LisaHillSchoolStuff's Weblog

'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Ignacio Estrada, via Tomlinson)

Why Wikis are wonderful!

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 4, 2009

On a day when I had all kinds of grief with the library server, a Prep tantrum and a flood of spam from an Educational DVD supplier, I also had one of those magic teaching moments when it’s all worthwhile.

Years 3 & 4 are doing projects on Australian Farming and although the plan was that they would research agricultural products such as cheese and honey, two groups chose to learn about chocolate and chewing-gum. Well, why not, if that’s what they’re interested in, I thought.  We had a couple of books about these topics: Chewing Gum, and Chocolate, both by Natalie Jane Prior (published by Hodder Children’s Books) so I thought it would be okay.

Alas, while these are great books,  the text is a bit difficult for primary students of this age group.  I thought the solution would be to set up a Rollyo search to help these students find appropriate information online, but couldn’t find anything that was easy enough….

Wiki chewinggumwiki chocolateSo I decided to write a wiki page myself on my new LisaHillSchoolStuff Wiki.  It took over an hour, because I didn’t know much myself about how chewing gum and chocolate were made, but it was worth every minute to see the kids’ reactions.  They had been struggling with the books and perhaps were regretting their choice, and then suddenly the task became easy.  They were rapt!  I had the Chocolate group using the circulation desk computer, with a laptop beside them so that they could write their newfound facts straight into the Inspiration template I’d made, while the Chewing Gum group did the same in the adjacent ICT lab and the rest of the groups were in the library classroom.  (We have large windows everywhere, and there were other teachers in the lab so there was plenty of supervision even without me racing around from one group to another. )

Quote of the day was, ‘It’s like information that’s written for grownups but it’s easy enough to read’.

BTW #1 I can’t upload the Inspiration template I designed for this task to EduBlogs, but if anyone wants a copy, leave a comment with a return email address and I will email it to you.  It will only work if you have Inspiration 7 or above.

BTW #2 Just in case you’re wondering why the children needed a laptop and a computer and used them in a different workspace, it was because the network was down and the WiFi was misbehaving. (There had been some sort of problem beyond our control in the city yesterday and it’s not fully resolved).  The children couldn’t access the work they’d done the previous week which was stored on the library drive, and while the internet was working on some but not all of the computers in the lab, it wouldn’t work in the library at all.   So I’d had to race around at recess with a USB and install the template into My Documents on each of my five laptops, so that the children could start again and save their new work in the laptop’s My Docs, so that come what may, at least next week they’ll be able to get at their work.  This is a reality that teachers have to deal with all the time – no matter how creative and innovative and keen we are, we need reliable IT to make it all happen.  

I’m hoping that if other staff join me in writing kid-friendly information pages, this Wiki will become a really useful resource.

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