Thursday, January 8, 2009

talking about wikis and collaboration

Tomorrow I will attempt to Skype into a presentation in New Jersey lead by Patrick Higgins. He sent me some questions to think about and so I thought I'd post them with my answers here.
  • What pushed you to begin using collaboration with digital tools in your classroom? Fear. Will Richardson gave the key note at a VAIS technology conference in 2007. I had never seen blogs and wikis in action before. Will used a wiki to present from and shared so many examples and made such a compelling argument about the future of education that I really felt that I was doing my students a disservice for not knowing what these online tools were and how to incorporate them in my lesson planning.
  • Tell us about the first time you used a collaborative tool with students. I tried to hold back and learn things for myself, like how to use a blog by creating my own, but I was so excited to share the possibilities with my students that I created a wiki for a literature circle unit on Black Ice with my juniors that first year. The collaboration was already happening in the concept of literature circles, but I just added the element of recording and posting group work online so that they could see it and I could double check and participate in their work as well.
  • Student responses to using these methods within your classroom? I teach in a 1:1 laptop school so my students are used to learning and using new tools whether it's a new way to use Word or a new online tool. And they were accustomed to using their computers in different ways for different classes. When I remember to go slowly and make the curricular goals for using a particular tool clear, then my students are very receptive and even apply the tool independently in their own projects and learning outside of my classroom. When I let my enthusiasm for a particular tool supercede the learning goals of the lesson, my students begin to grumble and complain that the extra work of learning to use the tool is not worth their effort.

  • When you are designing your curriculum, what factors go into deciding whether or not to include a collaborative element? Now, more than ever I start with the biggest questions and course goals and work backwards. When thinking of my new novel course I ask myself: how does this help my students understand the development of the novel or help them to begin composing their own novel? Can this tool help acheive our course goals efficiently or will too much class time (and student energy) be spent on learning the new tool. Of course, I have the luxury of teaching my students for two or three years in a row and the luxury of an English department that works collaboratively to build on skills from one course to the next. ( Thanks Susan Carter Morgan and Susanne Nobles!).

It would be much harder for me to do what I have done so far with my students, in less than two years, if I did not have the help of my collaborations with other teachers at my school and online with social sites like Twitter (jclarkevans) and various NINGs. But, most importantly, I have students who work hard, take risks, and really try to get the most of their learning experiences at school. In return, I try to work hard, keep learning, and do all of this for them.


Chris said...
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Chris said...

I like the way that the wikis have evolved and now are essential all the notes of everything talked about in class so that you can go back to them to study or for when you have to write a paper. I am curious about how forums or online discussion tools are used. Wikis are a great way to post information and have been edit it but ultimately offer no real way to hold discussions in an organized way. What is being done to get critical discussion of the reading rather than summary/analysis of the reading with no back and forth discussion between the students.

Phil Jackson said...

I liked the last question. Over the course of a week, I see so many different new tools out there on the net. The hardest part is trying to find the ones that are worth using on a daily basis. But I think exposure is key. The more choices you have the better.

J Clark Evans said...

Chris, as far as the critical discussions about literature first and foremost this happens during the class period. I sometimes like to continue class discussions on blogs if we get onto something good and run out of time. Also, I like using blogs because each individual student can express ideas or ask questions when they have had time to think it out-this helps some students feel less "on the spot." We also use discussion boards sometimes. I like the one on

Rachel said...

For me, wikis are almost intimidating. I feel as though I have to censure my ideas and can only post thoughts that are correct in relation to what we are studying. There is something about the fact that my work is available to everyone in the world that is somewhat disconcerting to me. However, wikis are extremely helpful when studying for tests because I am able to view other's thoughts and ideas in addition to my own.

SCMorgan said...

Good for you for taking a leap of faith a few years ago. Jumping in then wasn't as easy as it is now. And thank you for sharing what you know; it has enriched my teaching and learning.

doyle said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts at the conference in Montclair today.

I was very impressed with the technology, but even more impressed by your generosity sharing time with a room full of strangers.

Chris said...

@jclarkevans I didnt know with this new crazy class schedule how much time you had inclass for discussions.

While I hate on a philosophical base (making a profit off selling the work of students and others), they do have nice threaded discussion boards.