About five years ago, I remember my first time reading the title of a presentation on wikis posted in the GaETC brochure and thinking that only people with a bizarre imagination could come up with a word like that. I had no idea what the word meant and how it could possibly be used in a classroom. I went to to the session to find out and was struck by the tool and its possibilities in learning. Will Richardson (2010) calls it a very democratic tool that allows people to collaboratively create knowledge, and I cannot agree more with his statement. Wikispaces is a presently used platform for collaboration in Forsyth County Schools, and every teacher and student has a private account under our own domain. Use of wikis is not in my future – it is my present.
In our school’s future, I see wikis being widely utilized as a tool owned and driven by student curiosity, passions, and contributions. If “everyone together is smarter than anyone alone” (Richardson, 2010, p. 57), then teachers need to stop being gatekeepers of wiki creations. Let kids collect, show off, and share their knowledge in the way sixth graders do in Code Blue. Is it perfect? Does the teacher in me want to pull out a red pen and make recommendations and corrections? I know you’re nodding your head… But what matters is the process, the actual learning that takes place in that classroom. Locating, analyzing, and evaluating information for each doctor’s page involves reading, comprehension, and writing skills, and they are taught in such a relevant and purposeful manner. Maybe Thousands Project seems to be a simple list of items, but I urge you to think about the lesson kids acquire: learning is a collaborative process, and it should not be contained by classroom walls. The entire world is our learning community. If third graders in Let’s Go West are able collectively create a snapshot of US history, with links to additional resources and citations of images, then they will grow up to be valuable knowledge contributors of our society.
Wikis make learning stick. They are not just an online publishing place. They are a domain of learning where each student is a digital citizen who plays a valid role of a contributor. As Vicki Davis said, learning with wikis introduces students to their future. As an instructional technology coach, I plan to integrate wikis into the process of collaborative unit planning with teachers and support them in implementation of this tool in their instructional practices.
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. California: Corwin A SAGE Company.