Friday, February 3, 2012

Applying Wikis to Teaching

A great opportunity to collaborate. An ideal way to keep everything accessible in one area. A past fascination. These are all words I use to describe wikis. I used to LOVE wikis. When I first started the Written Communication program, I thought for sure I would be doing my final project on wikis. If you would have asked me a year and a half ago, I would have guaranteed that was the path I wanted to travel, and that wikis were my passion.

Obviously, things have changed, as I've been introduced to different (and dare I say, more exciting) things. Don't get me wrong, I still believe there is merit to wikis, but they have grown old to this time, at least. However, I still like talking about all the different ways I've used wikis in the past.

How have I used them? Well, I'm glad you asked. It all began during my undergraduate years (fall semester of 2007, to be exact), while taking an assistive technology course for my special education degree. Just to give a little background, this was the class that made me realize how much I have a PASSION for technology in education. Anyway, this teacher had a class wiki, a PBwiki, that we dialogued on regarding  assistive technology devices, software, websites, etc. Finally, the sun was peaking through the downpour of rain. I never understood what collaboration, team building, class effort was like until the wiki. Okay, well I may be slightly exaggerating that fact, but the truth is, that day, I fell in love with wikis (really, this part I'm NOT exaggerating).

I ended up doing an honors project for this class, and take a guess what I did! Come on, I bet you'd never guess! Well, it was a wiki. Shocked?!?! Of course you're not because I just got through saying how much I loved wikis. So, I began to complete an online encyclopedia of assistive technology devices that described and reviewed all things related to assistive technology.

It didn't end there. While I was a student teacher in a high school English classroom 2 1/2 years ago, I helped my cooperating teacher incorporate a wiki in the Steinbeck unit. She had never used one, which gave me the opportunity to help her through the process of setting it up. Even though I left part way through the use of the wiki, I would check in periodically (as I was doing my special education student teaching in the same building) to see how everything was going. She enjoyed using the wiki. It was a great place for dialoguing. It was a great place for observing collaboration.

As you can probably tell, I still really enjoy the possibilities of wikis. I think they have a lot to offer, if used properly. However, my world has recently been opened to other pieces of technology that can be incorporated in the classroom, such as blogs and Google docs. So, currently, I'm focused on learning more about incorporating those, along with other up-and-coming technologies that will attract students to learn.


  1. It makes sense to branch out, to try blogs and other online platforms for writing, such as Google Docs. Your experiences with these other platforms will inform your choices later on, right?, helping you decide when it makes sense to prefer a wiki, a blog (individual or collective), or a Google Doc for a particular class or unit. I have found that Google Docs are not as adequate for collaboratively-authored documents as I'd hoped they would be because when the document grows long (10pp+) its navigation can be cumbersome. Wikis make it quite a bit easier, I think, to break apart a document into smaller pieces and locate those pieces on other pages when needed. On the other hand, the commenting features in Google Docs are robust compared with the wikis I've seen, and the documents can be kept private between student and teacher or managed among smaller groups, whereas wiki entries tend to be visible to everyone (or at least those who have login access to the wiki). Anyway, deciding among these finer details is part of the value in experiencing multiple platforms, I'd say.

  2. Wikis are growing on me, although it took a while. However, I have to say that I enjoy the blog far better. The element of personalization may be distracting to some, but I think that for grad students within the same program, it is a nice tool for getting to know more about your classmates and their pedagogies. There is something also a but more 'freestyle' with a blog for me.