Which one is right for you and your students?
As you begin curriculum planning for the 2011-2012 school year, add technology integration to your list of tools to consider for using in the classroom. Wikis and blogs afford students with an authentic audience, immediate feedback, and a platform that encourages revision, reflection, and personal investment in the learning experience. And these are just a few of the wonderful benefits. (Blog/Wiki image created using Wordle.)
General Wiki Features
Video: Wikis in Plain English by Common Craft (3:53)
Wikis provide a quick (in Hawaiian, “wiki wiki” means “hurry”) and simple way to post information to the World Wide Web. To the untrained eye, a wiki may look like a web site, as it contains multiple pages and navigation tool bars. The organizer of the site has ultimate control over who can edit pages, who can view the pages, who can join, as well as the overall look and feel of the site. Wikis offer a user-friendly template of color schemes, navigation menus, the ability to upload your own logo, post links, and control font styles and colors. Media like video, still images, sound files, documents, and chat boxes can easily be embedded into any page. Members who are invited can collaborate, add their own content, and participate in a discussion board. Sophisticated users can subscribe to wiki RSS (real simple syndication) feeds to receive notifications when content has been added or altered. Wikis often have a history feature that allows the wiki community to see who has posted and edited what content. Returning to previous versions of a page is a simple task, protecting the content from accidental deletions. New pages can constantly be added to a wiki and navigation can grow over time.
Wikis in the Classroom
10 Classroom Ideas for a Wiki: (And there are so many more you can think of on your own!)
- Course content: Post daily homework, activity sheets, resource links online, and class/student-authored notes
- Class discussions: Use the discussion board to chat online about interesting topics related to learning, challenge questions, current events, literature, art critiques, and more.
- Collaborate: Invite an expert in the field to make guest appearances on your discussion board, create learning groups that post information and discuss information online, or invite a class from around the globe to join in on your learning.
- Project-Based Learning: Use the space to invite students to become experts on a subject matter and then post their culminating learning and project.
- Podcasting: Post podcasts to enhance student learning and eventually have the students create their own podcasts.
- Record of Learning: Ask students to post their reflections on learning for any given unit of study.
- Cartoons: Ask students to use a free cartoon generator to create a dialogue that addresses a theme of study or challenging question.
- Classroom Newsletter: Take your classroom newsletter on line and post photos, samples of students’ art, writing, and more. This is a terrific link to home and a way to get your parents involved in their students’ learning experiences.
- Journal: Use the space as an online class journal.
- Digital Book: Create your own class digital book, representing learning on a specific unit or a variety of units throughout the year. How about a counting book or a “how to” book of math concepts?
General Blog Features
Video: Blogs in Plain English by Common Craft (2:59)
You can bet that there is a blog out there for almost every interest on the planet. Blogs can serve as an online journal, a news feed of current information happening, a space to rant, a space to explore a narrow interest, a digital newsletter, and more. The most recent blog post appears at the top of a blog page, followed by previous posts. A blogger can categorize their posts by topic, as well as archive posts by month and year. Blogs typically have an “about” page that explains the purpose of the space, as well as a “blog roll,” which is a listing of other blogs that the author follows and respects. Blogs have a “published” interface that the viewing audience sees and a “dashboard,” or behind the scenes view where the blogger can control posts, comments, user permissions, embed media, add pages, and manage the overall look and feel of the blog. Just like a wiki, media can be embedded into the posts and pages, like pictures, sound files, documents, and videos. And similar to a wiki and probably more important to a blog than a wiki, the blog has an RSS feed or “real simple syndication” feed, so that readers can subscribe to the blog like a newsletter and read the feeds or new posts in a “reader.” (We will talk more about RSS later in the year! It is an awesome little tool.) Blogs are meant to be interactive, where readers post their ideas and comments. The blog manager can control who can post and when comments are posted. Permission settings allow the blogger to send comments to a review platform where only “approved” comments are posted by the blogger.
Blogs in the Classroom
10 Classroom Ideas for a Blog:
- Classroom Newsletter/Newspaper: Take your classroom news online with weekly posts, pictures, comments from students, and samples of their work. This will certainly engage the students and include the parent community too. Eventually, invite the students to start writing the articles and photo captions.
- Classroom Blog Campus: As a teacher, keep your own blog and in the sidebar, keep a listing of all your students’ blogs. Your main blog page can organize the “blog campus” and serve as a space where everyone can collectively meet and find one another online. This eases the management of a class set of student blogs.
- Daily Learning & Course Content: Post daily warm-ups, activities, online resource links, related videos, study guides, challenge questions, and more.
- Podcasting: Use your blog as a classroom “channel” and podcast/broadcast your learning to the world.
- Record of Learning & Reflections: Use the class blog as a space for students to make comments and reflections about their own learning, as well as post questions.
- Literary Book Discussion: The Secret Life of Bees created a blogging rage in the classroom for literature teachers in 2002. The author made a guest appearance online and answered many of the students’ questions. It is quite possible to invite an author and have them appear with no fees involved. It certainly makes the discussion online all the more authentic!
- Scientific Data Log: After a science lab, why not ask students to post their data online, predictions, reflections, and then receive feedback?
- Collaborate: Invite a class from the other side of the globe or from somewhere in the USA to participate in an online blog discussion around an area of study. The possibilities are endless.
- Professional Development Reflections: Being a reflective practitioner is an important part of moving your curriculum forward and growing as a teacher. Instead of jotting down notes in a file folder, why not reflect about your teaching online and invite your colleagues to chime in?
- A Learning Space: A blog can serve as a post for classroom learning around any topic. Create a space that is a learning network for any topic that you want to explore with your students; better yet, challenge the students to create the space!
Main Differences Between Wikis and Blogs
- Blogs are chronological, time stamped by date. They appear linearly in the blog post column. In contrast, wikis have complex navigational structures and pages can be organized in a variety of ways, determined by the collaborators.
- Blogs invite comments on each post. In contrast, wikis may offer a discussion board, but content in general does not invite constant commenting.
- Blogs usually have a single author or one person posting the main content (even though a teacher can post all that students write and create). In contrast, wikis are a collaborative space with many authors.
- Blogs have external links; in contrast, wikis have internal links to other pages within the same wiki, as well as links to web sites outside of the wiki.
Classroom Considerations Before Joining the Wild Frontier
- Determine your student learning and professional goals when you choose to use a wiki or a blog. Which platform will serve your needs the best?
- What sort of training will you and your students need to be successful in using this tool? What skills and information do students need ahead of time? What skills can they learn along the way?
- Schedule time in class to make online posts. Students will have more success if they have teacher support and guidance while making blog and wiki posts.
- How will you weave in digital citizenship into the learning experience, so that students conduct themselves in a safe and appropriate manner online? Model best practices in digital citizenship in all that you do. Don’t forget about copyright.
- How much time are you willing to dedicate to the wiki or blog? Consider your time and your classroom learning time.
- How will you communicate with parents about this learning tool, and how can parents feel more connected to their students’ classroom learning?
Wiki and Blog Resources Just for You
Visit the K8JTechLearn wikispace and explore wiki and blog tools, sample blogs and wikis from teachers around the world, as well as more resources and tips to get started with your own wiki or blog.
What are your thoughts on wikis and blogs in the classroom? Start the dialogue by posting your comments.