Sunday, September 2, 2012



The use of wikis within a classroom can lead to powerful collaboration and communication between students and teachers.  I spent some time this weekend reviewing several literacy based wikis  and looking at the similarities at differences among them. I was curious to see examples of how this type of technology tool was being utilized in classrooms and their effectiveness in teaching/reviewing literacy skills for students.  I was really interested in the wikis that teachers created that revolved around a reading story/unit.  I tend to do a lot of literature sets in my classroom and was curious how other teachers were creating story based wikis for students.

The first wiki I looked at was based off of the story Sarah, Plain, and Tall.  This wiki was primarily used for the teacher to post questions related to story elements (setting, characters, plot, theme) and had the students post a response to the question.  While it was nice to see this teacher attempting to use technology in the classroom, I felt the major point of a wiki was missing.  There was no discussion amongst teachers or students found in the wiki.  Students merely posted their answer to the question and basically forgot about it. The use of this wiki was no different than a teacher just asking the students the questions in a class discussion, it was not an effective use of this instructional tool.    The wiki offers no graphics or media to make it visually appealing either.

The second wiki I looked at was based off of the story Holes.  I found this wiki to be much more collaborative and open ended than the previous wiki.  This wiki basically had the same purpose-to teach and identify story elements.    The difference in this wiki was the strategy that the teacher applied.  The teacher did not pose specific questions, instead asked students to describe or show their understanding of the characters, setting, plot, and events in the story.  By giving the students more freedom I felt that the students put forth more time and the quality of work appeared higher than the previous wiki.    The wiki was visually stimulating and motivating for students as well. 

When creating a wiki for students I think that collaboration and creativity are the key to its success. While organization and structure is important for a wiki I feel that in its most effective form it should contain open ended questions or prompts and offer opportunities for collaboration amongst students in creating the final product. 


  1. I think the section on Sarah, Plain and Tall was from a blog and perhaps that was the reason for the lack of collaboration. The students could only comment on what the instructor posted instead of posting their own original thoughts. That is a great point about the differences between a blog and a Wiki. In a Wiki everyone is, theoretically, able to post ideas and thoughts. The end process is a collaborative effort by the whole team.
    I agree your second find is a good example of this. I love how you can actually look at the revision history and see how the site has progressed over time. I think this is one of the few sites I have seen where this option was available. Now I am going to have to go back and look at some of the other Wikis and see if I just overlooked this feature!

  2. I really like the Holes wiki. Using a wiki for a book study or literature groups is a wonderful way to get students to collaborate. There are so many open-ended possibilities. It would also be a great way to keep your students learning and reading over school breaks. You could assign a book and pose questions and activities via the wiki.

  3. Val-yes normally you can look at the revision history on the wikis. I'm not sure if you have to be a member of that wiki to do that or not though. I like the feature because you can easily see who is or is not contributing to the wiki.

    Heather-that is why I liked the strategies that the teacher who created the Holes wiki used. I would like to start a book club for my higher readers and I think a wiki would be a great way for me to hold them accountable since I will not be able to check in with their group every single day. I can pose activities or discussions and then check in to see how they are progressing and see if anyone needs extra help quickly and easily.

  4. Wikispaces does allow the revisions history feature, but often you need to be not only a member of the blog, but the creator. It all depends on how the owner sets up their permissions. I agree that a wiki would definitely help keep your students accountable, especially when you can't meet with students face to face every day as you mentioned. How cool would it be for your higher readers to have virtual book discussions with students in other classes? You could even use skype to keep the conversation going.