Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wikified English - Update

fountain pen

Pic: Fountain Pen, by phil_h

Wow, the efforts of the last few weeks have been mammoth. Especially when it comes to the Wikified English project with students crafting their own hypertexts within personal wikis.

At first it seemed a simple enough task - find four stimulus items, write a narrative which used them in creative/symbolic ways and then embed hyperlinks to show the intertextuality and 'layers' of your story. I've watched as students and staff slowly realise that this task is far more indepth than this. Students are having to really think about their choices as writers - which words do I hyperlink? What do I use as my expansion piece? How does this stimulus item add to my narrative and not just show something from it? I've had a number of students try to do this task the same way they did the narrative piece in Year 10 - write the story and then find the stimulus item that 'fit'. Some have written entire narratives and then gone looking for stimulus items, only to realise that doing it that way is actually really difficult - nothing 'fits' the way they need to.

This deceptively simple task is really seeing them go through the process of crafting a narrative piece. I've had quite a few students learn the lesson and start over. At first I was worried about that, would they have time, was I asking too much - but I've accepted that they've benefited hugely from the lesson. The quality of the narratives I've read so far in drafting (and at this stage I'm only looking at the main narrative - next week they're crafting their hyperlink expansions) is fantastic - I get tingles reading their work!

Some students seem shyer about starting to construct their wikis and we suspect that it's because of the sense of "publishing" to an audience (their peers). Like I always witnessed in Drama, give them an audience and the pressure does pretty amazing things - suddenly students who had a fairly laid back approach is concerned with making sure it looks 'just right'.

Collective collaboration is happening too, and we haven't even had to tell them how (surprising...not). Students from across the cohort are looking at other groups' work and leaving comments. Some of them surprisingly detailed and incredibly constructive. What amazes me, (as always) inspires and gives me hope is that we haven't had to "tell them" to do it. For them it's been a natural extension.

But, it's not just the students I'm seeing step up on this one. The teaching team on this have really leaped forward during the last few weeks - they've:

  • upskilled from not knowing what a wiki was to being able to create and edit wikis within our LMS
  • figured out how to enroll and mange students within that LMS - including from scratch (no easy task if you're familar with it)

And that's just the skills stuff...their knowledge, awareness and understanding of the potential of these sorts of tasks is growing - and I love watching it, better yet - I love watching them apply the idea to their other classrooms.

Whilst it has been both challenging and draining to try and upskill nearly 200 students and seven staff, it's been so incredibly worth it (I may change my tune if in the next week it all suddenly goes pear shape...) and I must admit I'm looking forward to trying to find the next tool to introduce to my staff.

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