Sunday, September 28, 2008

Our wiki world...

All of my students are on the wiki now. They created team pages from the class' team page (I should have warned them they would be creating team names - for some, they really stressed over their name). I showed them how to create a link to a new page and one at a time a team member created their teams' page. Then as a team, they added the names of those in the group to their respective team page. Each student added a table of contents widget to help organize their pages. Their assignment: create an about me section. Some of the assignments I have been giving are very simple but meant to teach a few things:
  1. Following directions on the assignment page. (And learning to manage multiple tabs to toggle back and forth between pages.)
  2. Maintaining a table of contents by using the correct size heading.
  3. Using the heading requested in the assignment.
  4. Linking from other pages to their individual page.
In Science for Living, we looked at decades of EPA climate data for PA, CA, and FL. They looked for trends, reported to their group, and then we will be looking at it as a class. As they have asked someone older in their family (40 is considered old to them - I think I pass for younger, though I am 43!) about viewpoints of weather today versus in the past, they are noticing the same kinds of stories. They now think it is a worthwhile pursuit to survey others as to their viewpoints. I think that is a great idea and we will be drafting it this next week. It would be great to have other countries participate in this, so stay tune.

In Biology, we started a white-tailed deer viewpoint project. Students answered questions about their experiences with deer. I showed a short video on different perspectives and history of the deer. Students will run a town council meeting with a mayor and president as well as 6 representative groups (animal welfare, homeowner's, wildlife biologist, park official, citizens for biodiversity, and conservation association) of those concerned and want a say in the management process. They will research positions and develop a management strategy. I am hoping that students are wanting to connect with someone who can help them and maybe we can set up skype conversations. For many, they will have to assume a viewpoint other than their own (animal activist, homeowner's association - we are rural and many students do not feel deer are a nuisance). I am thinking podcasts for viewpoints and management proposals. I definitely will be videotaping the town council meeting.

In Academic Biology, we heard presentations about Pa trees outside. We are also finishing up odds and ends assignments such as data analysis and identifyingthe parts of twigs. As we start classification with a clever candy activity, students will be acquainted with a dichotomous key and will use these concepts to classify the 20 trees AS A CLASS. This should be interesting to see them debating (I hope it is collaborating) on the process and determining which characteristics to begin with. Though a flowchart will be the way to chronicle the classification, a dichotomous key needs to be made. Of course, reflection after will be important.

Next week, I will have my Academic Biology students on the class blog. I had set up a learnerblogs blog, however it asked for a plugin but I could not get it to work. Instead I will be using edublogs. If any one has managment techniques, I am all ears. I used blogmeister last year. Management was easy but students were not happy with the movement through. I will follow soon after with Biology as a blog would be great for their project.

I think writing about the past week is very helpful to find holes and ask questions about my practice. Reflection is the way we learn!


  1. I just want to say that I really like the way you have explained things in your side bar so that people new to blogging get a better understanding of the ins and out of bloging. I am going to add a how to use this blog on my blog too. After all, we want readers to get the most out of reading blogs. Thanks for linking my blog to yours. I really appreciate that.

  2. Nice job on that wiki, Louise! It'll be cool to see how the students work with it over the course of the year.

    How is your plan for this year similar/different from last year? What are some of the main things you learned from working with wikis last year? You seem to successfully pull off the use of wikis on a large scale. What tips do you have for someone thinking about doing something like this? (Zac Chase and I will be discussing wikis and such at the "Tech Forum Northeast", and I'd love to hear your opinions.)


  3. Hi Louise, again I want to thank you for sharing what you do with your classes (and on your wiki); I learn so much from your experiences!

    I noticed on your wiki's home page you have a link to Large Hadron Collider webcast and I was wondering if you've seen The Large Hadron Rap? It's a fun way to find out a bit more about the LHC.

  4. @elona: Thanks. I never thought it as important until a blog challenge earlier this year. I do think it helps.

    @Tim: Thanks for the great words. I do think you guys rock and appreciate the notice! I am working this year on tagging, using the table of contents to make finding of content easier (anchors do not always work), using google tools, and focusing more on design of assignments and assessments. Last year's wiki growth was explosive. I really learned how turning it over to students and their learning made a difference. They prefer a wiki over handling any type of document or using any other type of forum. This year I am also focusing on teaching more basics of wiki management at the beginning. I always start the students small and add layers as I go. Create a team name, add to the class page, then each team adds its members. Students create an about me section to learn to link and upload. Wikis are ill suited for traditional activities, but is a great tool for collaboration, engagement, and transforming a classroom. If you two would like to chat or email, let me know and I would be glad give you more info if you need. When is your conference?

    @Claire: I did see it!It is fun, though blocked at school. I need to update that part with updated information (Too busy with conference proposals and presentations, and class project work).

  5. Wow!

    I just found your site, and it is just what I needed to stumble on.

    I recently got permission to truly toy with technology in the classroom--my supervisor had her fire lit at a conference around the same time I started seriously blogging, and now the two of us have permission to start an informal pilot program.

    Despite my Luddite tendencies, I suspect that the new social media can be put to great use in the classroom.

    You're already there.

  6. Doyle,

    I think you will be great at whatever you attempt. You certainly have the passion and are very reflective as well as being a great conversationalist!

    I am interested in whatever you attempt so please share! Do you ever do local water studies?

  7. Our environmental class does water studies, but in Jersey, environmental science requires a geoscience certification. I recently applied for a grant for a seine and some waders (An Inseine Approach to Science) so I may be playing in the water yet, though it won't involve any water chemistry.

    My kids found adult eels in our local creek. A biologist at a meeting in town held by folks trying to save a different creek said that was not possible. Maybe he would have thought otherwise if we were paying his check, who knows.

    I saw the eels myself. Either they have been there for decades, or eels can, in fact, get around small dams.

    They haven't been there for decades, of course. And my kids lost a little respect for scientists.

    What was the question again? =)

  8. @doyle: Here geoscience is required too (which I have in another state but not here). We created a title that did not scream environmental and worded the objectives to fit. The class that is doing the study is a biology class and as the state standards require much ecology, it fits within those objectives.

    I think most people do not think critically all the time - that includes those in the scientific community.

    I forgot the question...too much fun communicating!