Why I Heart Wikis

In an attempt to create a paperless classroom I was introduced to wikispaces.com more than three years ago.  Since then, I have four different wikis for each of the classes that I teach in middle school.  Over time these wikis have evolved into discussion boards, journal reflections, assessment projects, and so much more.  What I love about wikis and have shared with many of my colleagues about wikis is that a wiki gives students the opportunity to build their knowledge in a collaborative way online and showcase student learning.  I created an animated short at xtranormal.com highlight more of my personal views about wikis.

What are the skills that we are building when using wikis with our students?

Here is the start of a list that I have compiled:  Connect to prior knowledge, questioning, predicting, inferring, summarizing, supporting claims and providing evidence, synthesizing, building vocabulary, cause and effect, retelling in our own words, sequencing, monitoring learning, fostering a sense of inquiry, making real world connections, creative thinking, collaborating, listening and reflecting and analyzing.

I find that if you are a teacher looking for ways to strengthen content-area learning and at the same time want to use cutting edge technology in your classrooms then wikis can offer you and your students many opportunities.  The fact of the matter is that so many of our students are on the computer and using social media for their lives outside of schools, why not bring social media (with a critical slant) into our classrooms and help merge our teaching and curriculum with students interests and computer savvy?

One of my biggest inspirations when it comes to technology in the classroom is Michael Wesch, professor of Cultural Anthropology and Digital Ethnography at Kansas State University. Wesch and his students created A Vision of Students Today, an eye-opening video about college students and their state of education juxtaposed with technology’s influence on their lives.  This video, created in 2007, has been viewed by more than four million people around the world.  There is also A Vision of k-12 Students Today online which addresses these same aspects of technology advancement and the lack of technology in our elementary and secondary classrooms.  If you haven’t seen these videos then I strongly suggest taking a few minutes to view them.  Afterwards, ask yourself “What am I doing in my classroom to strengthen student learning and incorporate emerging technology?”

There are thousands of teachers around the globe who are using wikis creatively in their classrooms to enhance student learning and deepen content area understanding.  To view some inspiring wikis created by teachers I have highlighted many at cyberteaching.wikispaces.com.

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