Setting up a class wiki
One of my assignments for the Digital Writing course at the University of Minnesota was to set up a wiki that could be used in a Language Arts classroom. My class wiki can be found here. As I'm not currently teaching any classes, I have maintained a fairly bare-bones design of the content of the wiki.
After reviewing my own work, as well as the work of my peers, it's clear that there may be several advantages and challenges to creating a course wiki or wikibook. First of all, many of my peers created wikis that served as a central platform for doing on-line work for the course. One clear advantage is that students can use the wiki as a central location for sharing information; when working on group projects, students can use the wiki as a central location to navigate the work that's complete and that which is needed. Students can use the wiki to share resources that might be useful for research projects, cutting out some of the work of seeking out valuable resources. Also, many of my peers provided a page on their course wikis that afforded easy access to student blogs -- a clear effort at supporting students' individual learning and facilitating the sharing of their identities. Through these links, students can review and reflect upon the work of their peers, and learn to provide useful feedback in their responses.
Wikibooks can be a good medium for students working in literature circles. With wikibooks, students can collaborate on providing summaries, character sketches, thematic idea maps, critical inquiries, literary analyses, reviews, and recommendations, among other forms of writing. The potential for their writing to be a visual medium in addition to being a written medium enhances the potential for communicating in dynamic, engaging ways.
Some of the challenges that present themselves when using wikis to guide student participation include the following:
- As always, a technology literacy/accessibility gap will exist for many students.
- Students need to learn how to research topics on their own, and not to strictly rely on the resources found by others.
- Time spent using the wiki ought to be validated by a clear purpose for using the wiki. In other words, using the wiki should be the best way of achieving the desired results.
- Students may neglect to provide timely feedback on their blogs.
- The challenge of evenly distributing the workload, and clearly communicating about compositional edits, exists in all forms of collaborative writing.
- Creating a well-designed wiki that is not overly complex, such that students can easily navigate to the resources they need.