Muddling through the blogosphere

August 17, 2008
by blogwalker

Wikis in K12 Education

Whether it be by voice, cell phone, email, iPod, blog, wiki, video, websites, or another as yet invented thing, I will communicate my message via any means that students will hear. I will not be afraid of the medium if it a highway to my students’ psyche. I will not erect roadblocks where I should build on ramps.”

I’m updating the wiki I use for my workshops to include some new resources such as Vicki Davis‘s slideshow presentation, which includes the above quote, and am thinking about some recent conversations with teachers who are fast becoming contributors to the blogosphere. Teachers from my local Writing Project, for instance, who are using their wikis to extend content resources beyond the school day. Take, for example, the fabulous Ms. Duenas, who has uploaded her entire set of PowerPoints to accompany her district’s 6th grade math program to her wiki. I suspect through Dee’s enthusiasm and commitment to sharing best practices, she’ll be bringing others at her site on board with Web 2.0 technologies.

I’d like to address two questions from teachers who have recently joined the blogosphere and have also added wikis to their toolkit.

The first question is about subscribing to a wiki. With, readers will not see the RSS button or link, so how do they follow? Here’s the answer:

Step 1: From the sidebar, click on the Recent Changes link.

Step 2: From the Recent Changes screen, click on the Notify Me tab. Decide whether you want notification when anything has been changed or just changes to specific pages in the wiki.

Step 3: Choose your reader and that’s it.

The second question is from one of the most dedicated, outstanding teachers I have ever worked with, who happened to join me for my A3WP Summer Tech Institute. I’ve know this teacher for 16 years. Believe me, the list of students whose lives she has changed and the teachers she has mentored and supported (including me!!)is an incredibly long one! She left the workshop with a blog and a wiki ready to go. Her immediate goal was to provide a strong school-to-home connection and to open the world to her students (from a location where the deepest differences diversity-wise are economic). She called yesterday with this question: What do I tell my superintendent in a meeting I’ve requested to talk about why the tech guy has blocked access to

I suggested maybe starting with Karl Fisch’s Did You Know? or Michael Wesch’s Information Revolution, plus the NCTE’s recent definition of 21st century literacies.

I’d like to keep adding to her list. What are your suggestions? How are you using wikis with your students and/or staff? What should I add to her list?

June 8, 2008
by blogwalker

Three New Favorites

I’ve been having a ball this week at EDCOE facilitating some Web 2.0 workshops. Last week’s sessions were on blogging and podcasting. Right now I’m working the agenda and resources for Tuesday’s Tools for Collaborative Writing workshop. Between conversations with EDCOE’s Kate Doyle and emails from NWP colleagues, I’ve discovered three new resources that have made it to my “Three New Favorites” list for the week:

  • Yahoo Avatars – Tons of choices for pulling together an avatar for your blog, wiki, etc., that captures a glimpse into who you are. I haven’t completely read through Yahoo’s Terms of Service document yet, but you are definitely allowed to download your avatar and use it outside of Yahoo. I’m hoping as I read through their agreement, I’ll find it’s ok to photoshop a touch of gray into my new blog avatar’s hair style:-)
  • Race and Me – Collaborative activity from CTAPIV‘s Kathleen Firenze for introducing teachers to wikis. I love the way this activity introduces teachers to the power and possibilities of wikis while promoting some pretty deep thinking at the same time.
  • Information Revolution – I’m familiar with Kansas State University professor of digital ethnology Mike Wesch’s work. For a couple of years I’ve been sharing his The Machine is Us/ing Us video in my Web 2.0 workshops. I’m glad Kate Doyle pointed me to one of his latest videos: The Information Revolution:

January 21, 2008
by blogwalker

On Wikipedia

wikipedia.gifIt’s that time of year when high school seniors in many districts are buckling down to complete their senior research projects. I’ve been listening in at every opportunity to teachers sharing their thoughts, their questions, their cautions, and their policies concerning student use of Wikipedia as a resource.

My favorite discussion so far has been one led by CyberEnglish teacher Ted Nellen during November’s NCTE ACE workshop in NYC. One of the teachers in the session cited Wikipedia as being only 40% accurate. Ted responded by asking the accuracy rate of, for example, the average history textbook (which by the way, continue to be less than engaging for our students). And the conversation opened up…and continued on into the NCTE Talkies listserv…and on into Ted’s blog post Yes, Use Wikipedia. I’m taking the liberty of copying from the heart of the post:

“wikipedia is merely the next iteration in information sharing. following the evolution of information sharing, we had oral, then written and now digital. all information was controlled by an elder, perhaps, and shared orally. the information shared was of course edited by the giver. churches evolved as the main information sharer. then with gutenberg, the information sharer was passed onto publishers. they, too, edited and selected what was shared. today we have the internet and information is shared in a more democratic manner and perhaps chaotic manner. yet the information gets batted about and sifted through so that we should arrive at pure information, unedited and free. this of course scares lots of people who are used to getting information from print sources or from people who own these print sources. so it makes sense that something like wikipedia scares people cause they have been told to fear it or fear it cause it is wresting the distribution of information from them and giving it to the people.

of course we should use wikipedia as a resource. i’m not quite sure why we would not.
why not?

it is democratic. it is created by the people who do know more about the topic than others. it is public, it is peer reviewed, and it is edited constantly. sure it goes through weird times but it is fixed very quickly. “

From the NCTE Talkies, Carla Beard, who gave several highly entertaining NCTE workshop presentations on student use of wikis, shared that, of course there is a need to teach students to question Wikipedia entries and to corroborate sources – but then, I think we need to teach students to question and corroborate any resource! Carla likes “to pull up articles where Wikipedia itself asks for citation of information.” Great way to model information literacy strategies!

Another NCTE colleague (and mentor), Nancy Patterson shared in the Talkies discussion that she directs her graduate students to Wikipedia because it is “often a great place to start, especially if they don’t know anything about a topic or person.”

After reading an article in the Wall Street Journal by Lee Gomes – Forget the Articles, Best Wikipedia Read Is Its Discussions – I now check on the Discussion tab too and can see why he finds this feature of Wikipedia so fascinating. Just reading through the discussions for the Potato entry was engaging and informative – Maybe we should encourage students to start with Wikipedia discussions before venturing on to read the articles.

For those students who are truly passionate about the topic they’ve chosen for their senior project, the possibility of themselves becoming a “wikipedian” on their topic might encourage more scholarly research and thoughtful writing. I’m thinking about a senior at Florin High School who shared with me that her topic – and passion – was floral design. Out of curiosity, I searched “floral design” and found that Wikipedia is asking for contributions – Sounds like a great opportunity for students to go public with their research!

And my favorite resource for introducing teachers and students to the whole concept of a wiki is still Lee Lefever’s Common Craft video Wikis in Plain English :-).

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