Thursday, July 13, 2006

Wiki Work Goal Progress

The last few days has found me researching and learning more about wikis than I thought possible. I have tried out wikis at PBwiki and Wikispaces. I have installed MediaWiki on my site. I have done Technorati searches on wiki in education. I have listened to podcasts about wikis. I have visited many sites such as the Westwood Wiki to see what other excellent teachers are doing. Through all of this it becomes more clear to me that this wiki stuff is going to have a real impact upon the way I teach and more importantly the way my students learn. How do I know this? From my personal experience. Searches for information that I have done, adding to my knowledge base , and turning around and sharing with others is the exactly what I want my students to do. Why? Because we can't really share what we don't really know. Sure you can repeat back what you have heard but you don't have any context to gain meaning. I think that the relevancy that wikis work in my class, yes more than one, are going to engage students because they will have an audience of consumers for their gained knowledge. It just isn't for the teacher, test, report card, or mom/dad. It will for themselves.

For others getting started in wikis, here are my reflections:

  • PBWiki - a free wiki (remove adds/upgrade for subscription fee) that takes the pain out of getting started in wikis. Some good templates for preformatting pages or to use as base ideas for formatting your wiki pages/information. The free wiki provides for one group password that allows members of your community to post/edit pages. Greater control on permissions is available through the subscription fee service.
  • WikiSpaces - a free wiki (remove adds/upgrade for subscription fee) that is also very easy to get started. Public, Protected, and Private wikis are available. One of the things I like about this wiki provider is that you can have a protected wiki that is still free. This means that as the teacher/organizer you can establish your wiki as open to public viewing but pages can only be posted/edited by members of your site. As the organizer you invite your students through an email to join. When they sign up, they will have their own username/password that will allow for more accountability when you check the page history of the edits, or you a established a requirement for posting/editing for an assignment. Templates for formatting the look of your site are available with greater control provided to those who have subscribed. The Westwool Wiki, hosted on WikiSpaces, is an excellent example of what I hope my students will attain.
  • MediaWiki - this is the open-source freeware used by Wikipedia to run their site. I downloaded a copy, installed it (good directions and an easy intall compared to some programs I have tried) and started playing with it. This is a very robust program that as a novice wiki user/provider I was not able to fully enjoy. One of the problems with the version (v1.6) I installed was the lack of an installed set of help pages. I could always go to the MediaWiki site to check things out but that seemed inconvenient. I would also point out that the most current stable version is 1.7 but my server did not have PHP 5 so I had to install an older version. Perhaps that version of MediaWiki has a set of help pages that are part of the install.For a newbie like me getting started, this was taking too large a bite of the wiki pie! As I gain more experience I would consider trying this program again.
There are many other sources for wikis that any search would find. These are just a few that I looked into.

What kinds of things do I hope to have my students do with our class wikis?

  • Vocabulary - I would like to see the students establish a class vocabulary wiki page. I know many students are required to keep a notebook for the year of vocab that is taught or they encounter. I plan on asking my students to do an online version with the wiki.
  • Unit Reports/Summary - My students have several units that they are assigned research reports that are then presented to the class. They become the class expert and share this knowledge with the class. I would like to see their work posted on the wiki so the other students could truly benefit from the efforts. By having on the wiki, students could revisit the information or edit/add to the contribution. At the end of the year the students will have a digital record of their learning and more importantly, how they contributed to each others learning.
I'm sure there are a many more ideas and I will continue to keep searching. As Mulder from the X-Files might say, "The Wiki is out there."


At 4/22/2007 7:45 PM, Blogger Miguel said...

Have you tried PmWiki? No MySQL necessary, although you do need PHP. More info at http://mguhlin.net/wiki under Facilitating Collaboration with PmWIki.

Take care,
Miguel Guhlin
Around the Corner-MGuhlin.net


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