Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wiki-ing in the Classroom: Ideas for Using Wikis in the Classroom

                                                        (Image 1)

I'm new to 7th and 8th grade this year and I am teaching English, history, and science classes. We started working on the students' science project a few weeks back, where students, so far, have had to gather at least five bibliography sources for the first couple of days, then they created at least two outline drafts in a two-week period, created 25 note-cards with information from the bibliography sources that would address each point of their outlines, and as of this week, they have started working on the first draft of their background paper.

One thing I have noticed during these weeks working in revising and editing drafts, is that previous drafts and older versions of each assignment are usually discarded or lost by students. Edits and changes, and thus, the evolution of the outlines, of the gathered information, and of the project as a whole, are lost from one assignment to the next. As I was reading this week about Wikis, I continuously thought about how useful these repository tools would be for my students' science project to keep track of assignments, post instructions and suggestions for students to further clarify what was expected of them, and have a historical of all the changes that are made day to day and from one step to the next.

Wikis would better help students get organized and on task during their research process (Teehan, 2010), as of now, it has been hard to have 12 and 13 year-old students take good care of their 25 note-cards, keep track of the step they should be working next and deadlines, and avoiding misplacing the note-cards or previous drafts or losing these, and when they do have to turn in any one of the steps, it has been very hard to have the students remember to bring to school the previous assignments to see the project as a whole and in all its evolving phases (i.e. if the note-cards are due, they will bring the note-cards, but not the outline or the bibliography sources).

I liked the idea of using wikis as a storehouse for in-progress documents and a nice tool for publishing the finished projects. It would be very encouraging and exciting for the students to see how their projects started, how they evolved, and to have the finished results published on the Internet. Students would also be able to create post-assignment pages were they could also upload photos and video of the science fair to keep for posterity (Teehan, 2010).

One available feature of the wikis that would be very interesting to see applied in the project process would be the discussion tab. In this section, students could be encouraged to post any questions they may have about the project and offer or ask for suggestions to other students. Also students could be empowered and would gain greater ownership of their projects if they check and analyze each other’s work, will begin to teach each other, and will develop the students’ collaborative skills (Richardson, 2010). As of now, with the printed or written works, students are pretty much left out of the process of suggesting improvements, they are ignorant of the details of the rest of the projects, and are not able to compare and contrast their work to that of others in the class to find out and discover for themselves what they are missing or ways to improve their work.

Other uses for the wikis in the classroom would be (1) to publish step-by-step directions and rubrics for students and parents to use and consult, (2) for students to collectively assemble artifacts, publish summaries of the units studied and/or pose and answer related questions or explanations that can serve as a start point for future classes and will aid them when preparing for a test (Richardson, 2010), and (3) to post deadlines and upcoming steps so students get a more visual and detailed vision and understanding of the big picture.

Marco Cesar Saenz
Using Web Tools in the Classroom


Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Clasrooms (3rd ed.), Corwin Press. Pp. 55-70.

Teehan, K. (2010). The Library Wiki. In Wikis: The Educator's Power Tool, Chapter 4, pp. 35-41.

Image 1 Retrieved from: on October 11, 2012

Marco Cesar Saenz
Using Web Tools in the Classroom

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of using the wiki as a storage spot. Are the projects individually or in groups? I think it would work even better for collaborative work. Having a place for the students to keep their work is very important. I also have 7th and 8th graders, and there are always papers missing. Another thought that comes to mind, is that you could check and edit their work online. Your corrections and suggestions will be there for the students to refer to whenever they need to. They can also have a section with the rubrics. They can check themselves what they have done, what they still need to do and where they could improve. That helps the students become more independent in their learning.
    And it also serves as a portal for the parents to check their childrens' work. If it is all online in the wiki, with the comments of the teacher, the parents know exactly why their child received the grade they did. At my school, for very low grades we need to make copies of the assignment and keep them in case a parent comes. Using the wiki the way you described it would make that obsolete and save some trees in the process.