Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wikis - I Think I'm in Love

I'll admit, I was very skeptical. Forgive me, but I did not think I would enjoy having my words, my work, my thoughts, my creation being tinkered with. What if the heart gets taken out of what I've written? What if my words are completely obliterated? What if someone trashes my space? It takes a tremendous leap of faith for people like me to surrender to the ways of the wiki, but that is what I did, what I had to do, and now I'm a believer. I think I'm in love.

I began this weeks study on wikis by viewing three sites: pbwiki, wetpaint, and wikispaces (these were recommended on Wikis in Plain English). I chose wikispaces because it seemed the most intuitive. I found the layout easy to follow, and wanted something that would be practical to use with other collaborators.

The hardest choice I had to make was what I wanted my wiki to be about. After much deliberation and nail-biting, I decided to start a story-sharing site, called StoryButter where people could collaborate on stories for children (

What I discovered was that I needed a community to make the wiki work. I instantly sent out invitations to members of my writing group, members of EDES 501 class, and a few others. I did not have much time for the experiment, given that the inspiration for the wiki hit me today. I quickly wrote a story called The Ungruff Billy Goats. Then, I crossed my fingers and waited. After some more nail-biting, I realized that perhaps I'd already put too much detail into my story (or maybe it just wasn't that good!). I started another story, Funny Pumpkin, this time leaving it unfinished and with a bare minimum of details. When I checked the "recent changes" on my blog around supper time, I was thrilled to see that someone had taken the bait on the second story. The author/collaborator added some great details, finished the story (save for a few jokes), and made me laugh. How thrilling to have someone collaborate on a story with me! If I can share with students the joy of the wiki, then I'll be one very happy teacher-librarian. I finally get what

How I would use Wikis in the Classroom
  • That's a Good Question! A group of students who love trivia could host the wiki inviting questions from fellow students.
  • Story starters: Students could post story starters for their literacy buddies to work on.
  • Wee Poets: Students collaborate to make their poems the best they can be.
  • Web 2.0 Ideas in our School: Why not a spot where students can collaborate about how to use Web 2.0 tools in the school?
  • Team Literacy Challenge: A place to routinely challenge groups of students to collaborate on literacy activities such as rewriting the ending of a story.

What to tell the Nay Sayers

Will Richardson makes a very good point when he says that people can argue against wikis because they are not professionally edited, but that "in the era of the Read/Write Web, we are all editors, and we must all become skilled at doing that work (66)." We also need to have faith in our students to participate in the collaborative process in a constructive manner; to take on their role as editors seriously.

We can live in fear that our work will be vandalized, or we can deal with it when and if it happens. Again, it's a leap of faith, but one that seems worth it. As Richardson says: "The collaborative environment that wikis facilitate can teach students much about how to work with others, how to create community, and how to operate in a world where the creation of knowledge and information is more and more becoming a group effort (74)."

Feel the love, use wikis.


Joanne de Groot said...

Hi Carol,

I love your idea for your wiki--what a great example of collaborative writing and sharing, and so many possibilities for schools and libraries! I'm glad someone helped you write the story--I apologize that I wasn't faster off the mark this week and didn't get in there to do some editing too!


Jo-Anne Gibson said...

I'm glad you've taken a "leap of faith" and tried wikis. It certainly does take a leap of faith to give all your students the password to a wiki but I've been surprised how much they are protective of it as a whole, not just their individual pages. They really are a great learning tool.
I tried to add something to your story but I didn't have an "invite." Can this be done privately?


Carol N. said...

Joanne, thanks - it was a fun experiment in writing. Don't worry about not editing - you have more than enough to do. Really, just having the one person get in there gave me a taste for the wiki experience, though it's been fun to see a few more people adding to the story.

Carol N. said...

Jo-Anne - I sent out invites to people in our class who listed their e-mail in their profile (just to make it quick). I've sent an invite from the site. Thanks for checking it out! If you want to add to it, you're more than welcome, but no pressure as I understand how busy everyone is.

Carol said...


Interesting you chose wikispaces...I chose pbwiki. I found some of the editing I had to do in pbwiki a bit tricky. Sounds like you are happy with your choice of application, something I should give a try...eventually.

carol t