Posts Tagged 'Wikis as Learning Tools'

Using Wikis to Teach Writing

Over the past year I’ve really learned how to leverage wikis as a learning tool and place to host meaningful learning activities online.  This post assumes that you have already created a wiki site in WetPaint. Some people don’t like WetPaint because it’s editing quirks, but it seems like one of the better web based wiki aps with WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) features. Here’s my attempt to share my knowledge.  Although these activities are geared around teaching writing they structure of the wiki pages can be applied to almost any subject.

If you are not sure how to set up your wiki refer to the instructions on the WetPaint FAQs page here: http://www.wetpaintcentral.com/page/FAQ

The following steps will explain three page designs that can be used to teach writing:

  • Analyze a piece of writing
  • Demonstrate a writing skill
  • Writing in collaboration with others

Analyze a piece of writing:

  1. Students can analyze a piece of writing on the wiki page.  First, add a wiki page. If you are not sure how to add a page refer to these instructions on the WetPaint FAQs page: http://www.wetpaintcentral.com/page/Add+Page . Title your wiki page as you see fit.
  2. Add you own instructions to the top of the page.
  3. Below the instructions, insert a table with one column and one row. This is where you will insert the piece of writing you wish the students to analyze. If you are not sure how to insert a table, refer to these instructions on the WetPaint FAQs page:  http://www.wetpaintcentral.com/page/Add+Table Once you have created the table insert the text of the writing you wish the students to analyze. Refer the image for an example.
  4. Create a second table that allows students to log their analysis of the writing. The can make individual points per row in the table. They must always label their comments with their name and identifier. Refer to this image for an example of a table. Save your wiki page.
Click the image to view a full sized version
Click the image to view a full sized version

Demonstrate a writing skill

Students can also practice a writing skill. Create a new wiki page and title it appropriately. Add your instructions to the top of the page.

Below the instructions, create a table with three columns and enough cells for your students to add a written sample plus one additional cell. See the image below for an example.

Students will write their sample writing piece in each available cell. They should identify their writing by including their name or initials at the end.

Click to view the full-sized image

Writing in collaboration with others

Writing in collaboration with others in a wiki can be fun as long as the rules are clear to all participants You should restrict the number of people who can collaborate on a piece to no more than six.  You can create several versions of the same page and assign groups of students to each version.

  1. Create a version of the page and make multiple copies as needed.
  2. Assign a color to each student in the group. This is the color that they will use to add their writing.
  3. Establish a set of rules for the students including information on how to do the following:
    • Edit others work
    • Providing suggestions
    • Taking turns editing the page

Collaboration

Using WetPaint to Create A Course Wiki

I recently developed a wiki for a course that’s being tested right now, and I have to tell you… I’m quite amazed at the possibilities of using wikis for collaborative learning. After developing the course objectives, the SME and I decided to use the wiki as an essential part of the students’ learning experience. The wiki would be available as a companion collaboration area and a sort of explorative playground for the students. As one of the course foci was on teaching using Web 2.0 tools, we wanted to help immerse students in the actual experience of working and collaborating with others online using a wiki.

We decided to use WetPaint as our wiki tool, because of the easy to use WYSIWYG (you know I have to spell this out in my head everytime I type it – arconymitis) features and the fact that it’s so easy to embed video.

Here were some of the applications and activities we included in the wiki:

  • A profile page - where students could share a picture, a few facts about themselves, favorite links (and possibly videos or other media). The idea is to help build community among the particpants and instructor
  • A collaborative link section – that includes the major concepts in the course. As the students did their own research on the web on topics of their choice they would continually add and share the links to (articles, documentation, media, forums, etc.) with their peers
  • A fun video sharing page – I included this because I wanted to introduce students to the idea of sharing video content… and the notion that sharing content online doesn’t just mean text, html pages, or print content
  • An image collage activity - the goal of this activity was to collect images that describe both Boomer and Net Generations. The students work with each other collectively to post their images to the wetpaint collage
  • Assorted graded activities where students collaborated on content
  • Use of the forum threads to discuss content

I took a few approaches to designing the wiki structure and layout of the pages for maxium student participation. Nothing stinks more, than when you build a learning application and no one uses it.

  • Keep everything as simple as possible – don’t put to many things on a page
  • Post instructions – (or links to FAQ)s if you even suspect that people will not understand how to do or use something (.i.e. use “Context Sensitive Help” whenever you can)
  • Model wiki behavior – Always provide examples and suggestions of contributions
  • Lay Easter eggs – in multiple places. I actually started planting interesting links and content in different places. Keep putting new things in different areas to keep the wiki live and growing
  • Make activities fun and light hearted – when necessary. Human beings (even stodgy adults) learn through play

The course seems to be going well. Students are contributing to the wiki so far, and I don’t think anyone has had any troubles with understanding how to use WetPaint (because it’s a fairly well designed tool). If you haven’t checked out WetPaint I seriously suggest that you take a look at it as a tool for collaborative learning.

An image of the “Community Links Page” – students share information on their research and finding on different topics

wetpaint.gif


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