Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Say Aloha to Wikis: Using Wikis to Teach the Writing Process!

What did one control freak say to another control freak? "Get your hands off my wiki!" 

If you've heard the word wiki, but are not quite sure what it means or how to use it, then you've come to the right blog! Wikis are webpages created for ongoing editing and revision by one author or multiple authors. 

Control freaks and wikis do not mix well because a wiki is meant to be in a constant state of revision and editing by multiple authors. (The control freak will want to keep that wiki all to himself!) 

Wikis can be messy and should be! A wiki promotes collaboration and critical thinking. All students can throw in their two cents, and see every contributor's thought process, but they serve an even better purpose!  They teach students about the writing process. In many classrooms, writing is not taught as a recursive process. Students are given writing prompts, but rarely receive feedback to understand how they can improve their writing skills.  If they are lucky enough to receive feedback, students may not know what to do with that feedback, nor do they have the opportunity to revisit a writing piece to polish it. (And by the way, kids do read feedback if they're taught how to read it, apply it and and give it...another post for another day.) Here's where wikis are a breath of fresh of air and give new life to teaching the writing process!  

Teachers can create wikis for pairs of students who have different writing strengths, small groups of students or an entire class. These wikis can be safely shared online locally, nationally or globally by joining wiki sites like Wikispaces so students can receive writing feedback and participate in collaborative writing projects with their peers.  

If you're worried that wikis may be too messy for your taste because content may get deleted,  Hakuna Matata, no worries! (Oops, not a Hawaiian expression, but let's pretend!) When you create a wiki, there is a "revision history" so the wiki creator knows who edits, what is edited and even at what time the editing took place. Issues that may arise with wikis include:
  • allowing students practice time to learn how to use a wiki 
  • building a community of trust so contributors feel confident their contributions will be valued 
  • ensuring the quality of the content students add to the wiki
  • assigning authentic writing topics so students will be excited to write and collaborate
  • assigning subtopics to each student and/or roles so students have a distinct contribution
  • determining how you will assess the content added to the wiki
  • safeguarding your wiki so it is not vandalized or deleted                                                   
Luckily, wiki sites offer monitoring controls to wiki creators. You decide to make your wiki public or private, and who contributes and edits. Students can also add videos, images, audio or links of websites that support their content.  So, fear not and hang ten

A wiki can change students' attitudes about writing because they will participate in different aspects of the writing process.  Students will learn from their mistakes, recognize their peers's mistakes so they can help them, but most importantly they will collaborate with peers, and internalize the process of revising, editing, polishing and presenting their writing. 

Students at any grade level can create wikis on any subject, and even share their wikis with classrooms around the world to receive input from other student or teacher authors.

Check out these educational wikis looking for student and teacher collaboration! 

By the way, the word wiki-wiki is Hawaiian for fast or quickly! 
So start your class wiki, wiki-wiki today!

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