Web 2.0 in Education
April 27, 2009 6:58 PM   Subscribe

EducationFilter: How do you use wikis, blogs and social media in the classroom?

I am interested to hear how educators use wikis, blogs, social bookmarking, and other forms of social media. I personally use some web 2.0 sites and applications, like wetpaint and bubbl.us but am wondering if I am missing some good opportunities?

Have any teachers had good experiences using things like MySpace (eugh!), Facebook or Twitter to provide authentic and meaningful learning?

I'm not interested in using anything just for the sake of it...Sound pedagogical input only please!

Thanks in advance, Mefites.
posted by man down under to Education (12 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
We're using a wiki right now (PBWiki) in our graduate seminar on the digital divide. It's useful for serving as a repository of class list info, and it's also great for participation. Each week we're supposed to both summarize assigned readings (we post to a blog) and bring in a linked list of new material (for which a wiki is perfect). We do this as a part of several groups; we're each assigned at the beginning of the semester to a presentation group for the newer material and then we have a separate week for presenting assigned readings. So the wiki's list aspect is pretty crucial to help us remember when we're going, and it's also great as a workspace that is easily accessible from multiple locations by multiple group members.

You might also try delicious.com, which is wonderful for remembering and sharing articles and blog posts. That could be good for both your own use and submissions from multiple students or colleagues.

Yahoo Pipes and similar services could be helpful for pulling in information on a targeted topic (so, for example, you want all of the articles on swine flu).
posted by Madamina at 7:26 PM on April 27, 2009

YES! This is the question I've been waiting for my whole life... My favorite project with my HS English classes was having them build a MySpace page for Thoreau. I do have a healthy dislike for MySpace, but the benefits of using a familiar platform far outweighed my squeamish-ness with using it. (This was two years ago, so most of my students were MySpacians rather than FaceBookers; now I think the tables have turned.) It wasn't a huge project, but something to give them a background about Thoreau's interests, the people he was connected to, and his general point of view. We read excerpts of Walden in conjunction with this project, and I do think my students drew a lot more from the text from having engaged with Thoreau in this way than they would have after reading a 3 paragraph summary of him in a textbook.

A conservative student/parent had an issue with my use of MySpace; she did not allow her daughter to use it because of fears of child predators and the like. I had already made it clear that students could create a paper or non-web electronic document with the same features, but I did see her point.
posted by hellogoodbye at 7:32 PM on April 27, 2009

I haven't done it myself, but my university has been recently advertising how a professor had his undergraduates put together their own reference wiki on the topic they were studying (some 500 or more years of early medieval history - lots of names and dates and events flying past). Certain students were assigned to write entries for that week's keywords, other students assigned to edit them, but anyone could make comments on it; he said he felt like they learned much more than if he had assigned an exam.

We've also made very good use of electronic submission of work in a secure electronic dropbox, in addition to hardcopy; this is less relevant for secondary schools, but recently in a large class of a couple hundred with a dozen TAs we've been able to share papers for double grading (basically getting someone else to read and see if they agree on the grade you want to assign it) much more easily than with traditional paper submission. It's good for the students - also means that should the absolutely most embaressing thing for a teacher ever happen (losing students' papers), it is merely incrediably embaressing and not disasterous. But this type of thing is less social, and would have to be set up on a secure server.
posted by jb at 7:34 PM on April 27, 2009

I put together a reference wiki for an evolutionary bio course approximately three years ago; I specifically created as a preparation for the final exam. When the course was over, I left the admin password and username to my professor (he offered me a TA position but I didn't enjoy the course all that much), and to my delight I just saw a bunch of people with printouts of pages from it in one of my other courses last week during finals period! So, yeah, if it's survived three years, it must be useful--and it's even better now that the professor points others toward it.

It was built on infogami, by the way.
posted by halogen at 7:53 PM on April 27, 2009

I'm currently a student in a graduate seminar on digital history that incorporates both historiography of information and digital methodologies into the coursework. Our professor has asked us to investigate the usefulness of various online tools and report back in class discussion, and to incorporate some of the tools we investigate into our final projects. I'm only a few weeks into the course, but we've looked at some fascinating stuff, including ways to utilize social networking sites with which we're already proficient (twitter, flickr, blogger, librarything, delicious, etc.) in our academic work, as well as some sites I wasn't familiar with: NINES, zotero, flickr commons, etc.

I don't know what level of education or what specific discipline you're involved in, but you might want to check out my professor's blog, inscape, which frequently touches on these issues.
posted by dizziest at 9:44 PM on April 27, 2009

Response by poster: I don't know what level of education or what specific discipline you're involved in, but you might want to check out my professor's blog, inscape, which frequently touches on these issues.

I'm interested in all levels and subjects since the use can be pretty flexible. Thanks for the link to the blog...checking it now. FWIW I teach Secondary English, ICT and History, although I've been having this discussion with teachers from other subjects and levels that are interested in input from MeFites.

I like the idea of creating a MySpace page for Thoreau, although I do teach at a very conservative school so I don't think it would be worth the effort of getting parents on-side!
posted by man down under at 10:30 PM on April 27, 2009

To work through the editing process and version controlling, students work in a wiki. If I think that they are ready and proficient, I would have them do Wikipedia and learn editing, proper citation and how to deal with distant contributors.

For those who have never coded before or dealt with word processors prior to Word Perfect it is a good time to get them to be able to see the impact on formatting before I consider moving them over to Latex.
posted by jadepearl at 4:59 AM on April 28, 2009

I've had students keep a collective set of course notes on a wiki--resulted in one comprehensive set of well-edited course notes. I maintain a set of tips and tricks for faculty teaching online courses at my university also. I've heard from a number of students who finished the "collective notes" course and they had started similar sites for other courses and also used wikis for working on team writing projects/peer editing.
posted by midwestguy at 7:04 AM on April 28, 2009

I don't use this sort of stuff in my classes (well, except for a listserv), but I do want to say that if you're having students, say, maintain blogs, I think it's an important thing to teach them briefly about copyright/plagiarism as it pertains to the web specifically. A graduate student in my program was telling me about a grad class where he had to maintain a blog and was told by the professor that on a blog, you could use any material (including images) without attribution. Made my head explode.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:29 AM on April 28, 2009

Chiming in again because I love this question and because I've been thinking about education and Twitter.

The first thing I think of is Twitter haiku, but of course you could use haiku without twitter. Perhaps using the idea behind Twitter, that content can be condensed to such a small text limit, is the take-away from Twitter (for instance, having students summarize a reading in 50 words, cutting it down to 25 words, then cutting it down to 10 words).

Here's a page with some discussion and links about Twitter in Education; there are teachers out there who have used it to aid instruction, but others seem to think it's not the best idea. I would imagine that the same parent-disapproval issue would come again with actually using the service, plus, even I would be hesitant to ask students to search for anything on Twitter because so many objectionable statements could come up. You could probably dream up something teacher mediated though; I think Twitter can be inherently useful for gauging public reaction to a current news topic. For instance, obviously Swine Flu is trending right now, and you can find a lot of different perspectives on it, from the mundane to the profound.....but much of that would have to be filtered out before it would be meaningful to students.
posted by hellogoodbye at 7:53 AM on April 28, 2009

I've seen a lot of good thinking/ideas at this blog. The author gives a lot of examples of how exactly a lot of these new technologies could be useful in the classroom...
posted by onell at 8:23 AM on April 28, 2009

Just to add another resource to the list, sample reality also deals with these issues.
posted by dizziest at 3:09 PM on April 28, 2009

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