My Wikispaces in Education Webinar Presentation Video is Up

Last week, Wikispaces invited me to give a Wikispaces in Education Webinar about four wiki projects I’ve done in high school English and history classes: The Broken World Wiki Textbook, a student-made textbook of modern world history from WW1 to WW2, featuring text, images, and embedded videos and student video lectures (and linked to a companion reflective class blog); the French Revolution Ant Farm Diaries, an historical fiction Writing-to-Learn unit in which student-created fictional characters interracted with their classmates’ characters in interlinked diary entries; King Lear Street Talk, a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, forcing the close line-by-line reading of 16th-century English necessary to adapt it to “Sopranos”-style modern English; and the 1001 Flat World Tales, a global creative writing workshop using the Six Traits of Effective Writing and a peer-reviewed Writing Workshop joining students from Hawaii, Colorado, and my classroom in Seoul.

The first three projects listed above were “local” collaborations, the fourth one global. I discuss in the webinar my thoughts on the relative merits of both approaches in the webinar. (I posted about those reflections most fully here.)

Thanks to Wikispaces for the opportunity to look back over two years of experiments in wiki pedagogy and introduce them all in one fell swoop.

If you want to read the “think-aloud” posts I wrote when designing these projects, check January to June or so of the Archives.

Here’s the event (it should start when I do, at almost 26:50, and finish a half hour later. The first 30 minutes are a tour of Wikispaces for beginners. The black blob on the screencast will disappear within a few seconds.):

12 thoughts on “My Wikispaces in Education Webinar Presentation Video is Up”

  1. I truly appreciate the variety of internet projects that appear across the medium these days. My blogroll lists several prolific contributors. But as we post student projects, I need to ask, shouldn’t we edit and correct them as much as possible BEFORE we post them? Or am I missing a point?

    I can make one argument for NOT editing, and that is to show our colleagues that student work need not be perfect to be accepted. I do this as a matter of course in class. But I think, if the work is to be published for the WWW audience, all conventions of English should be followed, and all facts checked, lest we become part of the internet problem.

    1. Jan,

      I’ll dupe my reply to your post about the same question (and jeez, I didn’t mean to split your post):

      Not knowing what grade you’re teaching or types of writing you’re assigning makes it hard to say much, but I would say first:

      Re: factual accuracy: maybe a sidebar disclaimer saying “I’m young and possibly wrong sometime.” (If only FOX would do that. Or me.)

      Or maybe just trust to the two-way nature of this medium to allow people to push back/correct in comments.

      The whole accuracy thing can be skirted by doing more creative stuff – personal narrative and so on, too.

      And maybe a wiki instead of a blog so students can correct their stuff.

      Re: conventions and mechanics: I’m a six traits guy myself, and am more concerned with the first five – ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency – than I am with grammar/spelling/punctuation. So I grade far more heavily for notable attention to those first 5 traits.

      I want students to write freely and ideally discover they enjoy it. Perfectionism and fear of errors won’t create the conditions for that to happen. We’ll talk about errors after I’ve read enough volume from you to do an error analysis of your most frequent _serious_ grammar/spelling problems, which I’ll prioritize and teach to you one on one down the road.

      Then you can select your five or ten favorite posts – which maybe I’ll score as a single test grade – and _correct those errors on only those posts_ to apply what you’ve learned/I’ve taught you to look for and correct.

      I know this is sloppy, but it’s 1.40 a.m. and I’m replying to your contact communication.

      Afterthought: I think students should have the option of not publishing if their work is too sub-par.

      But realistically, practically nobody will find and/or read their blogs beyond other students, will they?

      (To Add More:)

      Since you told me in a private email that you were looking at the French Revolution Ant Farm Diary (right?), I’ve got more to say:

      That was a formative project using “Writing to Learn” pedagogy. The point of the writing, above all, was for students to learn the material in this active way, rather than listening to lectures, reading the textbook, or other passive ways of learning. So the writing in this approach is secondary to the learning.

      The summative assessment was an essay that did hold accuracy and writing at a premium.

      And every time I use WTL, I’m amazed at how much deeper and broader the retention, comprehension, and insight are, compared to when I lecture, they discuss, or just read or watch stuff.

      Have you ever used WTL? I’d be interested to hear your (and everyone’s) experiences with it.

  2. Clay,
    Your approach is terrific and I am not questioning intent.
    I teach high school & college English, media literacy, speech & debate, and have taught in all grade levels. I have used 6 traits and don’t think of myself as a grammar nazi.
    Lately, I have been concerned with the declining (even by current standards) level of writing and content information that seems to be fostered by the web. Blogging, IMing and texting encourage stream of consciousness-type of writing; with no regard for logic, facts or conventions. I think this is fine for drafts and, well, this conversation.
    I often tell my students, “Remember, you are writing for a college graduate, NOT your girlfriend,” in an attempt to make them slow their thoughts and process their communication. Still, I get final drafts that need additional editing, presentations with missing capital letters and assorted other errors that, when I point them out, they say, “Yeah, well, you know what I mean…”
    I find this attitude in college writing, too. I have students of 20-30 even 40 years old who write without thinking of editing, who think that whatever they write should be accepted as their ‘best’ and who have little sense of thinking about WHO will read their work.
    For me, it’s even become about respect. If I respect you, I will do all I can to make sure that my communication is clear and accurate. but if I don’t care who reads this, I can spel anway i want sdo touy will no whut i mean…
    Don’t misunderstand that I am critiquing your projects, nor the work of your students. It’s that your projects got me thinking about this issue, and I used it as an example.
    When we publish something, especially to the web, as a teacher, do we have the obligation of editing, or do we just post ‘as is’? Your comment (But realistically, practically nobody will find and/or read their blogs beyond other students, will they? ) begs the question of who is the audience?

    Jan Seiters last blog post..You can’t always get what U want…

    1. I sympathize with your concerns, Jan, and hope I didn’t sound defensive when I, oops, defended Writing to Learn.

      I’ve seen the chatroom-ese on student work on blogs, forums, and wikis when I introduced them, but didn’t have much problem rooting them out with discussions of the respect you mention (and self-respect, since using “cuz”, e.g., in a public writing is like going to a job interview in dirty clothes). Most students got it and met the standard after that, and those that didn’t woke up after a few shocking bad grades.

      But that could be specific to my private school students, whose moms rip them new orifices at the first A-, much less C-.

      Online writing is definitely no silver bullet for writing, as I’ve argued a million times. Over time, though, and – crucially – in conjunction with 6-traits rubrics that set the standards for their writing from the quality of Ideas on down the line to Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Conventions and Mechanics, AND Presentation, I really have seen marked improvement in quality in all those traits, overall, AND in engagement. Wake-up grades, again, given early, were also key.

      But we’re talking students here, so I’m not claiming miracles (and not suggesting you’re implying I am).

      It’s the “over time” thing that’s key, to me.

      I do think students who write because they’re forced, and probably see no lasting value in most cases to what is still, in the end, mere homework to most of them, will have a different attitude about what they publish compared to people who, like us, write voluntarily about things we care about.

      And since it’s 9.24 a.m. this brisk Saturday morning, and I’m enjoying my first cup of coffee as I start the day thinking with you (which I enjoy too), I’m going to ramble a bit more. 😉

      There are so many different approaches to assignments, we both know, to inculcate whatever habits of mind or skills we’re working on in a given week. So I just want to toss off a few that come to mind:

      1. The “comment on the teacher’s post” assignment: Rather than students writing on their own blog, they do a specific task in the comment thread to the teacher’s. That way they see their work standing alongside that of their peers, and may be more motivated to look better and work harder, in order to avoid looking weak. I’ve done that with:

      a. Syntactical variations (sentence openings, e.g.): “Take this sentence and re-write it, using only the words in the sentence, in as many ways as you can.” If you moderate comments, they don’t see other students’ work until all have done the assignment. Then they can see and learn from other students’ responses. That’s a wickedly powerful affordance of online writing that is hard to duplicate offline. I posted about it here.

      b. Introductory paragraphs (hooks): Copy and paste your “hook” from your first draft, and the revised version from your latest draft, into the comment thread, and briefly explain your writer’s decision that guided your revision. (There’s an entire class discussion of authentic writing right there, which my students enjoyed, because they were seeing what others had tried. The few successes were great cases of student modeling, and the weaker ones were great cases of cliche or otherwise dead introductions.) (You can see my Seoul and a flat world teacher’s Hawaii students doing this here.)

      c. Titles. (Titles are a pet peeve of mine. “My Essay” from high schoolers makes my blood boil.)

      2. CRITICAL THINKING: My latest Diigo Daily Reads auto-posts feature highlights (basically copy-pastes, though Diigo does that work for me by publishing only what I highlight from a web page) that I then respond to with sticky notes that do NOT summarize the reading, but instead either “challenge, extend, or qualify” the point. That’s an “ideas” sort of assignment that simply forces students to THINK about what they passively read. (See this post for a screencast on this approach.

      3. Trait-based assessment of x number of student blog posts per unit for a test grade: The biggest bear, for me, about student blogging and wiki work is the sheer volume. When I assign regular posts, I normally can’t assess them all with any depth. But I still want regular writing in the same way a PE teacher wants regular running to keep his/her students fit. So to allow students to self-select 3, say, while you randomly select 2 (whatever you work out, obviously), to grade by the rubric – either for all traits, or just one or two un-disclosed ones (since they won’t know, they’ll ideally give more care to all the traits), is the best solution I’ve come up with for this dilemma. The “teacher choices” keep them from shamming on the posts they won’t self-select.

      Closer, for now: I haven’t taught long enough to be able to compare this generation of student writers from previous ones, so I don’t know whether their skills are any better or worse than in the past.

      I do know that the elitist side of me wants to use student blogs in a highly selective writing elective class – see For the Roses: My Latest Position on Classroom Blogging for more – to simply rid myself of the headaches of dealing with the bums, so I’ve got my Delta Force of real writers who want to train.

      I guess that’s my way of saying, “I hear you.”

  3. Thanks for the other ideas for using the wiki & blog. My blog & wiki assignments can be seen at and

    I had a student who was absolutely brilliant with imaginative storytelling. She would phrase things in ways that were both simple yet evocative. Her best story was about a family of fish, but you did not realize they were fish until about halfway through the story. But her grammar, syntax, spelling and structure of sentences were so poor, I had to get her to read her writing to me so that I could grade it.

    She managed to make an acceptable rating on her 8th grade writing assessment for the state, but if she had an editor, she could be a children’s book author of some quality.

    I mention this because, although she got an acceptable rating, it was nip-and-tuck whether she would. I managed to improve her ability with parts of the language, but she moved on into HS where her teacher in 9th grade failed to see her potential, and eventually failed her. I do not know if she passed or what she is doing today, but I often think about her story when I address writing for the two aspects of ‘content’ and ‘usage’.
    For her, and other students, they don’t want their writing on display. She didn’t because she knew she had issues with ELA. No matter how much I praised her work, she never wanted to read it or share it outside of the normal class.
    I would personally like to see the ‘growth’ in style and complexity diplayed for authentic audiences, but I am still confronted by the vastness of internet copy which is dreck. Do I add to that? Or allow them to edit and post that which is truly good?

    Jan Seiters last blog post..You can’t always get what U want…

  4. It’s amazing how blind I can be–I “rediscovered” you tonight via a webinar in the (at the?) Wikispaces site, where I am trying to set up a space for my base level freshmen.

    I saw the word “webinar” here before, and not knowing what it was, and running around doing the dozen odd things public school teachers do, figured I’d figure it out later.

    Later is here.

    So I’m jumping in–we’ll start with a private account, sharing thoughts with each other (and to whomever the care to share it with). I’m excited and a bit intimidated–having had this much fun since learning how to prod patients in medicine.

    I’m hoping my students drag me into the 21st century.

    Michael Doyles last blog post..A science teacher makes his gift list….

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