Using Blogs and Wikis in the classroom

Deb Beck talked to the group about using blogs and wikis in the classroom.

This session will explore the potential – and the challenges – of using wikis and blogs in the higher education classroom. The presenter will offer an overview of each tool and lessons learned as a blogger and as someone who has used wikis for group work in an online classroom.

Deb Beck enlightens us on blogs and wikis
Deb Beck enlightens us on blogs and wikis

Deb started her presentation by pointing out that she had a number of useful resources on her Wiki. What is a blog? Blogs are a great resource for getting current information and perspectives on topics. Blog is a chronological listing of web logs. The most recent post is on the top. Blogs are typically text, but can be photo blogs, video blogs, etc. It is possible to subscribe by email or through RSS feeds. By subscribing, the information comes to you. Blogs are topical, social, and usually public. Deb does not get a many comments on the blogs, but does get discussion through Twitter. Blogs can put the student in a one to many situation instead of a discussion being hijacked.

Deb provided examples of using blogs in education.

  • Sharing research
  • Developing a personal professional page.
  • Sharing knowledge (Laramie Board Learning Project)
  • Inviting conversation (ProfHacker)
  • Sharing the journey
  • Student blogs for reflection (public or private)
  • In the classroom

Deb moved on to wikis. Wikis are a Web-page where many can collaborate. For group work, there are still student fears and anxieties. All technology can be powerful, but none are perfect. Deb uses engagement theory because she believes content created for others will result in a better product. Students appreciate creating a project for others. Students are immersed in a topic. Students learn by teaching. It is also an online collaboration experience. Deb tends to facilitate her course. She provides various support to include providing a video to show how to use a wiki, creates a brainstorming page for each group, stresses to go to the wiki to do the work, sets benchmarks or milestones for specific work products, sets a style sheet, tries to support the community.

Deb speaks to the frustrations, based on her experiences:

  • They can never have “too much” information.
  • Wiki can be scary.
  • Groups can be transient. Different people will be active and inactive.
  • Copyright concerns.
  • Iffy product quality.
  • Group work anxiety X 100 (plus)

Here is Deb’s advice if you want to use a wiki:

  • Clear instructional goal
  • Choose a wiki platform
  • Understand your students & their commitment to your project.
  • Is this stretch in their learning worth it?
  • Be ready to provide support.
  • Have a strong constitution.

Students have different anxieties with wikis. They are not sure about wikis. They do not like group work. They stress about their grade.

Deb has put together a great set of resources to help support others who want to use wikis in the class.

Good idea, using wiki or blog for collecting class notes.  A blog can be used as an optional journal assignment.

Kaijsa pointed out that blogs and wikis are powerful for developing communities of practice.