Friday, April 23, 2010

The Wonderful World of Wikis

Web 2.0 tools provide educators with a plethora of options for creating collaborative learning environments for their students. Online Collaborative Writing/Research tools give students a place to work together on research and writing projects and allow their research to go beyond the capabilities of one student.

By breaking the topics down into parts and sharing information, students are more likely to ask better questions and to look for the best resource they can find. By sharing the writing online, students can work with another student who is interested in the same topic even if they do not happen to have the same class period or even the same teacher.

According to Wikipedia, the world's largest wiki, a wiki can be defined as a collaborative website which can be directly edited by anyone with access to it. Wikis have grown to be used as a tool to create classroom websites and other information repositories where the creators can control who has viewing and/or editing rights. Most wikis can be edited using a simple web browser and do not have the barriers (technical skills, additional software and hardware requirements) that many other web publishing tools possess. Wikis provide the medium for educators to really start turning up the H.E.A.T. (Higher-order thinking, Engaged learning, Authentic connections, and Technology tools) or H.E.A.R.T. in the classroom.

So what are some quick and easy ways to introduce wikis to educators? Assign a collaborative task such as lesson planning or even planning a school event. Ask teams of educators to design a wiki to do their planning. And do not forget to include everyone! Administrators and other school leaders set a great example by modeling the use of the tool with staff. Here are some simple to use wikis that are FREE and include many educational examples and tutorials to get started:

FREE Wikis

PBworks in Education

Wikispaces for Educators

Example Wikis

2nd Grade Teachers

Middle School Science Fair

High School Book Leads

So now that you have explored and shared the tool and the ideas, let's focus on how to continue to encourage teachers to utilize them by giving them some commendations and recommendations.

Wiki: Commendations
1. Reward efforts by highlighting wiki creations to the rest of the staff.
2. Set up for success and take the lead on creating a wiki that can utilized by all staff for event planning or something fun to get started!!

Wiki: Recommendations

1. Collaboration, teamwork, support are key elements and should be encouraged. No one has to go this alone!
2. Start simple by suggesting a task that already needs to collaborated on and suggest using a wiki as the tool.
3. Reward efforts by replacing a meeting with the use of a wiki with some key points and ideas that staff can discuss online over a week instead of a weekly staff meeting.

So explore The Wonderful World of Wikis and see how they might be used in your classrooms to turn up the H.E.A.T.!