Using Wikis with K12 Students

I just caught most of Dan McDowell’s Choose Your Own Wiki Adventure: Using Wikis with K–12 Students. It was largely based on Bernie Dodge’s design patterns for wikibased webquests. Dan briefly introduced patterns such as the Micropedia (in which students create a mini wikipedia of class content) and FAQ (in which students compose questions and answers) which could be used in any content area. He introduced some other patterns I’ll need to look into more closely, such as the consensus document, branching story, tree sim, ant farm, and exegesis (I think).

He then shared three real world examples of how he used wikis with his history students. He did a WWI webquest for his students using a wiki. He also had his AP World History students do their cummulative review as a wiki. Different groups were responsible for different sections and for validating the work of other groups. (He had students in different class sections, or periods, validate the work of others in another class – mostly to reduce the awkwardness of critiques occurring at the same time the authors were in the room.) He viewed the history of this wiki during the presentation, showing presenters how it grew from the first three contributors to be a resource the whole class had contributed to over time. I wonder if they used the discussion feature to discuss changes or critiques. There wasn’t time for questions at the end of the session and I had to head out to the games in education roundtable coming up. Dan said he might have his students create this resource over the course of the year next year.

Finally, he shared the “Holocaust Wiki Project” which he has done with college prep (or regular) level students and AP level. He’s also done the project on both tikiwiki and mediawiki (or at least moved it from one to the other). He would set up the navigation, and the students would create the content. I suppose this is like the supportblogging wiki Steve Hargadon created recently. I might do something similar for my presentation tomorrow. :)

So, this project is a creative webquest… a treesim/ant-farm design pattern. In which the students created a fictional Jewish family and tracked their lives through the holocaust (as I understood it).

He also touched on the issues of content depth vs. standards, the sensitivity of the topic, and the skill focus of decision making. (It is a branching story after all.) He briefly walked participants through the steps of doing this project with his kids. Interestingly, he had his students create a map (or storyboard) of their branching simulation, and then compose the text in a word processor, before uploading it to the wiki. Finally they would add media like pictures. He had step by step instructions for those who would like to recreate this. He also had samples of student work from 2005 and 2006, and great samples of student final reflections!

It’s worth noting that in the name of accuracy, sensitivity, and avoiding the glorification of violence, he did ask kids to remove or change things… and in some cases he removed some things outright.

He says he will do this project with other topics now. He’s preparing for the industrial revolution, thought this won’t be as intense a subject as the holocaust. This prompted him to mention that he always tells his students, “never think you lived through this” even though they’ve make a personal connection with the topic.

Finally, he offered his reflections. The complexity of the project and the time involved was a challenge, as was historical accuracy. Using the wiki was the easiest part… he felt he got to focus on the lesson.

He has presentation and student handouts (and project templates) at his site:

Now, off to the games round table. More to post later.

One Laptop Per Child

I’ve been following the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, but Nicholas Negropante’s keynote was amazing and greatly deepened my understanding of the reasons behind the project – pedagogically, technically, and financially. And I shouldn’t forget the political and altruistic motivations. I feel lucky to have seen him speak. I’d love to meet him one day, but as he’s traveling internationally 28 out of every 30 days, that’s not likely to happen any time soon. As Eva said, it was inspiring just knowing there are powerful people doing that kind of work.

In any case, he reminded me the importance of teaching thinking with computers. From his (Papert inspired) perspective, he’s saddened to see students learning Word and Excel instead of something like LOGO. I have to say that I agree. It’s sobering that kids were doing more cognitively significant things with Apple IIs 25 years ago than they are with iMacs today. I also had the opportunity, directly after the keynote, to head up to the sails pavillion and get my hands on a prototype of the $100 laptop… and to try out a working motherboard (connected to a monitor and keyboard). It is as fast as he says. Amazing what a can happen if we cure “featuritis.” I’ll be posting more on this I’m sure.

ISTE President Kurt Steinhaus’s Address before the keynote was inspiring in its own right, especially after hearing Tom March talk during the webcast yesterday about the different perspective that Australian educators have. (He felt they were more interested in trying something that might be good for the students rather than responding that they can’t try something new because they’ve got to do all these other things.) Steinhaus’s talk really inspired me to become more involved with ISTE – for the exposure to more national and international perspectives. They are doing good work and I’d love to be a part of it. I’m particularly excited about the coming reinvention of the National Educational Technology Standards. Maybe we can actually get them adopted in California this time.

Christine Olmstead and Shari Bithell Just Blogging Along

I meant to post this earlier today…

When I finished my volunteer shift, I caught the end of Christine Olmstead and Shari Bithell (of the Brea-Olinda Unified School District in Orange County) presenting on classroom use of blogs (using I got there just before people started leaving at the end, but they had another packed room.

So the question for the day is this… and it’s what I asked in the webcast this morning: There is obviously interest in these technologies at the teacher and tech coordinator level, but what systemic changes need to happen in schools and districts before these tools will find a sustainable place in our educational institutions? We need to sort this out before blogs go the way of LOGO in schools.

PS. I know its a crummy picture… I was in the back of the room with a .3 megapixel camera.

NECC Day 1 Reflection

Here’s a shot of San Diego from the top of our hotel at 10th and A street, not far from the convention center. Unfortunately, the internet access here isn’t working except in the business center (where I downloaded tonights feeds), so once again I’m tapping out this post on my Treo.

In the end, today was a bit anti-climactic for me. I didn’t really get to connect with anyone today. I got to meet some people I’ve wanted to meet for a while, including Will Richardson, who will be skyping into the OCDE Blogging Institute at the end of the month. But, I didn’t have any substancial conversations with these people. I saw many of my colleagues from the NMUSD and OCDE, but I am really feeling not being on a team right now. (Incidentally, in the end I was really uncomfortable dressing down for a professional event after two years of suits and ties… I’m sure it will take some time to find a balance I’m happy with.)

For tomorrow, I resolve to initiate more conversations and to make them more substantial. I also want to attend (and contribute to) more sessions. I’ll also need to spend more time on my own presentation. Right now I have three times more things I want to cover than I have time for… and I want to make it as interactive as possible given my one-way teaching format, as opposed to the two-way teaching of social constructivist classrooms and the two-way web.

The exhibit hall is ginormous, too, and I plan to spend some time there.

I’m looking for something new to me, and I’m looking for that thing that willl be in two years what blogging and podcasting are today. I’ve gor my money on video games and simulations of course, but I’m looking for the surprise, too. Maybe educational revolutions just don’t come along that often though.

and Life: Dinner with a Brother-in-Law Headed for Iraq

I’m sure each of us here at NECC this week has our own after hours stories. Tonight I ate with Eva (my wife, a kindergarden teacher, and tech coordinator), Debbie (her mom, a first grade teacher, and tech coordinator), and Jason (her younger brother who is a marine stationed here in Miramar and who is shipping out to Iraq in about two weeks)… and that’s Nancy Jang (a colleague of Eva’s – a second grade teacher and future tech coordinator) also in the picture.

This El Torito was next to a Rock Bottom. I wonder if it’s the same one where the blogger meet up will be tomorrow night. I’m particularly looking forward to meeting many of you there during the after hours tomorrow.

Busy in the Ready Room

As you can see, volunteering in the presenter world (speaker ready room) isn’t a tough job. We’ve had a few flurries of activity, but the most technical thing I’ve had to help anyone with (and I did get tech support duty) is learning how to right click on a Mac. There was a PC on the table behind her, but she wanted the challenge.

When I got here, David Warlick was working away (we’re talking head in his hands followed by typing) on his own computer. I’d introduced myself to him at the CUE conference in March, but didn’t want to interupt him today. I refrained from getting a pic for this blog for the same reason. This ready room is like a library – unfortunately a conversation would seem really out of place. Anyway, you guys get the empty room shot instead of Warlick now.

Note the screen in the back… that’s for presenters to test their equipment before their session. Ironically, between that last sentence and this I just helped a lady with the old function + F7 trick.

Now I’m snacking on some (pretty bad) chips and salsa – and (even worse) rice crispies treats – that were brought in here. Did I mention there’s no food here? It’s amazing how learning is impacted when your basic needs aren’t being met. :(

Jenith and Lainie at the Keynote

After finishing our pretzel (There’s no food in this place!), Eva and I headed to the keynote. Don Knezek gave the opening remarks, and included an interactive segment. Using small wireless devices distributed to the crowd, 4000 of us answered multiple choice questions as he asked them – and then he spoke about the results.

The picture is Jenith Mishne and Lainie McGann, district tech coordinators from Newport-Mesa and two of the best trainers I worked with at the OCDE. Jenith returned a minute later with an offer I couldn’t refuse… stay tuned for that. :)

How do I Text?

Here’s a picture of Eva and I walking through the sails pavillion. Just as I took this, she looked down at her cute little nokia phone and asked, “how do I text?”

She knows that, though, and soon had a message off to Debbie, who wasn’t answering her phone. As I type this – or rather tap it out on the thumbboard – I’ve been texting OCDE’s Mike Guerena about dinner plans tonight. This reminds me of my experience at the CUE conference in March when I realized why our students love texting… you can do it during class without disturbing anyone listening to the 1.0 lecture.

Infact, I’m finding it more and more ironic that these conferences are mostly sit ‘n git sessions. However, I find they are becomming more and more about conversation, interaction, and creation for me. I haven’t sat through a session yet. :)

Newport Folks at the CUE Partner Booth

I’m running into a lot of Newport people today. Here are a group of us at the CUE partner booth in the sails pavilion. The chairs attracted me initially, but I’m glad I got to chat with these folks (and several others) – and got to meet Don Knezek, CEO of ISTE. Thanks, Mike, for the introdution.

If you are a CUE member, stop by the booth for your CUE badge ribbon. You can also join or renew your membership there. For a two year membership, I think you get a free CUE flash drive.

Right now I’m catching up on moblogging while volunteering in the presenters world (ready room). Unfortunately the wireless isn’t going through to the internet. :( Fortunately, I have my Treo. :)

Crowds at the Open Source Pavillion

I stopped by the open source pavillion and was thrilled to see the crowd gathered for a presentation on Moodle. (This picture doesn’t even capture all the people standing around the sitting area.) It’s great to see open source software gaining traction with educators… I’m sure IT departments will follow.

Unfortunately Steve Hargadon wasn’t around when I stopped by this morning. I’m sure I’ll be back, though. This is just day 1 afterall. :)