Thinking more about the possibilities for Wikis in the schools, lots of ideas come to mind. The collaborative nature of a Wiki can have many degrees. It could be a collaboration among a few people, or a larger group of teachers, or an entire school, or the whole world. It doesn’t have to be restricted to allowing everyone to edit everything.
One possibility is to use a wiki to build an internal knowledge base. We’d probably start with technology, because that’s what we know best. We’re woefully negligent about documenting the techy-stuff, which keeps people from solving their own problems. How do you set up a printer? It’s an easy process, but it’s a little non-intuitive. How do we configure email in our district? If it’s spelled out in the documentation, more people would be able to do it, and it would save everyone some time.
If we built this kind of thing in a wiki, then our teachers could indentify and translate our geek-speak into something that more people can understand. They could also begin to document their own tips, and add to the content. There’s one wiki application.
Another problem that’s come up lately is the lack of a system to share teaching resources. At the K-3 level, the buildings are on their own. At 4-8, the teams often work independently of one another. At 9-12, we have many teachers teaching the same courses, but not necessarily sharing best practices. If a structure were created, tied to academic content standards and grade level, where teachers could share projects, worksheets, lesson plans, online resources, and other useful stuff, then others could use it. As time goes on and more people begin to use this resource, they can modify the projects, and improve the quality and effectiveness of the lessons. This type of application would both help teachers to share resources and find ways to improve their teaching. At the same time, it helps address the academic content standards.
The WorldBridges project is looking at extending this to electronic textbooks. If the textbook for a social studies class is a wiki, teachers can customize it to meet the needs of their students. They can correct mistakes, clarify misleading or confusing passages, or augment the resource with primary sources or other information.It becomes a living document that’s constantly being revised.
Students can get involved with wikis by using them at the end of instruction. They can produce a wiki about the topics they’re studying. This resource could then be used by future students in the same class. For example, the students in a science class may do a research project on a certain topic. The end result, the deliverable, is a wiki about that topic. The students create it, revise it, refine it, and finally deliver a very good product. The next year, this becomes the primary resource (textbook) for the students in the class. Those students do a wiki unit on another topic. Over time, a resource is created that covers the whole course, and many teachers can use it (and refine it) with their classes.
All of this is getting a little ahead of us at the moment. I think if we start with the knowledge base stuff and work from there, we’ll find even more applications. Stay tuned….