“It’s on the wiki!” for English Classes

December 1, 2011 — Leave a comment

In three short years, the Region 6 School District in Connecticut has rolled out several technology initiatives at the Wamogo High School -1:1 netbooks  in English/Social Studies classrooms, Smartboards in all classrooms, I-pads for teachers- in order to prepare all students with 21st Century skills.

These technology initiatives have allowed members of the English Department to incorporate wikis,  specifically wikis hosted on the PBWorks site, in providing instruction to students in grades 7-12. These wikis serve in different ways in each of the English classrooms. Teachers can post assignments, provide links to websites or resources; students can make their own webpages with information or make comments on other students’ works.

Junior Wiki assignment page with links

One of the many advantages to using a wiki for a teacher is the ability to go “paperless” since worksheets can be uploaded to the wiki for students to download and complete.  Webpages can be developed by individual students, and students can comment on other student pages. Pages can be created collaboratively and teachers will have an accurate record of who contributed based on time stamp entries on a web page.

Students can also access their reading assignments through the wiki since teachers can post links to digital texts. The wiki can expand a school library by promoting the links to materials that can be read on any Internet ready device. Students, and parents, can access the wiki 24/7 from any Internet device.

Of course, the use of a classroom wiki means that much more of the responsibility for student learning is placed on the student.

Advanced Placement English Literature digital texts

Not surprisingly, there are some students who are not as enthused about the wikis as teachers are. Some are a little insulted that educators have co-opted the Internet for education. However, all of our students are becoming used to the following mantra, “It’s on the wiki!”

For example:

A student will ask what homework is due for tomorrow.

(“It’s on the wiki!”)

A student who has been out ill for a few days might ask what he/she has missed.

(“It’s on the wiki!”)

A student may say he/she left the assigned book in a locker.

(“It’s on the wiki!”)

A student may claim he was not sure exactly how long an essay response had to be for an assignment or she may say that she lost the worksheet that needed to be completed.

(“It’s on the wiki!”)

The wiki does hold the student more accountable for participation. Of course, this participation means that they actually have to go to the wiki.

Around this time of year, Edublogs, a free educational blogging platform that claims to be the, largest, most trusted, best supported and widely used way for teachers and students to engage with the world of blogging” asks for nominations for the best educational wikis. The Edublog Awards accept nominations also for the best blogs, web tools, twitter feed and educational use of social networks for the year. These awards were created “in response to community concerns relating to how schools, districts and educational institutions were blocking access of learner and teacher blog sites for educational purposes.  The purpose of the Edublog awards is promote and demonstrate the educational values of these social media.

I would love to share any one of the excellent wikis being used at Wamogo High School, by the English Department or by any other discipline at the school, but most of our subscription wikis are private for student and parent use only. While our wikis cannot be seen by the general public, which means they could not be nominated, there are a plethora of other educational wikis available that promote teacher professional development and/or student learning. Many of our teachers’ best ideas come from exploring the wonderful resources in blogs, wikis, and other social media available on the Internet. Sites that have won an Edublog Award are always exceptional in providing these resources.

Wamogo High School wikis will not win any of the Edublog Awards for 2011, however, our teachers already know how the use of wikis has improved delivery of material and student engagement these past three years. We chant a 21st Century mantra for success… “It’s on the wiki!”

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