Wikis are basically web sites that can be created collaboratively by a few or many people. In schools they hold a tremendous amount of possibilities. Besides being a safe training ground preparing students for the world of digital networks, which will no doubt dominate their life, they are a great tool for lots of other things.
So to kick things off, here is my list of 11 great things you can do with wikis in the classroom:
- creating a “choose your own adventure” class story using a wiki. Write the first paragraph for your students and post it on a wiki page. Students then log on at various times and add a hyperlink that continues the story in their own way. As the activity continues, students can choose to add to your paragraph or add a hyperlink to another student’s page and continue the story from that continuation and so on. The result is a jointly written class ‘choose your own adventure’ story that the kids will love ‘interactively’ reading time and time again.
- Write a ‘boring’ opening paragraph to a story. Get students to post the paragraph again but with additions that make it more descriptive and interesting. A great way to teach them how to use adjectives and adverbs.
- Set up a ‘Knowledge Bank’ for your students to add to. This could simply be a page where students can log on and add anything they’ve learned about a particular unit of work the class is studying. Or, if you wish to make it an ongoing feature of your class, create several ‘chapters’ in your knowledge bank: one for English, one for Maths and so on. Students can then add knowledge they have gained in any topic from class over the course of the year. The result is a living text book written by the students, for the students!
- Provide each student with a homepage within your wiki site. Students can design it any way they like and create a space that’s all about them. They can include pieces of work they are proud of, pictures of them from special event days, a blog and so on. Allow students to design their page with awesome web design sites such as ‘Glogster’ or ‘Gettingtrickywithwikis’ (only for Wikispaces).
- Get each student to keep a blog of their learning. Each week they write a new entry about things they have learned from the previous week or exciting developments in their school life (“I got my pen license!”, “I made the basketball team!”) and so on. It’s a great tool to encourage reflection on their learning and perhaps even to set goals for the future. “I’ve improved my ….., I’d now like to get better at….”
- Create ‘micro-blogging’ pages where students log on and discuss a certain topic. It may be their critical responses to a question from the book you are studying. It may just be a space for students to write about the book they are reading and whether they would recommend it or not. It may be further discussion on an issue that was covered in class. Whatever your students get captured by, use your wiki to extend that great class discussion or activity that you had to cut off when the lunch bell rang.
- Begin a class project that all the students work to achieve. For example, if the class is studying World War 2, have students research a certain event or soldier to create a class podcast about. Students enter in the information they discover from their research onto the wiki page, thus creating a shared note taking page from which to build the finished project.
- Make short podcasts about special things that happen in your class. Use a page on your wiki site to houses all the podcasts you make throughout the year.
- Have a class news page, complete with a Google calandar that can be annotated with special events and important information.
- If you’re brave enough, host a ‘Virtual Classroom’ page. Record yourself giving simple lessons that students can watch whenever they want or need to. Lets say you introduced long multiplication that week. It’s a tricky process that students often have trouble remembering. Use the camera on your laptop and focus it on your hands. Write a multiplication sum on a piece of paper and record your hand solving it with you narrating what you are doing step by step over the top. Helpful for kids and parents who try to help their kids but forgot how to do long multiplication long ago or were taught a totally different method when they were at school. Fast, simple and very powerful.
- Create a fantastic learning resource by storing all the games and web resources you use in class on a wiki page. Separate them by topic, for example ‘How to use apostrophes’. Kids can revisit any lesson or any game, any time. If you notice a need in their learning you can refer them to this page and the particular topic they need assistance or extension with.
So there’s my top 11 ideas. Each one I’ve either used myself with my grade 3/4 class or seen used to great effect. Kids just love the collaborative and interactive nature of wiki sites.
Have you got any other ways you use wikis in your class that you can share? This list is by no means exhaustive and I’d love to hear ideas from other teachers using wikis in their class.
Next post: the how! Most teachers I talk to say: “Great ideas, but when do you get the time?” It can be done! But that’s for next time…