Thursday, March 19, 2009

Larry's Adventures in Wiki Land, Part 2

Whew! My American Government students' wikis are done. You may recall from Part One, the students were charged with assembling curriculum materials for a civil rights or civil liberties project. They then taught this portion of the curriculum to their classmates. I'd like to share some observations on this experience while the memories are fresh:

* More students were actively engaged with the wikis than comparable "paper" report projects of the the past.

* I found it necessary to intervene mid-point in order to remind some groups that the wiki materials should be prepared to instruct their
peers rather than impress me. The instructional design feature still ended up being the weakest aspect of the wikis. This point would need more emphasis in the future.

* Students reported that the projects were "challenging" (good!). But there were no complaints from parents or students about anyone being thoroughly overwhelmed or confused. I enjoyed serving as a guide, and though I was involved inside and outside the class I never felt overwhelmed either. In most groups a tech-adept person surfaced to teach others or take over the reigns for pulling together the PowerPoint.

*Retrospectively, students expressed that they needed more time to meet (in physical space) as they neared the deadline (as opposed to the early stages). I can see why, particularly as related to page design and PowerPoint issues. Point noted for next time.

*Some students reported that they initially had trouble conceiving the idea of the wiki and that consequently the groups set unrealistic goals for themselves. Now, I will have models to show others.

*All of the wikis had solid instructional value, but the study guides which accompanied the wikis were sort of useless because they were overwhelming in quantity of questions. In the future I would adivise the students to provide fewer study questions and better directions on where to look in the wiki in order to find the answers. The embedded slide shows were outstanding, though we had to trouble-shoot some minor technical challenges getting them onto the wiki.

*The most gratifying aspect of the wikis were the variety of media employed. A few groups created their own videos. These were very effective and I will encourage more original material in the future.

* The in class presentations based on the the wikis were several cuts above the usual fare. Our Associate Principal was present for two and was very impressed. In nearly every case the students showed a strong command of the material. I credit the wiki building experience as rooting the knowledge more deeply in the presenters.

*You would like to see the wikis, perhaps? I plan to share them on March 25, when I post, "Tooting Your Horn"
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Screen Capture of "American Government Wiki Hall of Fame"

3 comments:

Lynn Waldsmith said...

I'm anxious to see the wikis. I'm dipping my foot in the water with something I've never tried before. I just launched a "Catcher in the Rye wiki" class project with my freshmen. It's as new to me as it is to them, so I'm curious to see how it will go. In addition to being a project in itself, I've told them that the wiki will serve as a valuable tool to help them write their formal literary essay. That seemed to motivate them -- the idea that this "fun" project can also benefit them with one that is not so fun, but a requirement of freshman English.

Larry Baker said...

Lynn, you have an interesting idea. I have often felt that teaching writing skills often compounds the problem with how to say something with what to say at all. Why not let students collaborate on building the content for their later compositions? Then you can work with them individually on the wordsmithing.

Alison Kline-Kator said...

Yay! I'm glad to hear that things went well - I'll be kicking off my Morality wiki project next week, so I'm excited to see what students who've had experience in your class bring to a new project. I'm interested in trying more multimedia this semester - for example, students complete interviews for one part of the project, and we're going to try posting those in a listenable format this semester rather than having students create a text summary.

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