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.