Using Wikis to Learn by Doing

Continuing on this week with our R2D2 Activities, I’d like to share with you this week about wikis. In Empowering Online Learning (2008), Bonk talks about “Wikibook Projects” in which learners collaboratively develop a resource book or manual on a particular topic, idea, or area of interest. However, there are other uses for wikis, too.

Dr. Karlene Johnson uses PBWorks in her elementary math methods courses in the School of Education at Greenville College. Students every semester collaboratively create lesson plans and projects for different grade levels. Students share their projects in the wiki site for others to use and learn from, both during the time of their class and in future sections. To date, these projects go back over 3 years! Here’s how Karlene describes the wiki on her homepage:

The long-term goal of this wiki is that it will provide current and former EDU 355 students with access to research summaries on a variety of elementary mathematics education topics, along with research-based lesson plans to accompany these summaries. Current students create these summaries and lesson plans. They also respond with professional comments to their classmates’ projects. Additionally, the instructor will use the wiki as a place to post class documents that may be of interest to current and former math methods students. (Johnson, para. 1)

Wiki Activity Ideas

1. Create a website for a business or non-profit organization
2. Communicate and develop their COR projects
3. Brainstorm or problem-solve by communicating on a wiki
4. Research collaboratively
5. Write group papers
6. Create study guides for the class
7. Create annotated bibliographies (or “webliographies” with web resources)
8. Design virtual field trips
9. Prepare presentations

For more ideas, visit SmartTeaching.Org for “50 Ways to Use Wikis for a More Collaborative and Interactive Classroom.”

Results

Using wikis in your teaching promotes active learning, encourages creativity, and requires self-motivation. The results can be phenomenal! Students are able to pleasantly surprise faculty by their creative works and deep, meaningful learning takes place.

I have personally experienced this type of activity as a learner first-hand, and I can testify to its value. In an online professional development course targeted to online administrators, I was asked to collaborate with my colleagues from around the world in the development of a company policy manual that would guide the future direction of our “new” fictitious institution. Together, we were able to draft, edit, and revise this manual through the power of a wiki. I still have access to the document, so if anyone would like to see this example, just let me know.

Advice

Be sure to provide sufficient structure and guidance about the project, including training on the wiki tool chosen. Consider creating templates to support students’ products. Assign feedback partners to individual projects. Monitor student/group progress and provide timely feedback throughout their project (Bonk & Zhang, 2008).

Recommended Wiki Sites

Wikispaces Classroom
PBWorks
Google sites
Google drive (formerly Google docs)