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My first trip into educational wikis

I’ve started a wiki space for my grade 12 enriched chemistry classes.  This is a first for me.  So far, I like the way it is working out, although I have some wrinkles to iron out yet.

The basic premise of the wiki is simple: the students are to create a series of webpages to report on research they do on a topic of their choosing.

I began this type of activity as a traditional write-a-research-paper on a particular topic.  The students also prepared a 10-15 minutes presentation for the class.  Use of presentation software and props were encouraged.  Click here for a link to the original handout I gave the students to help them get started and give them ideas on how I evaluated this project.

What I didn’t like about the original project is that it ate up a lot of class time for the presentations.  With only 38 minute periods for the class, there wasn’t room for much else on presentation days.

When I was introduced to the concept of a wiki, I came up with the idea of turning the research-report and presentation project into a wiki project.  (You can find a link to my wiki space in the sidebar to the right). Students are now organized into groups of 3 or 4 and collaborate on the research and preparation of their findings in the form of webpages.  Click here for the handout I give the students for the wiki project.  The wiki service I use, PBWiki, allows me to control which people have access to which part of the wiki.  It also tracks all edits to wiki pages, so I can track the students’ progress and contribution to the group work.

This idea is still very much in its infancy.  Already I’ve noticed a couple of things I want to change for future implementation of this idea.    This is the biggest one so far: My students (and I suspect many others too! 🙂  ) are notorious for doing big project work at the last minute.  The due date for this big project is in March 2009.  I setup the students with the wiki space in October 2008.  Needless to say not much activity has happened.  On a whim, I offered bonus points if they had their web references done on a particular day in November 2008.  Man, did activity ever start quickly!  A few students even said they liked the idea in that they now have their sources of information and are working on their projects a lot earlier than they had originally planned.

I think for next year I will build in a series of due dates to have certain portions of their projects done, such as title page, list of possible sources of info, certain number of pages complete, certain number of images or media elements inserted, etc.  Although I think this will keep them more focussed than normal, I’m also concerned about restricting them too much in following a specific ‘set of rules’ for the project.  I’m not exactly sure how I plan on judging fairly if they meet certain due date criteria, especially if I keep the format of the wiki project wide open (which is what I would like to do).

I would greatly appreciate any thoughts and comments you have have on this idea.  If you know of any good examples of similar types of projects, point me to them.

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