I was completely surprised by the reactions of my grade 12 chemistry students today to an idea I had about the creation and submission of group lab reports. Before I describe the reaction I received, here’s a bit of background and an outline of my idea.
I’ve been really intrigued by some of the emerging technology and Web2.0 services popping up on the Internet, many of which have some wonderful applicability in the class room.
What has really got me interested lately is the use of Wiki’s in the classroom, as well as Google Docs. (I’ll blog about why I like Google Docs so much later.) I use Google docs to administer and mark on-line multiple choice tests, as well as have students sign up for school and extracurricular activities.
I often have students create group lab reports for experiments rather than individual lab reports. Each member of a group would decide on what part of the lab report they would contribute to (such as title page, procedure, list of materials, etc…). One group member would serve as a coordinator and get the hard copies from each group member and compile them into one document. Once the report was handed in, I would have the students complete a confidential self and peer evaluation to evaluate everyone’s contribution efforts to the group lab report. I had done that myself when I was in high school (I won’t say how many years ago!), but I found it to be more of a pain, so I assumed that my current students felt the same way.
Here was my idea. I wanted them to create their lab report as a webpage on our course wiki site. That way, each member could log in when they wanted to and include whatever content they were responsible for. Not only did I think this would make things easier for the students, but it has many more advantages for me. Doing this allows me to track who does what edit when (so I can actually see who contributed what), have an electronic copy of the report (so I could use good ones in the future as exemplars) and make checking for Internet plagiarism as easy as a few clicks of the mouse.
Since high schools students are all about computers these days and typically know more about what is going on than I do, I was expecting a very enthusiastic response. I assumed that students already knew what wiki’s were and how useful they can be. I really thought that at least one student would say something like “It’s about time sir!”.
What I received was the exact opposite! I won’t write down what they actually said. Suffice it to say that their reaction was completely opposite from what I was expecting.
After mentionning this to some of my Twitter colleagues, I found that many of them (who are also Web 2.0 enthusiasts like me) were getting the same reaction, especially from high school students.
This caused me to pause and think, but it won’t stop me from trying the wiki lab report idea. Perhaps I can yet convince my students how much easier this will be for them once they actually do it. I’ll also make them do the peer evaluation on-line using Google Docs rather than on paper.