This is the summary of a very lively discussion held on Twitter.
#ELTchatters gathered on 9th November to discuss wikis.
As usual a wealth of ideas and links were shared. But let’s just start by defining what a wiki is:
For the more visual reader, a video by Commoncraft showing an example of what a wiki is and can do:
Wikis vs other collaborative software
In our attempt to define wikis, questions were raised and suggestions were put forward about other Web2.0 tools that can be used for online collaboration. Let’s see which ones were introduced:
- @dreadnought001: which online tools do people use for wikis? I like wallwisher wikispaces linoit
- @dalecoulter: Hope I’m not veering off in another direction, but, Wiki or moodle?
- @bethcagnol: Would Edmodo qualify as a Wiki subgroup? My students have been contributing which is why I ask.
- @Marisa_C: There are many different types of wikis, but pbworks and wikispaces are the most popular
- @DinaDobrou: I’ve only used PBworks but wikispaces looks more fun, at least for YLs. Reminds me of Glogster a bit.
- @dreadnought001: Maybe I’m stretching def. of wiki. Use wallwisher 4 Ss to summarise learning, b’storm round topic.
- @sandymillin: If you’ve ever used wikipedia, you’ve used a wiki. You can allow students to edit/add pages too.
- @dreadnought001: generally found wikis to be more successful than blogs or social media in class. Something very solid and concrete about them!
- @Marisa_C: I am still looking for the ideal wiki tho which has an inbuilt Discussion Forum – wikispaces is better here but 1 on every page?
Who uses Wikis with whom
So, what type of class should we use wikis with? The consensus was “all and any”, really: YLs, adults, exam prep, immigrants / workers, online / blended.
While discussing the whys and how-tos, four categories emerged of who uses wikis and with whom, briefly mentioned hereunder.
Here are some of the points mentioned:
Teachers for students
@cerirhiannon: setting one up at the moment to support an exam prep class – going to use it to record info, tips, strategies, model answers by Ss
Students for students
@vale360: wikis are very versatile, great for project work, allowing learners to grow virtual space organically without linear rigidity
Teachers for other teachers
@Marisa_C: I think teachers in a school should create materials sharing wikis – I do this with my co-tutors for CELTA and DELTA
Teacher trainers for trainee teachers
@Marisa_C: I use it with celta and it’s good cos they’ re also learning a bit about edtech – can use with own ss later
Why/how do teachers use them?
We then went into the nitty gritty of wikis, that is, how to use them and why. It was agreed that wikis provide learners with lots of opportunities to practise reading and writing but also to collaborate and become more independent. They also serve as a great place to store material accessible even after a course is over.
- @dalecoulter: I wanted to use a wiki-style project to give my learners a space to practise writing, get quick feedback, reduce paper
- @SueAnnan: I use a wiki so that my students can choose which homework they want to work on – learner autonomy-ish.
- @jemjemgardner: I tried to use it to increase communication for exam classes/busy sts.
- @dreadnought001: Use wikis to summarise learning, brainstorm topic, list of rules
- @cerirhiannon: Gonna set it up myself first, inputting student texts from class and then coax the students to contribute -carrot/stick fashion
- @jobethsteel: I use wikis to give homework, share vokis, choose readers, update a list of smartphone apps and websites, comment on the CB, etc
- @SueAnnan: Yes. I have a selection of materials 2 access. I give them their own page too & the wiki informs me when they use it
- @naomishema: So far I use the wiki as a class site. Free and very simple and clear.
- @esra_simsek_: I used it to motivate ss. a platform that they can see their presentation records and photos, having the chance to comment on them
- @naomishema: I teach different levels, easier to adapt the same thing for different levels & all kids at least watch same video
- @DinaDobrou: And we’ll also have a place to store good material for future classes.
- @shaznosel: for me, a wiki would give me experiences/opportunities not available in the classroom..more autonomous/motivating
- @ljp2010: The idea of sts presenting a portfolio of work at the end of a course seems far superior to jumping exam hoops.
What content can Wikis have?
In other words, what kind of material could be uploaded that could prove useful to students? Learner autonomy came top of the list with ideas ranging from creating students own individual pages, to encouraging peer correction.
- @ljp2010: a good place for peer correction of written texts? Sts put homework on wiki for all to see, not just the teacher
- @SueAnnan: video clips to comment on. Reading comprehensions. Podcasts as catalyst for own writing…
- @Marisa_C: Games pages are usually popular – put all your language games in there
- @Marisa_C: If Ss have their own page they could make their own Portfolios for end of term assessment
- @AlexandraKouk: also, Ss usually love it when they have their own personal page
- @Marisa_C: In the absence of an IWB – take photos of board after brainstorming & Ss put up in wiki – or TP feedback
- @Marisa_C: Can also include a tutorials section on how to use wiki – screencasts or you tube video tutorials if available
- @Marisa_C: I recently made a wiki for our free classes and gave them pages for extra work – so my squares include vocab, pron, listening etc
- @Marisa_C: One thing I tend to include on trainee wikis is sample assignments – does anyone do this with English students?
- @Marisa_C: Wikis are also great to embed screencasts of feedback on homework
How do you organise wikis?
Of course, we didn’t fail to mention how to organise all this fantastic content so as to make it easy for users to browse the wiki and take full advantage of its features.
- @AlexandraKouk: contents section (clearly labelled) & then SS individual pages
- @DinaDobrou: What if we create wikis “per level” instead of “per class”?
- @DinaDobrou: Maybe some of the content could be optional under “Autonomous Learning” and some under “Assignments”?
- @naomishema: instead of wikis by level U can have different colored activites on same page. I have 4 different levels for a video on 1 page
- @Marisa_C: You can organise your materials by week by topic by level – whichever way is most convenient
- @SueAnnan: re levels- I colour code everything. I colour the sections on the front page so they can find the correct level easily
How do you get Students to jump in?
A wiki would not be considered collaborative without learner participation. At this point many of us felt that since it requires students to spend time outside class it would cause students to avoid anything related to homework – unless, perhaps, they had a say in the choice of content / type of self access work. Lack of tech training was also mentioned to be more of a hindrance than a help. At the same time, we felt that if left to the learner’s own discretion, a wiki would soon become idle, so it should very much be considered part of the curriculum. Of course, all initial concerns were followed by great ideas to tackle any issues encountered.
- @jemjemgardner: I started with them once and then stopped due to lack of interest from sts.
- @esolcourses: I think whatever platform you use (blogs, wikis, wallwisher) it can be a challenge to get sts to participate
- @vbenevolofranca: Used wikispaces with teachers as part online course-difficult for them as well.
- @sandymillin: but if even if it’s not optional, how do you MAKE students participate?
- @cioccas: Working with new arrival migrants & refugees in a part-time class – not everyone has tech and/or time
- @shaznosel: On creating screencasts > not everyone realises there is a screen cast so they don’t bother trying … that’s the problem
- @kalinagoenglish: I think “the problem with getting people to be active” is the problem, the desire must come from their understanding of purpose
- @Marisa_C: So Wiki word intergated into the curriculum and not optional
- @shaznosel: yes ..easy to understand and so you are motivated to use it
- @AlexandraKouk: easier to introduce wiki work into an online / blended learning situ than on a purely f2f class? → @cerirhiannon: can help extend f2f beyond the classroom
- @Marisa_C: One very nice way of helping students with wikis is to create some short screencasts to help them find their way
- @Shaunwilden: … people have to chose what works best for them and their sts
What makes a good wiki?
There was a general consensus that it should be easy for students to access, well-organised, nice to look at with lots of colour and it should definitely include games.
Here are some specific points mentioned:
- @naomishema not too cluttered
- @shaunwilden … good navigation (and) … ease of use: set up for easy access and editing
- @dalecoulter not overwhelming in terms of content: easy to understand
- @kalinagoenglish efficient (easy to access, navigate & use); effective (reaches the learning goal) + rich content
- @Marisa_C the ideal wiki should have an inbuilt Discussion Forum on every page
- @shaznosel It would offer experiences or opportunities not available in the classroom..more autonomous/motivating
- @ljp2010 … like the idea of letting sts choose the content = motivation
Several pros and cons of using wikis emerged throughout this quite enthusiastic discussion. This is an attempt to summarise all this input, using the participants own words where possible:
- foster autonomy in learners
- collect all your materials in one place
- facilitate asynchronous collaboration, especially collaborative writing
- easy to customise: per level, class or student even
- wikis great for project work
- can also be used among Ts in the same school or not, as a resource / collaboration platform
- encourages peer teaching / learning
- @shaznosel sharing is what learning is all about, so great for ss to be able to do this.
- @SueAnnan As new students join the class, the others show them how to use the wiki
- motivating if set up for easy access / use: Ss can show off their work
- @esra_simsek_see their presentation records and photos, having the chance to comment on them
- @AlexandraKouk u can also let the more tech-minded Ss “decorate” their page as they like
- private, safe environment: encourages sharing
- s desire to share without feeling critisized
- saves tons of paper
- less work for T once set up
- @DinaDobrou It can cut dwn on the teacher workload (if properly organised)
- ideal for portfolio assessment work
- storage space for materials to be used again
- store good material for future classes.@DinaDobrou
- Ss can have access to it as readers after the course
- @SueAnnan When they leave they become readers instead: they can continue to develop from the new students’ input too
- free of cost
- @Marisa_C most wikis u could have on a free plan too so no cost to employer
- Learning tech or learning English?
- @kalinagoenglish the question is “is the amount of work (typing, embedding, cr8ng pages) learning tech or learning English?
- Tech involved – ss need to be trained
- @ljp2010I imagine you all train ur sts to use them in class, not just assume they’re young & know how to use them.
- @cerirhiannon training imp w any S
- @kalinagoenglish not convinced (obviously 🙂 4 need for students to learn this “tech-skill” over Eng reckon easier = GoogleDocs & blogs
- @Marisa_COne very nice way of helping students with wikis is to create some short screencasts to help them find their way; can also include a tutorials section on how to use wiki – screencasts or you tube video tutorials if availlable
- @Alexandrakouk but they have to be on the front page in huge red letters
- or Ss will miss them
- @dreadnought001 my students aren’t very techy but they find wikis easier to manage than blogs, google docs, VLEs I find. Not much training needed.
- too much work for T to set up
- @kalinagoenglish Not sure that amount of work req’d 4 creating a “good” wiki is really worth it/ that there is enough of a learning experience
Finally, here’s a collection of useful links suggested by participants:
Alexandra Koukoumialou & Dina Dobrou
Alexandra Koukoumialou has been a teacher of young learners and adults for more than 15 years. She obtained her Cambridge Diploma for Overseas Teachers in 1993 and ran her own private language school for 10 years. She now teaches general and Business English and Modern Greek courses at CELT Athens and, as her blog post suggests, occasional CLIL courses! Alexandra also recently completed her Avalon Certification Course for Teaching Languages in Second Life. Alexandra is also an online tutor supporting Distance Diploma in Translation Courses from and into Greek. Alexandra blogs on Teaching and Learning Languages
She is @AlexandraKouk on Twitter
Dina Dobrou has been a teacher of English for 15 years and also works as a free lance translator. She has the Chartered Institute of Linguists Diploma in Translation and is a Member of the CIoL. Dina is very keen on her Professional Development and recently obtained her CELTA Certificate. She is keen on learning about new technologies and on pursuing a career in TEFL with a particular interest in teaching adults, exam preparation classes as well as business English and multilingual classes. She has a new blog onair.edublogs.org
On Twitter – she is @DinaDobrou