Wiki Central: Creating Inquiry, Collaboration, and Engagement in Biology

(Session information also found here.)
An engaged student is a student who learns, and the use of web 2.0 tools easily creates an engaging atmosphere. In a traditional curriculum setting where content drives instruction, it is difficult to envision the incorporation of 21st century learning in the science classroom. Ideas and techniques using web 2.0 technologies can makeover traditional activities and open the door to higher order thinking in the biology classroom. Modern digital tools and applications make it possible for students to create engaging examples of learning. The impact of student questioning, research, gathering data, or publishing on the web is a considerable motivator to students and creates a shift towards more authentic learning activities. Wikis are a great medium of choice to deliver engaging and interactive curriculum and empower student voices for a larger audience. The presenter will share tools and tips from the past few years that have been used effectively to engage students and increase inquiry and collaboration in the classroom. A variety of activities at many levels (classic classroom and inquiry) are shown with student examples. One or more students will also be present to show examples of learning from class. The divide that exists between understanding the change in instruction and seeing how that looks in the classroom setting is one that teachers find difficult to grasp. Dialogue with those who have changed learning environments is one of the best ways to envision change in instruction in one's own classes.

This poster session will highlight how core values can be used to re-design curriculum elements to meet new standards of learning. Participants will identify how traditional activities have been altered to create engagement, inquiry, and collaboration in the biology classroom and envision possibilities in their own discipline. Participants will identify the use of an end outcome to order the teaching process and the structuring of activities. Participants will explore using a wiki as the hub of a classroom along with other web 2.0 tools for creating engaging and more relevant activities. The underlying idea that it is not the focus on the tools, but the use of tools in order to transform teaching and learning. The ultimate goal is for participants to return to their schools or districts with information and ideas to adapt and implement in their own science courses to create unique, engaging and powerful classroom projects and assignments. Session participants will be inspired with a variety of ideas that can be used in science classes or other disciplines at different levels. Issues regarding reflection, assessment, management, and use of tools will also be discussed.

Web 2.0 tools: voicethread, scribd, mac applications such as imovie, garageband, pages (and their open source alternatives.) Additional tools may also be discussed.

Wiki Central2
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What students say about using a wiki


How do you build a wiki to be student centered?
  • You must model the use of the wiki. I only show what they need to know when they need to know it.
  • I build sections of the wiki for each of my classes. Each class will have a calendar page that has links to all the activities we are doing. (I build unit pages with additional pages of activities coming off of it.) They also have a page where whiteboard notes will go as well as a page where the team page links will be.
  • I usually start introduction to the wiki by posting a discussion they must respond to.
  • On the team page, I have students separate into groups. They decide on a team name. I show how to type in the text, highlight it with the cursor, and link it to make a new page. Students representatives from each group come to the front of the room on my computer (projected on a whiteboard) to follow the process. Once that page is saved, all students refresh their page and as a group, they enter their individual names. Only one computer can edit at a time, so they must learn how to do this process together. Once the team has entered the names and linked them to new pages, each student goes to their own page, learns to add a table of contents, and inputs content. The first assignment is to create an about me section.
  • When I believe they need to learn how to do something new in the wiki, I will show it to the class. Otherwise, I learn patience in helping students navigate through and use the wiki, help individual students who then can become experts, and encourage students to try something new if they want. After a few months, I request that students seek help from two other students before asking me.
Are others free to join the wiki?
  • The wiki is for my students only. I can manage those within my class, but think it unfair that others could come in and add/edit information. If a person wants to retain a bookmark as a favorite to view, you can do so in the wiki dashboard of your account and add to favorites. In the future, if outside experts were brought in, they could request to join the wiki and I could approve them. They must first create their own wiki account log in, and then request to join the wiki.
  • You can set the level for messages in your wiki to only members or open it up to the outside. When all students were actively working on projects, it put the wiki into the top 5 of all wikispaces for activity. Unfortunately, many people requested to join because of this. Had the messages been open, this would have been a problem.
Do students work directly on the wiki or just upload when the assignment is due?
  • Both. some students work on a word document and then copy and paste over to the wiki. Others work directly in the wiki. I do not drect which way they work as students should be comfortable in managing their information. I do stress students manage correctly and check that documents/pages are saved to prevent loss of information. The beauty of the wiki is seeing the edits that students make over time that reflect their understanding, learning, and refinement of the material. By using the history tab, you can see the edits that were made in the material.
Do students see the same wiki you do?
  • Yes. The motto is: Transparent and collaborative. We also do not hand in material, we publish. Students can see assignments as I am building them (thought they are plenty busy with current activities.) I also collaborate with another teacher. We can add/edit each others pages as we are organizers on each others wikis. If material is missing or needs changed, that can be done instantaneously at a moments notice. In fact, many students have changed links for me as I have helped other students.
Why use a wiki instead of a website?
  • The wiki lives on the web. There are no files on a computer that needs to be uploaded. I can be on any computer, anywhere, and at anytime. when sick, I can answer questions from students that are messaged to me, add material for the sub to use, and make "announcements" to classes where I know they will see it. Students can access any of their material as well. (websites would require a specific computer or access here at school to edit.)
How do you get the class involved/
  • I require certain discussions on the wiki. I also require assignments to be placed in certain places and be sure the place as well as what the assignment is called is either announced or stated with the specifics of the assignment. Individual assignments are placed on individual student pages. Collaborative work may go on the team page, or special project pages as needed. We also may use google docs for our work.
  • For many of the projects the first half of the year, I direct the format. Generally this is to get students used to the tools that are available and create a dialogue over what is important. Videos are great, but the focus on the content is often lost. Students need to know how to plan for using these tools accordingly. Later, I require the work to be in a format that is engaging and powerful. For some students this may be written and for other students may be in a different format. This allows for individualism and differentiated learning.
How can you assess using the history tab?
  • I tend to not assess the history tab itself. Where it is beneficial is when you have students or parents concerned that one student may be doing more work than the other. You can prove or disprove based upon what is in the history tab. Students need to learn to divide work and be accountable. There are many issues from students taking too much of the work on themselves to students who would sit back and let someone take over for them.
  • If I also feel a student is not working their share, I will check the history tab first. I may give a pop quiz as a check of who has been working with the content. They are pretty revealing of who the active workers are.

*PASD teachers: Our new AUP has the language you need for student/parent permission. Previously this was used: