Wednesday, November 05, 2008


This evening I was pointed by a post on U Tech Tips to a couple of articles that gave me ideas on new things to try at school, and I thought they were worth not just Twittering but writing down as a way of thinking them through.

The first is an essay by Howard Rheingold where he talks about a concrete strategy for using critical thinking in class in combination with a wiki and websites to teach a course. This can be something I do with a series of chapters later this year in physics, and with an entire course in an upcoming year. A quote:

[Only] the three students on the teaching team were allowed to keep their laptops open. One kept notes on the wiki page for that class session. Another kept a lexicon on another wiki page. The third looked up appropriate sites in real time and projected them on the screen. Then, during the week after each class session, we followed up the classroom discussions in the forums, and each student who was not on the teaching team was assigned to edit the wiki — to add material that the teaching team had not put on the wiki, to flesh out sketchy notes, to define lexicon terms.

It would be a challenge to teach based on his model: he admits that teaching science in the same format would not be appropriate, and our school/classroom doesn't have the tech resources and connectivity that a college does. But I think that parts of his model could be carried over and take the students to a new level of learning: collaborative, critical, global, inquiry-based and resource-rich.

A second article I think would be useful to me is Beth Kanter's blog post "Working Wikily: The Secret Life of A Wiki Gardener - It Ain't Just Weeding", which details specific strategies for seeding and cultivating a successful wiki (community). Again, a quote:

1. Prepare your garden bed: The garden bed is the actual page or section on the wiki where you want to get people to contribute content or where you'll place it after you scoop it from the outposts. I create a page and it is a balancing act. You need to avoid filling it up with too much content because people will think the page is complete and they have nothing to contribute or get overwhelmed. On the other hand, if you give them a "naked" page - they won't have enough context to contribute easily - unless they are subject matter experts on the topic, have lots of time, and are highly motivated to contribute.

So far I've set up several wikis on Wikispaces and I've been OK about seeding them with starting info, but I've never had a coherent strategy or devoted enough effort to building a community of users. I think this article would give me the confidence to do so on my next wiki project.

Also, I've been thinking of starting a reading group at my school for teachers who are interested in Education 2.0 and related topics. I'm not sure what that would involve, but I'll be brainstorming it in the coming week or two and hoping for a start soon because second quarter begins next Monday.


At Nov 7, 2008, 11:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said:

i would love to join your group, if it will online group too


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