Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wikis, Wikis, Everywhere

Three weeks ago I introduced the five other teachers teaching the hypertext unit to wikis. I got mixed reactions and I still am, but the fact of the matter is that the use of wikis and blogs in my room last year is snowballing - honestly, it's getting out of control and I couldn't be happier about it.

At present these wiki based projects are happening in my department:
  • The hyper-english unit, where students are publishing hypertext short stories to show the intertextuality of their piece.
  • Year 12 Geography are publishing multipage wikis for their research task on Climate Change in particular global regions.
  • English Communication students are now creating wikis as personal representations.
  • Year 10 English classes are publishing their reconstructions to a wiki as prep for their Year 11 task.

There's also talk of perhaps integrating wikis into subjects such as Modern and Ancient History (YES PLEASE!).

There's two problems we're encountering at present:

  1. At the moment I'm upskilling staff and students on the wikis in our LMS - and until they're confident I'm it. I need to figure out a way to clone myself.
  2. The school is suffering a distinct shortage of computers at present. This is a temporary issue, unfortunately it is happening NOW as subjects across the school come on board with the integration of ICTs. I just hope we get through without the teachers going "it's too hard" and just going back to the "easy" way.

The reality when integrating ICTs into your classroom in meaningful ways is that at first there will be teething problems - something will crash, something will have a wrong setting, the kids will forget their passwords (the teachers will "forget" their passwords), there won't be enough computers. If we're dedicated to finding a way to integrate technology in a more meaningful way than using our laptops to play YouTube clips, or music, or powerpoint presentations we're going to need to accept that we're not "teachers" - we're LEARNERS. And that is going to mean some late nights trying to figure out how to do something the first time (promise you, the more you do it though, the quicker you'll be able to do it. I've cut my wiki creation time from 5 min each to a minute flat, it's a matter of knowing the tools), it is going to mean having backup plans and it is going to mean some moments of frustration (my computers have had their well being threatened more than once while walking my digitial journey with me).

The extra effort is so worth it when it works - when you get those first few blog entries, or you find that the kids have figured out how to do something without you showing them (or that you thought impossible), when their eyes light up because they're getting to work with technology from their world in their classrooms.

As a learner I'm overwhelmed at the moment. I'm well and truly outside my comfort zone and feeling more than a little out of my depth. My learning curve at the moment is huge and everytime I get to a peak there's another, larger, lesson to learn. I'm not disliking it, but it's tiring - even without the wiki pressures!

Tomorrow I'm working my way through four classes to intro the basics of the wikis - the teachers don't know it yet, but they'll be expected to work in a group with their students while I do it - they're not going to be comfortable with that, but collaboration is the key to the great shift I'm trying to foster.


Shane said...


Again, another great post. Awesome to see the effect you are having across curriculum areas.

Nic Mobbs said...

Thanks Shane, it's moments like this when I really can see the snowballing effect of digital pedagogy in schools.

Bonnie said...

Nic, what wiki service do you use with teachers? I like wikispaces, but I'm curious if any of the others (wetpaint, PBwiki) are better (easier).

Thanks for any advice you can offer...