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Saturday, February 04, 2006

3rd and 4th graders using wikis -- Interview with John, their teacher



Recently, I blogged about John P in Australia who is using pbwiki with his third and fourth graders. I asked him some questions about it.

I use wikispaces but have only used it with middle and high school students so I'm interested in what elementary students can do on wikis. I am also interested in knowing the differences between pbwiki and wikispaces.

I asked John some questions and he responded!

Coolcatteacher Question: I like the sidebar on the right that shows the outline of the wiki. I’m not sure if this is automatic or something you have to do.

John's Answer: The Sidebar on the wiki is something you have to do in pbwiki though it is quite easy to set up. It is a neat little navigation function I reckon.
Note from me. In wikispaces you can edit the navigation bar to the left. Perhaps I haven't used it as well as John has. I wish there was an automatic navigation of some sort that would modify itself as students add pages. It seems this is manual in both programs. I really like how John did it on his minibeasts project.

Coolcatteacher Question: I like the use of photos that the students took. I wonder how independently they were able to snap photos and upload?

John's Answer: My grade 3-4's took almost all of the pics in the classroom using either my Olympus digital camera or the QX3 digital microscope. Over the year they
became quite adept at taking pics and then using the free Irfanview utility
for cropping and resizing the pics. They also learnt quite quickly how to
upload the pics to the blog. With the wiki, I found the help notes and then
gave them to a couple of the girls and they worked out how to upload the
pics and then told the rest of us.
Note from me: I use this same technique all of the time that John used with the wiki help notes. Students love to learn something new. I love to find kids who need to have something that they excel at and encourage them in this direction. They harness their brainpower and the class reaps the results. The student reaps the reward of increased self esteem and peer respect as their friends begin to ask them for help. This concept of the teacher "knowing it all" is passe in my book. When my students learn something and teach me...I know that I've created a person who will excel in life and has become a self teacher.

Coolcatteacher Question: I like the joint project they did for Christmas with a school from Ireland. How exciting! How did you set it up? How did you quantify the product?

John's Answer: The Irish Christmas project was very much a spur of the minute thing. I asked a colleague of mine who I have met in Galway if he knew any teachers
who would be interested in doing something and we took it from there. I set
up the blogs on a server at our school and then sent the cheat notes to get
them started. In the end, the need to round out the year sort of stalled
things just as they were getting real momentum however the collaboration we
did achieve was encouraging enough to have us try some more.
Note from me: This collaboration is just what I was talking about yesterday in my blog entry about the need for a tagging system that will help classrooms that are teaching the same content find one another. I think such projects will create an exciting environment when they are well matched in purpose and content.

In Conclusion
I've learned from John and am excited about what I've learned. I believe it will impact our elementary curriculum as I work with the curriculum director. Elementary kids can do wikis in a meaningful way that promotes learning.

I think perhaps what I've learned best of all is the importance of participating in this "global conversation" as we share best practices and information.

We can learn from one another!

When I got into teaching, I was astounded that sometimes experienced educators seemed hesistant to share their "tricks." I, however, believe differently. I have a little less than 100 students per semester that I get to work with, influence, help, and hopefully inspire (as we perspire!)

Through blogging, perhaps I can share something that I've learned through hard knocks, reading, or other blogs. If it helps another teacher, then I have helped other students be inspired and learn. I can also bring techniques to my classroom that make me a better teacher and my students better lifetime learners.

No, this is not an idealistic view of "everyone share and we'll all be happy."

It is the fact that best practices are a legacy.
A legacy that can be passed on to other teachers or a legacy that can die when we retire.

As a teacher, I have a desire to help others live better lives. I want to influence others for good. I want my life to mean something. When I share knowledge and help others become "self teachers" I have done something.

Join the global conversation. Blog. Answer questions posted on your blog. Read blogs. Comment in meaningful ways on the blogs of other educators. Enroll in the school of the 21st century -- the blogosphere. John P is a good example of someone who has. I hope to be too.


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