At a recent conference, I had a ball. It was great to exchange ideas, swap Twitter names and find out who blogs or wikis where. When the conference ended I enjoyed making contact with my new friends via their blogs and peer into what they were doing with their students online. When a colleague asked about tools for teaching a new novel, I referred her to a wiki. For just a second, I noticed a bit of a blank stare. Just then it clicked—she did not know what a wiki was. I started to explain that it was “kinda like a blog, but different.” Blank stare continued. Just then it hit me. Wiki—blog—gratiolo—all the same to many educators. Okay—that last one is totally made up. This post takes a moment to explain what a blog and wiki actually are. If you are reading this right now (and you are), this is a blog. You probably get that and are going—duh! What I think many people may not understand are the academic benefits of both or even what a successful example looks like. This article is a just a brief peak into the lingo, differences, and examples of each.
What is a blog?
Blogs, run a by a person or organization, are a collection of commentary, links, and videos. Blogs can be published as a personal journal, to discuss particular subjects that the author has expertise in, or as group blog for a project or paper. Articles or blog posts are written and open to response. Blogs can lead to open discussions and promote dialogue.
Examples of blogs in the classroom:
Blogs are part of what Randall Bass and Heidi Elmendorf , of Georgetown University, call “social pedagogies.” The idea is that the learner has an understanding that their audience reach is much wider than just the teacher. An authentic audience, opportunity to interact with others is the driving force behind genuine social pedagogies. That interaction is key with blog use and integration.
You can use blogs:
- To share assignments and information
- Student created blogs as a research project
- Create your classroom hub to engage students in one place. This is great is your school does not have an established teacher presence via Moodle or other website services.
Next year my Multicultural Literature students will set up their own blogs to reflect on their learning and engage in synthesis and textual analysis. This will allow them to develop a yearlong portfolio of ideas and to chart their own ideas, growth, and performance.
What is a wiki?
The easiest way to conceptualize a wiki is to think of the mother of all wikis—Wikipedia. Wikipedia allows users to contribute information, modify and edit that information and interact with the text. Consider an article on Wikipedia. Users are able to add information as they see fit. While there are parameters that exist, the sense of community prevails. The information is no longer protected and separate from the reader The reader is an active part of the community and has a voice that warrants merit.
Wikis run contrary to traditional course content diffusion where the instructor has the information and selects how and when it is distributed. When utilizing wikis, the students take an active part in conceiving the content and shaping how it develops. This process offers numerous opportunities for high level engagement and activity. Wiki’s are best suited for projects or long term work on a specific topic.
Examples of Wiki’s in the Classroom:
Bud Hunt’s Wiki: This wiki looks just like a page ripped right out of Wikipedia. Created by Colorado teacher Bud Hunt this wiki utilized numerous other educator collaborators.
High School Online Collaborative Writing: Features the collaborative writing of various high school students.
Tools for Creating Wikis:
PBwiki: This resource offers and easy to use interface with RSS feeds, and has free, $5, $10, or $25 per-month options.
Wikispaces: This free service does not include advertising while offering private pages that only allow members to edit them.
: EditMe’s monthly fees start at $4.95. This service offers more options and interface levels such as public view, administrative edit, and password protection.
Whether you dive in to a blog or wiki with your class or in your own professional endeavors, taking that first digital step is key. Existing outside of the Internet galaxy means that you really are missing out on a world of networking and learning for your students and peers.