Thing #8 – Wikis

I’ve had a little bit of experience using Google Docs which is a bit like wikis in that any member of the page can edit the document.  I’ve only utilized it a few times, but it was a really useful tool.  I really should use it more often.  Perusing through some of the wiki websites gave me some insight into how I might use wikis in my classroom, but I come to the same questions every time I try to think of how to use this stuff.  How does a discussion based technology lend itself to physics and math?  And, if I can find a way to use it, how can students post things in the wiki involving equations that are well formatted?  I may have found an answer to the second question in LaTex, but it requires some further research on my part.

I found about LaTex on Math 12V Outcomes Portfolio where Mr. Lee asked students to each write a page on a specific goal that the state (or province in this case) wanted them to meet.  The fact that this was centered around outcomes that some bureaucrat came up with bothered me, but the pages that the students made seemed useful.  One thing I didn’t like about the pages was that there was one student assigned to each one, so there wasn’t any collaboration going on.  However, I can see doing something like this where two students collaborate to write a page that goes over what we’ve been discussing in class for the last few days.

After reading Joel’s blog post I looked at the Kindergarten Counting Book.  It really was neat to see how kindergartners could use a technology so easily.  I was trying to think about how I could change this project to suit high schoolers and I though about maybe a Physics Alphabet Book or something where students, or pairs of students, work on creating a page about a physics topic that starts with an assigned letter.  Obviously it would be more involved than the kindergarten version, but I think it would be a nice learning experience.

The Great Debate 2008 was a perfect use of wikis.  It was collaborative and it was informative.  There was so much information on that site that I would have read the whole thing had the election been in a few months, rather than 8 months ago.  Unfortunately, it was not really a debate at all.  There was almost no discussion involved and nobody voiced his or her own opinion.  That would have made it a much more useful classroom tool as debate gets you thinking whereas regurgitating information does not.

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