a non-fiction text? What do the diagrams and pictures tell us? How can I make questions from the chapters headings and subtitles that will guide me in my studying? What videos or other media is out there to support my learning?  How do I find them? Provide a good scaffold and some useful tools and then let the students explore strategies that work to their strengths and help them to gain mastery of a subject.

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About Barb English

I am a curious soul and lifelong learner who is currently employed as a teacher in a Special Education classroom with the Calgary Board of Education.
This entry was posted in Connected Educator Month, The Learning Project and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Play #6 – Using a Wiki in the Classroom

  1. Tim Rueb says:

    Nice post Barb, you use a wiki when you deal with things that have a longer shelf life then something that has a short life duration. In my WEB 2.0 Essentials class, we cover Wiki’s but for more complex, long range, projects. For short range projects, I show them MindMeister as an alternative with all the collaboration capabilities they could need.

    Areas in which I have implemented wiki’s are: 1) long range planning for leadership teams, 2) Documentation system for very complex projects spanning several teams, 3) Internal company documentation like step-by-step guides or procedure and policy documentation, new hire training guides, and help desk procedure that are pushed out to line staff.

    Hope that helps.

    • Barb English says:

      Thanks for the feedback Tim and for suggesting MindMeister. I will check it out. This year was the first time that I used a concept mapping program so it is good to know which ones other people find useful. Cheers!

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