Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wikis as Portfolios II

It's been some time since I last posted on this blog and it was about wikis. During this time I have been involved with the topic in several ways. I find it difficult sometimes to manage creation of content on both sides: mine and my students.
I still find wikis very useful to work with young learners. One thing I like about them is the fact that they do not require students to sign up. This is really handy because very young learners generally do not have e-mails, and if they do, they almost never use them. So creating user names and passwords for students does the trick of having them posting and editing on the site. Another good thing regarding wikis, is the fact that they allow multiple users under different folders and this allows to have different groups of students using a single wiki.
Last year I used my wiki to work on writing with a pre-intermediate level. What I did was to ask them to post written assignments (generally paragraphs to the wiki). I found out that the quality of their writing really improved. This probably happened because they were aware of the fact that I was not the only one reading what they were writing. Publishing creates authentic readership. Besides that, I also use it as opportunity to explore tools and encourage students to create content related to books we read in class or to grammar points we were covering.
Allowing comments is also a good feature of wikis. However, students (just like most of us) are not usually inclined to comment on posts. Nonetheless, I have seen some examples of authentic exchange going on when comments were made. Still on comments, I guess I found it difficult to balance creation of content and commenting on content. I mean, time constraints is a factor on limiting the opportunities given to commenting. Students do check each other's work, but they seldom make written comments. Asking them to do that from home might work, but I still feel that they are a bit reluctant to do it. They seem to connect the use of computer at home for playing and not for doing school related stuff.
Overral I would say that my experience with wikis has been very positive. Although the examples given in this blog post relate to my experience with Pbworks, I have also started using Wikispaces with another group of students and I have found it extremely interesting. There are some disadvantages, of course, but I decided to mention them in another post.

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