In my classroom, I found my wikispaces to be a great source of collaboration and student engagement beyond the classroom. Students were always connected to the classroom - which they hated - and rarely had and excuse for not knowing about an assignments. Plus, as a teacher, it helped with my organization. Gone were the days of file cabinets and manilla folders!!!
Classroom wikis are free and easy to set up even for those who don't describe themselves as "tech savvy". It also works as a forum in which parents can look in on the classroom and keep up to date with student progress. I made sure to set up my wiki as private and allowed access through teacher invite only. Before I started this wiki, I consulted with my administration, technology director and parents. Anytime you venture into the "Interweb" (as my parents like to call it) it is good to cover your bases with the higher powers. I also invited all of my parents to join the wiki. This was partially done through back to school night. Parents would sign in with their name, student name and e-mail. I then explained to them what a wiki is and how we would be using it in the classroom. Parents were very receptive to this idea and loved having a consistent stream of classroom updates.
For my students and parents I first showed them a common craft video that simply explained a wiki.
After the video I prompted students with several questions:
HOW CAN WE USE THIS IN A CLASSROOM?
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A WIKI?
WHAT ARE THE NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF A WIKI? AND HOW COULD WE IMPROVE THEM?
HOW COULD YOU USE A WIKI OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM?
Students provided great responses that generated a lengthy class discussion. I then modeled the basic elements of a wiki and provided a screenshot hand out that I made for them to reference in the early stages of accessing, using and posting on the wiki. Overall it was a success!
- Provided a central hub for all class updates, projects and handouts
- Great for student and teacher organization
- Allowed parents to keep current with class assignments
- Be patient!
- Set aside at least one or two class periods for initial wiki introduction and set up. It may seem like you are distracting from teaching, but will benefit in the long run.
- Consult administration, technology director and parents before using web based forums for classroom communication
- Include Parents in the wiki!!
Here are two videos that I made through the use of JING and screencast.com. These are two great free resources - that allow upgrades to pro accounts - for any classroom.