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Monday, September 15, 2008

Dear Tom Part 4: Wiki Privacy Levels, Student Plaigarism, and Getting Nervous



Another installment the ongoing conversations between Tom Harrison, 7th grade teacher in Delaware, and me.

In Email Letter 1, we talked about wikis, Letter 2 was a follow up on wikis and blogs, in Letter 3 we talk about wiki text, diigo and bookmark sharing, and staying motivated when other teachers seem not to care about what we're doing and in this letter we talk about privacy letters, wiki wars, and plaigarism.

I am in blue on this email:
"Vicki,
I was talking to my student teacher today about our wikis and how I hope they will be used in this upcoming unit.  In our discussions several things came up that I have some questions about.
1.  I created the wikispace for each class.  Each student in each class has a username and password to that class wikispace.  If I post a list of assignments on that space, how do I prevent that page from being edited by a student?  I know I can lock a page, but it seems that all that is necessary is to select the page and then click unlock.  How do you prevent student tampering with the pages you create?

The only reason you see unlock is that you are an administrator.  The students are just members so they will not see unlock.  There are different levels of permissions. I HIGHLY suggest that you set up your student teacher as a member also (let him/her join the space) and then promote him/her to manager as well. This lets you see who has done what and provides the accountability we want to teach children.  We should never share user ID's but be accountable for our own behavior is a principle I teach the students. 
2.  As students go through the assignments and then need to use templates to complete assignments, they are naming them using the numbering system you suggested and adding their names to the numbers to identify their page.  Can't anyone on the space (other students) see their work by just clicking on their page?  What prevents plagiarism?  Can student pages be tampered with as well?  I know that changes can be undone and any student who edits anything can be identified, but I am concerned about the stress involved with students finding their work has been messed with and the time I need to spend undoing the mess that was created.
It depends on how you set it up.  There is public-public (publicly viewed and publicly edited by anyone) - I DON"T EVER use this format just because I want and believe in accountability.

Then, there is public-private (publicly viewed and edited by members only) - This is what I use for my OLDER classes.

Finally there is private - private (viewable and editable by members only) -- this is what I use with my 7th grade homeroom or for any spaces with private information.  This is what I recommend for your set up.

Go into "Manage space" and then "subscription" - you can switch to the private version.  Then, click on the link to request a complimentary subscription for educators and as long as you are K12 and will have k12 students on there (which you are) they will remove the ads and give you the private space.

So, whether anyone can see is dependent upon how you set it up. 

As for what prevents plaigarism -- YOU!  You can tell if work is reused very easily.  Sometimes kids are copying off the internet and that is easy to tell also because many times the links are messed up. 

Is there stress at the beginning of starting wikis -- YES.  However, the FIRST time you have an issue, you have to deal with it severely.  I handle wikivandalism under our school vandalism policy.  In this case, I didn't know how to lock pages and a student edited the assignment.  By the next period, they were in the principles office dealt with on vandalism charges in the way we handle that -- like writing on the bathroom walls level of vandalism.  So, expect wiki vandalism to happen early but catch it early.

You may also want to set up a way that students can report this, however, I really don't have a problem of this -- even when we have students all over the world editing, if a problem happens we revert.

Just remember that dealing with some issues of collaboration is preparing them for life.  Life is messy and group work is messy -- but wikis are really a great way to do projects. I find that kids LOVE that everyone is held accountable for their own work.  Just stress that they are accountable for their own password and if they share it - they are still accountable for their own password and user id.  This is the golden rule for handling wiki issues!

Finally, if  a mess is made, correct it on the board in front of the whole class and make THEM FIX THEIR OWN MESSES.  I don't fix wiki wars after the first time I model it -- they do.  They tag it "turnin" when done.  If  a problem happens, I just go in the history to grade and find whatever the issue was.

Much better than just making a plain web page that you cannot track.  Is it perfect?  No.  But is it a great learning experience - yes. 

I'm not going to tell you that it is perfect at the beginning.  The FIRST Wiki lesson is the worst wiki lesson.  I can guarantee it.  After having taught several hundred students and lots of adults -- this is the fact about teaching wikis.  So, I've always taken the approach of putting the students all on one page and forcing the wiki war to happen -- showing them how to relax and fix it and then talk about "now that is why we have small groups for these projects."

I rarely do individual student wiki pages -- most pages are group projects because they need to do collaborative writing. If I want an opinion piece or individual first person thing, I do that on our private Ning, but I know teachers who do that on a wiki also.

Remember, keep it simple.  Start slowly.  Try one lesson and then go from there.
I guess that's it for this round.  As I get closer to the roll-out of this I am getting more terrified.  Thanks again for all your help.
Take it easy and take it slowly.  Who says you have to do ALL of your classes at the same time on the first day.  Can you have a "pilot" class at the beginning and just do it once with a traditional lesson in the other classes until you get your "feet wet?"  Don't put too much pressure on yourself -- but then again, you sound like a perfectionist.
By the way, I really appreciated the very kind words about me in your blog post yesterday.  It was really weird reading my name in "print".  That's only ever happened once before in the local paper and that was a while ago.  Really bizarre feeling…
The great thing is that now "we" are the paper.  Teachers never get recognized enough, but if we have it in our power to do good for another person, we are supposed to do it.  Personally, if I could write about several thousand teachers in my blog-lifetime it wouldn't be enough.  Blogging about another person is a gift.  Each person that links to me on their blog makes my day.  It is truly an honor to be linked to or written about because it means that we matter and have a legacy.

And no one should hear that more than teachers.  Thank you for sharing and thank you for letting our conversation be shared publicly.  
Take care and have a wonderful weekend,
Tom"

Thank you, Tom for sharing.
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