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.