Monday, January 22, 2007

Wikis for Elementary Students

My gifted sixth grade students did their first wiki quite by accident. Background: We had finished reading a book called The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett. The book is Balliett's second novel for kids, the first one is called Chasing Vermeer. All in all I love the way the books are written; they are filled with historical connections, math puzzles, codes and ciphers, like D'Vinci Code for kids. The plots are not as strong as I'd like and the mysteries are easily solved at the end of the books but the kids seemed to like them. I wrote curriculum for each book and students learned a lot about Frank Lloyd Wright and Johannes Vermeer.

Back to the wiki...I had planned for my sixth grade students to write a reflection essay on the book and what they had learned about Frank Lloyd Wright. The night before they were to start that assignment, I decided that they would hate it! We'd started a blog several months ago and in my researching of Web 2.0 technologies I'd run in to wikis and knew what they were. I decided, after I'd turned off my computer for the night, that they would love to do a wiki.

I got up early the next morning, went to school, cranked up my computer and in 30 minutes had the skeleton of the wiki ready. Several cautions: At the time I didn't realize that each student would have to "join"so there was a scramble to get everyone signed up. I use Wikispaces and they will set up accounts for all your students if you email them. I was savvy enough to realize that if students worked in pairs, each one would have to have a separate page. Two kids can't open the same page, work on it and save it. Notes are taken on two separate pages then combined on one page for final publishing.

I showed them Wikipedia and we did searches on chicken nuggets and Super Mario I could tell they were hooked right away! They loved all the connections. We discussed copyright, looked at Wikipedia's copyright (which I really like), and talked about notetaking and plagiarism. Then I set them loose!

Since I teach in a gifted pullout program the students are with us all day one day a week. In about five hours the seventeen kids finished the wiki on The Wright 3 and Frank Lloyd Wright. They really enjoyed it. Here are some of their comments:

“Boy, I’m glad we didn’t have to write!” (hello….you just spent the whole day writing!!)
“It is so cool to know that somebody might use what I wrote for their research!!”
“I write a lot more carefully knowing the ‘world’ can read it”
“I liked the fact that we could work together, help each other out and link to stuff someone else wrote”
“It is so cool to put something ON the Internet, rather than always taking stuff OFF.”

Let me know if you have any questions. We are in the process of completing two more wikis now.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

You are doing some great things. Thanks for pointing me to your site. To get their feet wet the staff are just setting up bloglines accounts so i know visiting your site will inspire them and open up possibilities.