In this module we were required to look at various learning communities and using wikis. I found this topic quite interesting as the use of wikis in education is something that I have been investigating over the last two years. During my graduate diploma of education study I began learning about Wikispaces, an example of a site that hosts wikis. FYI, a wiki is defined as:
a website or database developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add and edit content
During that time I developed a wiki with several other pre-service teachers based on a biology unit that we were planning for. At the time I remember feeling that it was a little cumbersome, requiring us to format and re-edit documents to display them correctly and share them through Wikispaces.
Since that time, I have developed more familiarity with both Wikispaces and Google Sites and have found them to offer a number of benefits to my classes. I wanted to use them for my classes for two reasons: firstly as a place to store digital documents for students to readily access, and more importantly, as a place to help students join in a conversation about their learning process, to enable them to see other learning process from their peers, and share feedback and strategies about their learning.
What I have found so far is that Google Sites works more effectively with the students from my school, in comparison with Wikispaces. The difficulties my students found with Wikispaces was that they had to remember another login for another site, and often the school server blocked students from accessing the website. Whilst the first is easily remedied, the second really impacted on the students taking it up. Google Sites on the other hand was more easily taken up by students due to using the same logon details as their school email, which is already required for all their subjects. I also found that the layout presented by Google Sites was more user friendly, and a more simple interface.
As I have used these websites, my awareness of what they can be used for has developed. Initially I thought they would serve to outline the 'course' and subject materials; which is such a small application. Since I have been using them regularly, I have seen their potential in getting students to complete groupwork collaboratively, in a way that I can observe each students contributions. I have also been able to blog to the class discussing why we are studying certain things in class, presenting students with feedback and discussing class survey results. I feel that they can help my students to see that I can meet their needs outside of the classroom.
I feel that I am able to more easily see more of my students achieving/satisfying requirements of a course through their interactions with a wiki. Several of my students have provided feedback, saying that they enjoy using the websites, but would prefer to use them every class or not at all. I think they find it difficult to add another literacy (digital/use of wiki) when they might already be struggling. Some of them would prefer to use a wiki in place of a notebook, recording their class notes etc. Some of the year 10 science research projects really worked heavily on developing their group page, seeing it as part of their overall project assessment.
Overall I think that I will continue to use a form of wikis in my classroom, and expect that my usage of them will develop with my teaching. I look forward to helping students see different ways of learning, through what they share with their peers. I look forward to establishing a sense of collaboration in my students. I look forward to developing their digital literacy as well.
How do you use wikis in your classroom?