Sunday, 30 November 2008

What’s Next? Wikis for all of course!

So I’m having trouble focussing this week. My brain is full with thoughts of returning to work (planning lessons and units, I can never do the same thing twice, that’s just too easy!) thoughts about my “big project” in EDES 540 (not to mention the 4 remaining smaller assignments!) and of course thoughts about this blog post (and about Christmas, shopping, cleaning, swimming lessons . . .). To add to my brain overload, I met with a friend and mentor (a great TL) for breakfast yesterday and got energized to fight for a Teacher Librarian (TL for short) position in our division for September. (Actually, I think my exact words were, “I plan to take over our division and if that doesn’t work, I’ll take over the province.” I was obviously talking from the perspective of improving the TL situation in my division, and province. What did you think I was talking about?) I also attended our Province’s annual SAG conference on Thurs and Fri. I went to a great certificate session put on by the Council of School Leaders called Building 21st Century Schools which also filled my head with great ideas (because apart from taking masters courses, being a mother to a 2-½ yr old and a 9 month old, and having to plan for my return to work, I’m also working towards my Level 1 Admin certificate! CRAZY!) So . . . I have all sorts of great ideas floating around in my brain and I feel like it’s going to explode and I might lose the ideas! AHHHHH! Its ok . . . I’ll be alright. I just need to FOCUS!

This week our fantastic instructor gave us the following task: “Which of the tools we have learned about would you choose to introduce to your staff?” This was easy for me because as the course progressed, in the back of my (already full) brain I have been building a PD plan to share all my Web 2.0 learning with my fellow teachers when I return to work. My first inclination was to discuss Voicethread. It’s easy to use, and our staff is currently hooked on PhotoStory, which is similar but not collaborative, as there is no comment aspect. But then I thought (stupidly) that was too easy, and if I really wanted to show my staff the power of the “Read/Reflect/Write/Participate Web” (Richardson, p. 133) Wikis were the way to go. If I really wanted to “get them on board” I figured I should demonstrate the immense collaborative clout of this tool. So I stole (borrowed!) an idea that I found while writing a previous post (From this article about a poetry professor’s use of a wiki) and created a page on my class wiki that I will use to illustrate how wikis can be used.

But I’m getting ahead of my self! Firstly I need to help my staff understand the collaborative nature of wikis and how using wikis can really enhance their students’ learning. I figured, why not use other Web 2.0 tools to show this?! I found this great video from pb-wiki about collaboration:

And there is also this video (also from pb-wiki) called Helping Educators Educate. I also found a sort of testimonial (called Wiki Supporter) from teacher Ken Kellner about his experiences using a wiki with students. Then there is this podcast from Mobile technology in TAFE where Adam Frey (the co-founder of Wikispaces) talks about using wikis in education. I think I might even show them the trail fire that Joanne created for the class on wikis, as it has some great info in it. Now those things should convince my staff that wikis are at least something worth trying. The next step would be to show them some fantastic examples, so I would go to Vicki Davis’ many wiki’s as listed in my previous blog post on the subject for those examples, and of course show them my own experiences with wikis (here and here). But I also found Educational Wikis, and would show them it as well. Basically, it’s a wiki that provides resources for how to use wikis in education!

If all that fails to convince them of the greatnes of wikis, I also found this article from Newsweek International Edition called “Power in Numbers: How wiki software is reforming bloated bureaucracies and changing the face of communication.” Here’s the first paragraph:

“The United Nations, notorious for endless deliberations, is trying a technological quick fix. Its Global Compact Office, which promotes corporate responsibility, has embraced a once fringe social technology—the wiki—in hopes that it will help staff in 80 countries share information and reach consensus with less deliberation and more speed.”

The article goes on to say:

“Now the technology is increasingly spreading outside the world of tech geeks and into the mainstream, being adopted by workplaces, corporations and even governments. In what's been dubbed the "wiki workplace," a growing number of organizations have begun shifting from traditional hierarchical structures to self-organized and collaborative networks, using wiki software—a basket of technologies that include wikis, blogs and other tools—to foster innovation across organizational and geographic boundaries. Executives say the new tools make it easier for teams to collaborate and share information, and to get projects up and running on the fly. "Collaborative software has become a very important part of how businesses will invent and innovate," says Ken Bisconti, IBM's vice president of messaging and collaboration software.”

There, that is some powerful information for teachers to take in. The UN is using wikis, and so are big businesses, to help their “people” collaborate. So WHY AREN'T WE USING IT!!??!?

That’s when I would do the activity I created on my wiki see the link referenced above), to show them just ONE possible way they could incorporate the tool into their teaching.

Ofcourse I know that one day of PD does not a trend make, so how would I continue the momentum? Well I personally will dedicate myself to using the wiki on a regular basis and I will make sure that all my students are experts when they leave my classroom at the end of the year (thus giving them the skills to use wikis for other assignments, whether it's required or not!) . I would be willing to work with colleagues and students to help them create wikis. I would even be willing to do a follow up, after school PD session on “How To Wiki” for those afraid to explore on their own, and to take a handful of kids (myabe 1 from each class?) and show them the ins and outs of wikis so they become experts in their classes.

I would also set up a staff professional development wiki for our teachers to add info, links and reflections to on the subjects they feel are important to their personal PD, and are relevant to our school’s situation (i.e. not just wikis, but have pages for all kinds of best practices and educational issues).

I would also like to revamp the school’s horrible school web page into a school wiki, where all parties collaborate in its growth, but where informational pages are locked (as I’m not totally delusional and niave to believe that some student or other party won’t try to vandalize it!)

I’d eventually like to get the teachers on board with blogging, Voicethread, social bookmarking for research projects, and using podcasts (i.e. moving towards more Web 2.0 tools and moving away from looking for specific sofware applications). BUT . . . as I said I’m not delusional. I understand that there will be stuggles, and some will flat out refuse to adapt, and others will be enthusiastic but then fizzle out and still others will be angry at me for making them have “more work” to do, or for giving their students ideas they themselves have chosen not to understand. But my personality is one of perseverance and so I figure that in the coming years, if I continue to advocate for the use of Web 2.0 tools with students (and staff) and continue to model their use and continue to badger the school tech coordinator to put links to my sites on the school homepage and contiue to offer PD workshops to my staff, that I will eventually succeed!

Here are some articles that I may also occasionally photocopy (or email) for the staff and anonymously put in their mailboxes, you know, just little reminders:

A Wiki for Classroom Writing

The "starving time" wikinquiry: using a wiki to foster historical inquiry.

Wiki man

Wikis are for You

Wikis and student writing

Wikis and literacy development

Wild about Wikis: Tools for taking student and teacher collaboration to the next level.

7 things you should know about…wikis

Educators Experiment With Student-Written 'Wikis'


Joanie said...


For someone who started off concerned about focus (I thought my life was busy!) you've done a amazing job of collecting together great wiki sources to back up your vision of change. I've bookmarked this page so I will know exactly where to go when for juried resources when I'm back to school next Setpember.

In the PB wiki one of the fellows made a comment about the collabaorative process of wikis and how a student would ask how to insert a video or graphic and a classmate would show them how. I hadn't really thought about this aspect of wikis as I was concentrating more on the product but they certainly are a fabulous tool for teaching the technology aspect as well, aren't they.

Good luck with your transition from home back to school and with your all-encompassing vision to change the province! I shall miss your stories - unless you still intend to blog????


Rhonda said...

Hi Christine,

I'm planning on doing some of my school library site as a wiki or wikis too! I'm hoping I'll have more inspiration over the upcoming break.
Best wishes as you transition back to work.


Joanne de Groot said...

Thanks, Christine. You have made a really good case for introducing your staff to wikis and getting them started with wikis in their own classrooms. Of course, if you start using them yourself with your own students you can 'show and tell' the great things that are happening with your students and try to get some buy in that way!

Cynthia Peterson said...

Wow! This post makes me want to run right over to school and start making my teachers use wikis! Seriously, as always, Christine, you offer wonderful resources. Reading your blog is like getting great PD painlessly. Many thanks!