Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Calm, Relaxing Journey? A Look at a Wiki

Easy sailing! That’s what I thought when I saw wikis as our topic. Out of the jungle chaos of the last few weeks, I emerged to see the bright blue sky and calm water’s edge. This week was like a relaxing float down the river.

Reflections on the process of learning about the tool:
Of all the Web 2.0 tools we have been exploring, I know the most about wikis. My first thoughts were, “Finally, something I don’t have to spend hours building background knowledge on before I begin the task.” I was beginning to feel like I was in over my head in taking this course. I started my wiki adventure by reading Web 2.0 for Schools (Davies & Merchant, 2009) and then realized that I wasn’t as informed as I thought I was. My vision of a wiki was limited to classroom wikis. I never equated Wikipedia to a wiki. I have rarely used Wikipedia and didn’t think much about how it came to be. I took it as an online encyclopedia and have used it a couple of times to Google technology terms. From my reading I soon discovered that it was much more than a stagnate online encyclopedia. Imagine even I could publish something on it! My entry could be read, expanded upon or edited by anyone else. That was certainly a surprise to me! Even my students could add something to this wiki. I found myself thinking about our previous group discussion when we talked about trusting sites, critical reading, objectivity and accuracy. What had I so blindly believed when I read Wikipedia? Was the information I read credible? Then as I read on in our text books, I felt I had nothing to dread. Watching a short video by Richardson also gave me more information about Wikipedia. It seems to be a very well managed site. I looked into creating an account then decided not to; I couldn’t think of anything to publish. It is exciting to know that my students or I could publish on Wikipedia if we wanted to.
As I stated earlier I do have some experience with wikis. I attended a one day workshop on at our division office in May. There I began preliminary steps in setting up a classroom wiki for my Kindergarten class. It was a very slow, step by step process and I didn’t get far. I was very excited about the prospect of the online communication it would give me with parents. Then our school division decided that it would no longer endorse because of the advertising. They were afraid that students would see inappropriate material. I didn’t do anything else with my wiki after that. For this course assignment, I couldn’t decide how I would show my interaction with wikis. I added some comments on our division Kindergarten teacher wiki, but realized as a secured site I wouldn’t have any proof of my contributions. Then I started a wiki on but felt that it lacked appeal. So I went back to my original wiki and played there for awhile. Since I want to make this wiki useful and not just for the course I went back to pbworks. As I played around with adding content to my new wiki, I felt empowered. I knew what I was doing. There were a couple of things though, that I didn’t know how to do so I emailed our division technology coordinator and she sent me a training video she made. Watching it answered the questions I had on importing photos. After spending quite a bit of time on designing my wiki, I still feel like it’s a basic outline. It will take me more than a week to put it all together.

Discussion of the tool in terms of my own personal learning:
When I decided to build my own wiki, I searched out many Kindergarten wikis to get ideas. I actually added some information to a couple of them and bookmarked them to Delicious. I will be able to follow along and comment on these wikis. I can learn lots from these other Kindergarten teachers. While I was manipulating the tools with pbworks wiki, I felt like I was consolidating my learning from various projects both for this course and at school. Adding links and documents seemed to just come naturally. I knew what I was doing, so my own personal learning must be increasing.
My thirteen year old son is enjoying learning about what I am doing in this class. He looks forward to the end of the week so that I can share with him my new found technology knowledge. After explaining to him about wikis, he couldn’t believe that he could put something on Wikipedia and watch what happens to it. I feel like I am giving him a heads up in technology as he is not learning these things in school yet.
As for being a part of a social group, next summer my cousins and I, who live all over western Canada, are planning a family reunion. They all laughed at me because I was the last one to join Facebook and I am the oldest cousin. Well, I have a surprise for them! I am going to make a family reunion wiki. They will love it! It will help us to plan and be more organized for the event in Manitoba. We can add photos and comments afterwards. Having the preliminary planning all done and recorded on a wiki will enable us to be ahead of the game for the next reunion.

Discussion of the tool in terms of teaching and learning:
I’m using the wiki that I created for this assignment, as a tool for increasing communication with parents in my class. At the moment I have included information that they would find useful. I will be able to link some podcasts for parents to listen to as well. As more parents start to use the wiki and learn to trust it, they will want me to add pictures of their children to it. I feel that right now my wiki is lacking visuals. My wiki can also be used as Hargadon (2009) suggested as a communication tool for parents who have children that are absent due to illness. They will be able to keep up with class happenings. Unfortunately my Kindergarten students are too young to collaborate on a wiki by themselves.
There is another teacher in my school who is creating a classroom wiki. He has been asking me questions all week. I have been able to help him, by giving him ideas on how to use his wiki as a collaboration tool with his grade three/four class. I agree with Lamb & Johnson (2009), that, “Wiki projects help young people shift from being consumers of the Internet to creators on the Web. Open-editing wiki tools engage students in exciting collaborative learning experiences that promote reading, writing, and high level thinking across content areas and grade levels.” In helping my colleagues use wikis for classroom collaboration, I am helping students become better thinkers and learners. As Dukic (2007) states, “learning is not only acquiring new knowledge but also developing students’ attitudes and skills that will keep them open to new learning experience beyond the boundaries of school and formal education.” Wikis will help students become more active 21st century learners.
I can be a valuable resource for the teachers in my school as the benefits of using wikis catch on. I belong to a division wide Kindergarten wiki. It has fallen by the wayside for most of us. I want to begin contributing to it on a regular basis now as I see the importance of it. I will try to convince others to do so as well. There are many other benefits to using a wiki in schools. These include: making meetings more efficient, collaboration on important documents and curriculum, enhancing professional development, and portals for lessons (Nielsen, 2009). Some drawbacks to using wikis include: policies that prohibit student pictures on the web, time to learn and update a wiki, others defacing a classroom wiki, and reluctance to learn new technology. For me, using wikis will enhance my teaching and my students’ learning.


Davis, J., & Merchant, G. (2009). Web 2.0 for Schools Learning and Social Participation. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
Dukic, D. (2007). Wikis in school libraries. International Association of School Librarianship. Selected Papers from the Annual Conference,1-9. Retrieved September 24, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

Hargadon, S. (October, 2009). Web Site in a Rush. School Library Journal, 55(10), 16. Retrieved October 20, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L.. (April, 2009). Wikis and Collaborative Inquiry. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 25(8), 48-51. Retrieved October 19, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

Nielsen, L. (August 2009). Eight ways to use: school wikis. Technology & Learning, 30, 1. p.32(2). Retrieved October 20, 2009, from Computer Database via Gale: