- Grade Band
- Estimated Lesson Time
- From Theory to Practice
- Student Objectives
- Teacher Resources
- Instructional Plan
- Instruction and Activities
Looking for a way to motivate students to engage with their own writing and their peers’ work as well? Are you so busy trying to teach the basics that the important job of integrating technology is getting left behind? Why not let them go a little wiki wild? This lesson asks students to collaborate in the development, sharing, and refinement of semester portfolio ideas for a high school creative writing course using free wiki software available on the Internet. It is easily adaptable for other grade levels, subject areas, and purposes. Wikis provide an integrated experience with technology, collaboration, and purposeful writing necessary in today’s global business and academic worlds. Students can easily develop, share, and "publish" their writing in a venue that is at once cutting-edge and easy enough to understand that the technology doesn't interfere with the focus on other academic standards.
Grade Level Band
9-12 (While this lesson was designed for the high school classroom, it is adaptable for upper elementary and middle school levels as well).
Estimated Lesson Time
This lesson was implemented over the course of three fifty-minute portions of an eighty-minute block period. It would be suitable for three fifty-minute class periods, and is easily adaptable to other time frames as well.
From Theory to Practice
Lamb, Brian. "Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not." EDUCAUSE Review. 39.5 (2004): 36–48. 23 October 2007. http://www.educause.edu/pub/er/erm04/erm0452.asp?bhcp=1.
- Perhaps the most common pedagogical application of wikis in education is to support writing instruction. At Teaching Wiki (http://teachingwiki.org), Joe Moxley, a professor of English at the University of South Florida, lists a number of the medium’s strengths for the teaching of writing skills: wikis invigorate writing ("fun" and "wiki" are often associated); wikis provide a low-cost but effective communication and collaboration tool (emphasizing text, not software); wikis promote the close reading, revision, and tracking of drafts; wikis discourage "product oriented writing" while facilitating "writing as a process"; and wikis ease students into writing for public consumption. (24)
- In addition to fostering the development of writing skills as they are already understood, wikis may prove to be invaluable for teaching the rhetoric of emergent technologies. Jill Walker, a hypertext theorist and prominent weblogger, suggests that whereas online technologies are fine for teaching things that can also be done with a paper notebook, a more important ability "to teach our students is network literacy: writing in a distributed, collaborative environment." Walker recognizes that bringing network literacy to the classroom is no simple task, that it "means jolting students out of the conventional individualistic, closed writing of essays only ever seen by [their] professor." (25)
- use technology to facilitate collaborative prewriting.
- use technology to facilitate effective communication of ideas and constructive feedback.
- Computers with Internet access, including access to www.pbwiki.com or other wiki tool.
- A smartboard or other projection device is useful for demonstration and sharing purposes.
Because this activity asks students to post information on an Internet-based tool, you will want to:
- Obtain approval from your building principal or appropriate district-level personnel. You should first put together a proposal that outlines the rationale for the lesson, curriculum- or standards-based objectives that will be met by the lesson, as well as the specific technology you will be using and the safety precautions you will put in place to safeguard students' privacy.
- Have all student participants and their parents or guardians sign a Permission Letter and Acceptable Use Agreement that outlines the project's purposes and the basic rules for participation in the project. Be sure to include requirements concerning the posting of private or inappropriate content and the protection of the wiki URL and password. You can download and adapt a sample at: http://teachersfirst.wikispaces.com/Wiki+Warranty.
- Create your class wiki. For this activity, I used the free wiki tool available at www.pbwiki.com. The set-up is simple, but you will want to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the site and adjusting the settings before you present it to students. If you are completely unfamiliar with wikis, you might visit the following sites:
Instruction and Activities
Session 1: Introduction, Set-Up, and Brainstorming
- Create a personally unidentifiable username for each student. Students may create their own username, but each username should be approved by the teacher before use. A combination of numbers and letters works best.
- Using a projection device, demonstrate how to access and login to the class wiki. Ask each student to offer a possible portfolio theme, and then you should create a link from the main page to a new page dedicated to each theme, so that the main, or home, page becomes a list of links to individual theme pages. This may be done in advance to save time, but I find that it only takes about five minutes if you are familiar with the wiki's functionality. You should not have the students do these links themselves as a page may only be edited by one user at a time.
- Have students complete the following activity in the remaining time and/or as homework if necessary and possible:
Visit the class wiki and edit your theme page. Your job is to add at least one “angle” or “slant” to your theme. For example, if the theme is “love,” you might create a “types of love” or “young love” slant or others, depending on your interests. Create a title and a description that explains the angle in more detail, including how you might flesh out that angle into a complete portfolio. Include ideas for specific pieces (topics, styles, types of poetry, images, etc.) You might add links or images you find intriguing—for images, be sure to include the source if they are not your own. Next include a sample poem, which may be a rough draft or a finished piece. You may choose to create one page or several pages with links off of your main description page. Just be sure it’s user friendly. Remember to save every three to four minutes so you don't lose any information.
Session 2: Feedback and Collaboration
- Have students finish their pages if necessary, and then have them complete the following activity:
Visit the theme link listed directly below yours on the main page of the class wiki. Add a comment, using the “Comment” feature in which you provide the author with a praise comment and a question or polishing suggestion. Be KIND and constructive. Next, add another possible angle, or slant, including a title, description, and sample pieces, including at least one poem. You may choose to add this directly to the page, or you may create a link to a new page. Just be sure it's user friendly. The purpose here is to give MEANINGFUL feedback and to expand each other's portfolio theme ideas. Remember to save every three to four minutes so you don't lose any information.
- As students finish visiting their initial page, ask them to visit and comment on at least two other pages. Again, the comments should include one praise comment and a question or polishing suggestion. As a variation or extension if time permits, you can have them repeat the activity listed above with one or more additional pages, or they might add an additional angle to their own page.
Session 3: Sharing, Reflection, and Assessment
- Students should spend about fifteen minutes reading each other's pages, specifically those that they have not seen or commented on before. As they read, they should respond to the following questions:
Which page(s) are the most interesting and informative? Why? What does it/do they have that the others don't?
What theme(s) might you be interested in exploring in your portfolio this semester?
What ideas can you gather from your peers' pages that might help you with your portfolio?
- Discuss the answers to the above questions as a class, and then have students complete the following activity:
Select a theme you plan to work with for your final portfolio. Write a short proposal that includes: Theme, Ideas for Possible Pieces, at least two polished poems that fit with the theme, and a paragraph explaining why you chose the theme, what you hope to discover or learn about yourself during the rest of the semester, and what you hope to convey to those who read your portfolio.
- If time permits and you wish, have students complete an evaluation of the wiki project to help you determine if their needs were met. See a sample evaluation.
The possibilities for extensions of this project are virtually limitless. One option is to have students continue adding to their pages as they develop the pieces for their portfolios. They could also continue responding to each other's pieces using the comment feature. Another useful activity would be to have students directly revise one or more of each other's pieces. This would allow them to use the collaborative editing function of the wiki and would also give them valuable insight into audience as well as new possibilities in their writing. Keep in mind that wikis are not typically polished sites; they are for idea generation and collaboration. You will most likely want to select another format for publication of the final portfolios.
I use the Session 3 activities as assessment and reflection tools, as well as review of the actual wiki pages created by the students. I am looking for evidence of the students' active participation, creation of thoughtful ideas, contribution of meaningful feedback, and incorporation of project ideas into their final proposals. I try to allow as much time as possible for students to work in class in order to minimize the number of technical issues and complaints resulting in student failure to complete the assignment. By doing much of the work in class, I am able to quickly troubleshoot errors and problems as they arise.
If you are interested in seeing the actual wiki and the student work created, you may contact me for the password at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NCTE/IRA Standards (PDF)