Gettin’ Wiki With It -Thing 17

Of all of the web2.0 tools I’ve explored in this class, developing a wiki has taken the most time.  But before I ramble about my experience, like any good English student, I will answer the three questions that Jim Dornberg posed

The main difference between a wiki and a blog is in the way the posts are listed.  Blogs list posts in reverse chronological order (the most recent post is at the top of the page.)  Wiki pages are static. This means that the order of the information presented doesn’t change unless the author deliberately moves it. While wikis and blogs are both great tools, their different organization and editing styles means that they lend themselves to different tasks.

Blogs are perfect for journaling tasks. Each author makes a dated entry on a given topic.  Professional blogs may include research and links but the thoughts of the author are the primary focus. Likewise, student blogs are focused on the student’s thoughts and how he/she expresses them.  They are also a good place to have students practice giving constructive comments/feedback on other writers’ work.  Along with journaling and commenting, I like to include “net etiquette” lessons. I do this through modeling (students see my comments) and direct instruction. Finally, blogs, as anything else driven by time, are fleeting. As more posts and comment are added, earlier posts disappear farther and farther into the background.

Wikis lend themselves to the to more permanent projects. I use my class wiki to post assignments, directions, and information that students will continue to need throughout a term.  Wikis can also be used for class projects. Rather than have a group project end with a presentation and pieces of paper which only teacher will read, student groups can post what they learned on a wiki page and others from around the world can benefit from what they learned and build from there.  With wikis there is no need for student groups to continually gather the same information about a topic. Once it is posted, the next group can find different information to add to the sum of knowledge already created.  Groups no longer need to be limited to one class. Students from a number of classes studying the same thing can collaborate on the same topic.

As with anything new, having students develop a wiki takes some practice. You have to watch closely for plagiarism to make sure all material has proper attribution and does not violate and licenses. This is especially true with images gathered from the web.  This is a good opportunity to teach about copyrights and Creative Commons licenses.  Also, you need to monitor what is being posted and edited. It helps that the students know that you can and do view the revision history for each page.  For this reason it is important that each student have an unique login so that it is clear who is posting what. Accountability is key to quality work. Individual student accounts are why I like pbwiki so much.

Now, before I selected a host for my wiki I played around with wikispaces and pbwiki. I found that I preferred  the look and ease of use of pbwiki. They offered an free upgrade just by completing some tasks for them.  Pbwiki allows a teacher to create classroom accounts for those students without email addresses. It also allows me to set individual access permissions for each page. This way I can set up a page for each student  that only that student and I can view and edit.  This comes in handy when I need to list all of the missing work for a given student.  I can upload media and other resources so that they can be easily accessed. I haven’t uploaded any podcasts yet but that is in my plans.

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Autism Spectrum Student’s Blog

Okay. I’m a mom. What can I say? I got a few spare seconds and decided to look at my 18 year-old son’s blog that he is required to keep for his Freshman Comp class. He has always had problems with writing. (He got a 4 on the ACT writing; 25 composite. Yikes!) Language issues are part of the disorder. So I was pleasantly surprised at the coherence of his writing. Now if he’d just proof it before posting… I’m beginning to think, no, believe that blogging can be an effective tool for ALL of our students. I thought a real world example might help.

College Anxiety Blog

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