Saturday, November 18, 2006

Wikis and Blogs: the Read/Write web in the classroom

The above title is a testament to Will Richardson’s weblogg-ed site and his efforts in bringing Web 2.0 technologies into the classroom. I am starting to see the light, and I like what I see. Wiki’s and blogs definitely have educational potential.

Allow me to elaborate; my classes and I are just starting to tap in to the potential of wikis and blogs. I set up a blog about a month ago for my Spanish classes at edublogs and a wiki at wikispaces. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t all that interested in the wiki at first. Sure I had been to wikipedia and other type wiki sites, but I didn’t really see the full potential of a wiki until recently.

In addition, I was worried about cyber bullying and I didn’t want to be responsible for anything that would lead to cyber bullying of my students. Then I figured it out. We need to do what we can to protect our students, but we can’t lock them away from the world. Thus, I started doing research and I got involved with Alabama Best Practice Center and 21st Century Learning. Now I am a better person for it and my students are as well.

My classes have a public blog “bishop blog” that is moderated by me. Also, we have a wiki (private wiki for now) that is graciously provided by wikispaces for educational purposes. We are using both of these technologies as much as we can for instructional purposes. I set up assignments on the blog and the wiki, and my students follow the directions and complete their assignments. We use the blog for reflective purposes and we use the wiki as a platform for discussion, assignment submissions, and synergistic learning.

I was working on our wiki the other night and I noticed where my students with out any real direction from me had begun to edit the reflexive verb page with relevant information in a thread type format. A lot of the work was “cut and paste” Internet information, but they had provided the URL as a reference and link. I love it! Currently, I am trying to limit the cut and paste format by requiring students to provide authentic analysis of content in their own writing.

As a result of my students wiki work, I believe that the potential of the wiki as a learning platform is limitless. Hence, we are going to do our best to build up our wiki with pertinent and informative information. For example, my Spanish One students have started adding to the 21 Spanish speaking country page.

What is the 21 Spanish-speaking country page? We are creating a page for each country that links directly to that country’s page. Our goal is to have relevant information about all 21 Spanish speaking countries. Additionally, we are not only providing our own information, we are also providing useful links for each country.

I am very thankful for Web 2.0 technologies. With blogs and wikis as classroom tools, students should have more than enough information at their fingertips to be successful in school and in life. My hope is that one-day the wiki will be as functional as the current high dollar software packages like “Blackboard”. James Farmer asserts, “Blackboard beware, we’re coming after you!” I love it! As such, I am going to do what I can to see that James’ dream becomes a reality. Not because I have something against Blackboard, but because K12 educational resources should be open-source, cost effective, or free.

If you would like to know more about wiki’s April Chamberlain has set up a great instructional wiki site called, “may the tech be with you.”

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