The Surprising Power of Wikis and Podcasts

Filed Under (Education, moodle, NECC 2006, online collaborative learning, web 2.0, women of web 2.0) by Administrator on 03-01-2007

Last year, the moodle was my fave online technology tool/environment. I hosted a moodle on my own server and enjoyed exploring some of the nifty modules that made the environment so flexible. It was a little slow, at times, but it provided a great environment for our students involved in international projects to communicate and collaborate. I am using a moodle again this year, but I haven’t given it as much thought or attention as this time last year.

Two other tools, this year, have surprised me this year with their power and potential.

I had tried using wikis last year, and clearly was just fumbling around without seeing how it could be used effectively. We had also been using it within the moodle, so there were limitations to its usefulness.

This year, I had a few good models of how to use wikis. Vicki Davis is a master of educational uses for wikis and I was fortunate enough to catch on to her school’s wiki very early in the school year.

First, I had my students explore Vicki’s students’ wiki work. This provided them with good modelling of how to communicate information on a wiki.

The novel we were studying in gr. 9 English was A Tourist’s Guide to Glengarry – a novel set in Edmonton, Alberta in 1971 by Canadian novelist Ian McGillis. Within the novel, there are many cultural and historical references that could have been difficult for a 14 year old student to understand. The students were asked to use a wiki to create encyclopedia-type references for one chapter of the novel.

The resulting Glengarrypedia exceeded my own expectations of my students. The author himself was impressed with what the students had accomplished!

I am very proud of my students!

Next term (next week!), we begin two international collaborative literature projects using the moodle and the wiki with a class in Israel and a class in Russia. The students have been communicating for the past two months or so in the moodle forums. During our next stage we begin handling short stories and poetry that have our home cities as a central theme.

For an example of another very excellent cross-cultural wiki project, check out the Flat Classroom Project between Vicki Davis’s students at Westwood High School in Camilla Georgia, and Julie Lindsay’s students at International School Dhaka in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Very, very impressive stuff! I can’t wait to see who wins the awards!

And it was actually Julie Lindsay who inspired me to explore that next tool. I attended her presentation at NECC 2006 and “reported” it to eschool news.

Now on to the second unexpected tool – the podcast. Actually, I want to broaden that a bit more and say audio recordings in general. Yes, I have certainly downloaded and listened to a number of very good podcasts. But I wanted to put the power of creating content into the hands of my own students. So I bought a few recorders (Olympus model – at Julie’s recommendation), and had my students do a few projects with them. Because we have many laptops in our school, as well as some spiffy computer labs, editing is not that difficult.

One thing I discovered was that my younger students appreciated my audio recordings of dramatic readings of the literature we were studying. I would read the novel out loud to the recorder in front of the class, then upload the file to FirstClass so the students could listen again at home. Cool application!

I have been fascinated with how engaged the students have been with using the audio recorders and editing software. They like this stuff and they like listening to themselves afterwards!

I have a long way to go polishing my podcasting skills, but it is one of my new year’s resolutions and ongoing self-training projects.

Next week, the day before our students return to classes, I will be making brief presentations on what I know about wikis and podcasting to some of my colleagues. Let’s see if I can pass on some of the vision!

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