Why I Think Wikis are Way Cool

I recently made the observation that my children gravitate toward digital games like Oregon Trail and others that allow users to build their own “worlds.” I asked them what they like most about these games, and their replies were as such:

I like that you can build things.

I like that you can move around and do things.

I like that you can move everywhere.

It seems the essence of what they enjoy about these games can be distilled to two big ideas: FREEDOM and WORK.

How can those two words be in the same sentence, you say? I scratch my head on this one as well, but it seems to clarify some things for me. I personally enjoy the same things my children enjoy. I like the freedom to work as I think I ought to work. Don’t get me wrong. I am not espousing that all employers should blow the lid off of any company regulation. Neither am I encouraging teachers to allow a free-for-all environment in their classrooms. That can only end in disaster.

What I am suggesting is that students want their own “world” in which they can “move around” and “build things.” Children, just like adults, respond to the freedom to express themselves. They also respond well to teachers who trust them until there is reason not to trust.

Risky, huh? It is. But I know from my own experience that when I fostered this type of environment, the students appreciated it, and I was exhausted, but thrilled at the end of the day. This setting revitalized me as a teacher.

So what am I trying to say? A few things…

1) The technology we have at our fingertips today (infused into our teaching practice) affords us with some amazing opportunities to enrich the lives of our students, and to rejuvenate ourselves in the process.

2) Since children like to “build things,” and respond to the teacher who allows them the freedom to build, I suggest that wikis and blogs should be used regularly in the classroom.

3) I understand that embracing this shift away from traditional teaching is something that mandates plenty of up-front time investment, but that there is a rewarding pay-off in the end. If you make this jump, your students will thank you, and you will be encouraged.

I spent 18 years as a classroom teacher, and I had many varied experiences in this capacity. I grew as a teacher alongside technology as it grew to become what it is today. I left the classroom at the beginning of this school year to become an instructional technology specialist. Had I stayed in the classroom, I would have jumped right into the extensive use of wikis and blogs in education. I dreamed of maintaining a class wiki in which a growing body of knowledge would enrich the lives of my students for many years. The idea of community intrigued me. I hope you are intrigued as well.

Some resources:

The Definition of a Wiki

Free Wikispaces for Educators

PB Works for Educators

Zoho

Mediawiki – for the true geek in you

Ideas:

mrcloudsclass.com – my former web site

https://podcast1.neisd.net/users/dcloud1/ – my former, former blog

Ideas for Using Wikis in Education

Wikis in the Classroom

Using Wikis in the Classroom – YouTube Video

Blog vs. Wiki

I have gone around and around with this. I have been wrestling myself over which medium to use, and I think I have come to an answer. As with most of these types of questions, the answer often ends with “both.”

And so it is. I have come to a peaceful conclusion. My blog will serve as the forum for ranting and raving and exposition of something great and new and earthshaking, while the wiki will serve as a repository, or even my place for scribbling in the sand. I like how I can brainstorm real quickly in a wiki and then leave it for another time.

I’m glad I came to this conclusion!

You’re welcome to go to my wiki and have a look around. Everything is new and fresh, and you can still smell the paint on the walls, but go for it.

The address is as follows:

http://mrcloudsclass.com/techwiki/