Wikispaces as a Teaching Resource:

Wikis are defined as a collaborative web space where content can be created, added too and edited by anyone (Richardson, 2009), this can depend on the access granted by original creator.

Wiki originates from the Hawaiian word for quick, relating to quick collaboration and quick web (Wikipedia, 2010).
Since its recent origins it has grown phenomenally, with websites such as Wikipedia, the largest free online encyclopaedia and WikiSpaces (as seen here) a web space for educational users.

Image from Wikipedia

Pedagogy around wikis, like many new technologies, is still somewhat of a work in progress. Wikis have a strong Literacy focus, but can be used across the curricula. Wikis are easy to create and manipulate, making them a great resources for primary school teachers.

Using a wiki to teach students include:

The Storytelling stick: The storytelling stick is an old favourite of many students in primary school. Traditionally, students take home a communal writing book. They add their own section of the story until the whole class create a book. The wiki has great potential to replicate this collaborative work, with greater freedom for students and ease of access for teachers. Using a wiki the class could create an online book to which the whole class or school could contribute. Higher levels students could, simultaneously, contribute to and edit the story as it is created. The teacher could supervise this be leading online discussion to allow contributions, revisions and editing. Younger year primary students might add multimedia content, such as drawings our animations.

Engaging the community: The ease in which Wikis allow people to share their knowledge could be drawn upon by encourage students to seek contributors for a project. One idea for a project could be a wiki based on the community around the school. In which students lead community members to share stories and experiences from the local area. The flexibility of a wiki would allow for all types of multimedia, such as; photographs, videos, maps and music. A project like this would not only be engaging for the students, it allow the community insight into its own members in a broad and fascinating way.

Ongoing portfolio: Because of its ease of access Wikis are fantastic for showcasing and demonstrating students work to parents and others. A Wiki could be created to allow students to add any work they feel they want to share with others. Also allow students to get assistance from other students.

Learning Outcomes:

Wikis can encompass most areas of the curriculum. Teachers can easily direct Wikis towards learning outcomes depending on the needs of the student/students. They draw on and build ICT skills. The discussions and contributions allow for planning, creative and critical thinking. Students will gain the communication and team working skills through out the Wiki project.

Unlike a more traditional method, Wikis give students easy access to ongoing projects. They can access the Wiki from computers at school and at home, and able to edit and contribute whenever they feel like it. The can contribute individually, collaboratively or both. Contributions could be made anonymous allowing students to be involved even if they are not confident in their ability. Teachers can track progress of students work and monitor the student’s discussion and contributions to identify learning needs.

Problems Encountered with Wikis

To make effective use of a wiki students need to possess a certain level of ICT skill. If students do not possess basic ICT skills using the wiki could be difficult. The time needed for students to familiarise themselves with the necessary tools to effectively use the wiki could outweigh the benefits of using one in the first place. The teacher may find she needs to spend more time helping students with computer skills than achieving the desired learning outcome that the wiki has been set up to achieve.

If teachers use the wiki as a teaching tool as we have demonstrated by uploading information, instructions and resources then there is the possibility that student's can edit these materials by accident or on purpose. Therefore teachers would need to continually restore the information which is time consuming and tedious or student's will be at a disadvantage because material my be missing or incorrect. Another issue arising from student's ability to edit wiki content is student conflict regarding edits. Since students are able to edit each other's content without permission or discussion this could lead to arguments. One of the most important aspects of collaboration is discussion, communication and negotiation therefore by removing that element student's are not able to successfully master those skills in this instance.

In order for students to use the wiki as an instructional and research tool for claymation all students would require access to a computer preferably at the same time. Some schools may not have the required computer access necessary for this kind of situation.

When using any kind of online tool there is always the issue of cyber-safety and making sure systems are in place to stop students from coming across any sensitive or offensive material.
In addition to the technical issues relating to the wikis, there is also the potential for problems to arise in the form of vandalism or sabotage from other students, who might want to ensure theirs is of the higher standard, or from intentional disruption, either through contribution of nonsense or unrelated information; this is known as trolling.

Evaluation of Student Learning

One of the advantages of using a wiki means that students can view each other’s work easily and provide feedback; they are able to discuss ideas and information given to them on an easily accessable forum, with responses from peers given literally instantaneously.
Teachers can log into a groups wiki and evaluate a group’s performance and identify how an individual has performed in a group task as a wiki allows you to see who contributed what. If a teacher was to get a class to respond to a given task in the form of a wiki, having all the wikis locallised in a private hub allows for much easier comparison and evaluation, especially when the topic is the same for all wikis.
Teachers can set up a rubric to determine a student’s level of skill for using a wiki.