Posted by: Kris Woods | March 21, 2008

Reflections on the wiki project

Reflection on the inaugural Teasleypedia project

          The language arts teacher and I were eager to try the wiki research project with our students.  The students’ excitement was palpable when we introduced the concept of the wiki and creation of online encyclopedic entries.  The essence of Web 2.0 is collaboration and building knowledge together as an online community.  The goal of this instructional sequence was to review research skills while integrating technology to engage learners.  Connected learning via the Internet necessitates an openness to change.  The collaborative relationship I have with the language arts teacher allowed us to journey into uncharted territory.  The wiki concept is new to us and to the students.  As we collaborated on the unit, we adjusted for problems that arose and made note of changes for the next time we facilitate this unit.I feel the students were more engaged in the research for the wiki project than I have seen in traditional research projects.  The students understood that their work could be viewed by anyone on the Internet.  At first the students did not conceptualize the final product.  Once we realized that we were having an issue with the conceptualization, we relied on the students’ knowledge of Wikipedia to give them a visual image of what we were expecting as a final product.  The next time we use the wiki unit, we will include a better mini-lesson in the pedagogy and creation of a wiki entry.  Students needed to see multiple examples to transfer informational writing skills into production of the wiki entry.

One goal we had was for the students to integrate primary documents and videos into the entries and to use the documents to directly support information in the entry.  The inclusion of primary documents in the project gives the students a wider experience with accessing, locating, and using digital resources.  Visual learners benefit from the use of primary documents.  The pictures help to tell the story.

The language arts teacher and I wanted the students to collaborate through peer editing of their work.  The editing of other entries not only improved the entries but also allowed for discussion among the students.  The students became engaged in editing their peers’ pages.  The language arts teacher commented that he had not seen the students so animated and involved in peer editing.

Online collaborative work is the future of information literacy and research.  I will continue to revise and refine the concept of a school encyclopedia wiki.  The students’ attitudes toward research and writing changed as a result of the online writing environment.  They were excited to create the entries.  The basic format of the unit is transferable to any content area.  I plan to incorporate the wiki into other projects to add entries.  I included an alphabetical index in the wiki.  As other classes participate in creation of entries, our school online encyclopedia will grow with the prior entries serving as needed examples I described.  The entries are available for further editing.  As the wiki grows, grammar assignments could include editing wiki entries.  When a student edits an entry, the changes are kept in the wiki history.  A teacher can check the history to see what changes a student made.  Peer editing of entries will lead to internalization of writing conventions as the students will have an authentic purpose to the editing.  Building a collaborative school encyclopedia will influence future instruction in a profound way.

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