Home > COM530 > Wikis in the classroom- an interactive textbook?

Wikis in the classroom- an interactive textbook?

“I think that books will become obsolete within a few years,” said an eight-grader during a recent class ‘conversation’. This statement wasn’t spoken aloud in a traditional classroom but rather typed into a class wiki, an online space where people can edit and contribute to content.

A wiki – Hawaiian for quick – is “basically a group writing space,” said David Peloff, program director for emerging technologies at the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Technology in Education.

Kids love using technology and it seems they love using the technology to talk about technology. With experience, teachers are learning that students who are able to see each other’s comments are encouraged to write more themselves.

The other bonus to this format for sharing is that wiki content can be put up for the world to see. These middle school wikis are garnering hits from India and Australia so, students not only take their statements and efforts seriously, they can experience the global effects of their work.

Even higher education is finding advantages to the use of wikis. A University of Iowa law professor, Lea VanderVelde, has no problem with her students using Wikipedia. In fact, she hopes others use the information her students have posted in their own research.

Law professors across the country have struggled with how they can use technology in their classes and teaching to their advantage. Some professors have banned laptops in their classes, saying they can just be a distraction.

When Ms. VanderVelde was preparing to teach a class on employment law last semester, she was trying to think of a new way to teach the complex differences among states’ laws. She decided to divide the states up and give a few to each student to research extensively, and to post their work on a custom wiki site.

Ms. VanderVelde monitored and approved all posts. Students’ grades were based on how much time they had spent on the site working and on the quality of their work.

“It just struck me that this would be a better way for the information to be organized,” she said. “There is no adequate textbook available on this topic”

By the end of the semester, her class had created a 1,300 page wiki, the largest of any wiki created for use by the university. “You couldn’t expect students to read a 1,300 page book, but you could encourage them to produce one collectively,” she said.

Wow, the new interactive ‘textbook’! Pretty cool, eh?

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Categories: COM530
  1. andersj
    October 31, 2009 at 3:53 am

    I have read of many profs who attempted and failed with class wikis… Sort of like the attempt I made to have the class reading materials distributed as a PDF, a Word doc to which all students could add their own notes and make a customized textbook, and an online book on Issuu. While there are success stories, there are plenty of stories to the opposite. Many note that pouring time into the wiki does not allow students to build their own portfolio items and individual blogs, etc., to the fullest extent possible. They say the wiki is a group product that they can’t claim as their own. Some jealous students may sabotage the work of others. Students resent having to make a textbook and want to just buy one made by someone else. The list goes on.

  2. December 11, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Oh my god enjoyed reading this article. I added your feed to my reader.

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