Since my capstone project involves wikis, I decided to search for articles about the little critters so that I could learn more and blog about them. And I did, in fact, find a good article by Steve Dembo at http://www.google.com/reader/view/#stream/feed%2Fhttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.techlearning.com%2Fblog%2Fatom.xml. In the article, Dembo writes about the underuse of wikis, offers some ideas for their use, and invites others to share how their ideas about them.
One of his ideas is to put our school mission statements on wikis so that everyone – teachers, parents, students, grandparents, administrators – can leave comments about what they think is important in this issue. Everyone involved has a special interest in how a child’s education is managed. Another point the writer makes is that a student viewing the proposed mission statement may realize that representation of a certain group is being overlooked and with powers of the wiki will be obliged to add that necessary edit. Further, the idea of maintaining the mission statement on a wiki where it can be edited (naturally, the organizer of the site would have the final say so on the changes) at anytime is a timely idea. Special meetings are sometimes held to try to hammer out, meld and mold a new statement. Having one at the ready to make changes as necessary sounds like good idea to me.
Another interesting use mentioned is the posting of a unit test at the beginning of the unit. Students can take a look at it and see what is expected. They could also make changes as they see fit. Quoting Dembo, “Then, as you actually go through things, they[students] have the freedom to adjust the questions to reflect what THEY feel is most important for them to know. Radical idea, having students take control of their learning.” This idea is supported with the notion of giving students a test in pencil. If something happens and the student can’t think of the answer to certain pre-written questions, he or she could change it to something that is known. The point of evaluation is to demonstrate what has been learned. Dembo makes the assertion that when students are given a chance to contribute test questions, oftentimes they will come up with questions far above their grade level. The only way to know about this matter is to try it with our students.
Still another use mentioned is for students to put their class notes on a wiki. Only one student can edit at a time, but other students could come behind and make changes if something was left out or incorrect. Likewise, students could add useful hyperlinks. Dembo suggests, “Minimum points for making a contribution, bonus points for creating new related pages and such.” The point is also made that this way would serve as a way for teachers see what they really taught versus what they think they taught.
All of these sound like good ideas to me. I am looking forward to my experience in wiki wonderland. All suggestions for using wikis with high school Spanish classes are welcome.