Sunday, February 10, 2008

Part II - Introducing Wikis to New Teachers

After the first part of the training, I moved on to wikis. From the delicious account, we clicked on the set of links titled mrsoro and chose the Training Space for Teachers link. It was my intent to create a set of links that the students could return to over and over again both on delicious and within the wiki.

I had originally intended this to be a really collaborative workshop, but two and one half hours is just too short to introduce the many varied resources to novices and include a Think-Pair-Share and Jigsaw activity. I was also going to start with a video, but decided that I needed to get to know the audience first. I had them go directly to the link on the left side of the screen titled Standard Tools.

Last year, I learned about a process of student collaboration called Carousel Brainstorming. I wanted to use that process electronically. The way that I approached it electronically is that I split the teachers into groups of two or three people (depending on the teachers seating arrangements in the room). I assigned the groups to one of the eleven categories. The categories were: word processing, Smartboard/ overhead computer projector, Internet browser, digital camera, presentation software, drawing/ painting software, iPod/ MP3 player, cell phone, spreadsheet, publishing software and multimedia software. I told the teachers that within their group they would choose one editor and the remaining group members would help that person with brainstorming. I gave them about three minutes to come up with as many ideas as they could to use the particular tool either in the classroom with students or as a teacher.

After the time was up, I asked the teachers to click the save button. I then pointed out that they just learned how to use a wiki. There are many more things to learn, but they just performed the first basic step of editing a wiki.

I then assigned the teachers to the next category. So those who edited number one moved on to category two, and so on, until those who edited category eleven moved up to category one.

After three more minutes of work, they saved again. I explained that we could keep going with this process, but we would move on to seeing what ideas were generated. This time, the groups moved on to the next category and chose the one best idea for the topic.

By doing this project, we were able to review the different types of what I would call standard software and hardware in the classroom. We were also able to learn about the wiki.

I explained that rather than having the results on paper that would be thrown away at the end of class and lost, we had a permanent document online. Not only that, but they would be able to see what was generated by the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday classes without being there.

I followed up this exercise with a “commercial break”. I had written about this back in December. We watched Wikis in Plain English from the CommonCraft Show. It ties the general idea of wikis with the work we had just accomplished.

I made sure to tell them about the 100,000 Free Wikispaces for Teachers. I told them that I have been quite amazed by the responsiveness of the team at Wikispaces. They loaded about 160 wiki ids and passwords in about a day. They have also answered emails sent to their help id in about a day. I find them a very helpful company. I also mentioned WetPaint and PBWiki. I do not have much experience with those sites yet.

From the results of their reflections at the end of class, the idea of wikis captured their imagination. It was great to find that Wikispaces was unblocked in the district. There were teachers from other districts so it will be interesting to see how it goes for them.

One of the questions I received from the last post was “how would I know if the training was put into actual use”? I tried to collect email addresses from the teachers for a follow up survey in June. The first night, I had trouble with the wiki editing, so I received no email ids from that group. I ended up with ten people to contact. It won’t be much of a representative sample, but perhaps I’ll ask the director of the program to ask them to complete the survey in one of the last classes in May to have a bigger sample.

One immediate success with the wikis was that a group of three teachers signed up for a Wikispace account before leaving the room. They have to prepare for a mock trial activity for the alternate route class. This group of three teachers is going to use the wiki to collaborate on the paper. Yes, they could use Google Documents or Zoho, but we just didn’t have time to get much of a demonstration of those products during the evening.

In the next blog entry, I will write about the next topic we covered in the evening: online professional development.


  1. It sounds like training session went well. Did you do a session on using or is that planned for a later session?

  2. Chris:
    The hardest part of this training is that it was a one shot deal - repeated over three nights. I want to do the session for the teachers at my school. When that happens, I'll schedule extra individual sessions in whatever the teachers require.