Monday, February 23, 2009

Larry's Adventures in Wiki Land, part 1

I've been eagerly looking forward to my Civil Rights/Liberties Project with my Am. Gov. class. I tweaked it for my Apple ADE application and loaded the instructions with my beloved hyperlinks. In past years I had tried different kinds of research projects on this issue with dreary results, so I have been ready to launch full bore into a Wikispaces collaboration.

First, I presented my 85 students (three classes) with an orientation, let that sink in, and couple of days later formed groups and chose topics. Having been recently tipped off by a fellow wiki geek, that I could bulk load all the student registrations to the wikis, I required the students to format their user names, etc. so that I could easily register all of them with a few copy & pastes . Cool. I also had the students create "action plans" for their group meetings. This was great because the meetings were purposeful-- no aimless yacking.

Well....when we next met, I requested students who had not gotten into the site to email me. Good Gawd! The emails started pouring in. That evening I went back to the wikis and tried to make some general adjustments. A day later, I asked the students to see me one at a time if they were still shut out of the wiki. After a few minutes I had students crowding my desk, holding their laptops, lamenting, "I can't get in, I can't get in." The reasons ranged from the ridiculous to the utterly mysterious (I think our spam filter was intercepting some of the messages). By week's end, I was beaten down, but had worked out the bugs. It occurred to me how happy some of my peers would have been to see Mr. Web 2.0 techie under siege.

As the debacle was ending, I ran into my pal, Alison, who informed me of a much simpler way to register my kids. I should have consulted her, first. Lesson learned and a good reason to further urge administration to develop a plan for creating staff resource hubs to facilitate such sharing.

Any good news? Absolutely. It's simple for a teacher to monitor activity on Wickispaces and when mine got up and running, they really started buzzing. Granted, most of the initial activity was posting messages like, "Woohoo!!!!" on the home page. But I heard some great plans for podcast interviews and videos. Our kids are terrific with PowerPoint and most of the groups were making detailed plans to collaborate in this area as well. I don't anticipate again coming under siege as I was during the registration process. But I'll keep you posted. Check back in a couple of weeks when the wikis will be done.
"Why Wikis" Creative Commons Flickr Photo by Blogefl

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