My first real experience using a wiki was during this course. I have to say that I have come to the conclusion that until you actually put some tools into practice, you will not truly understand how effective they can be. The wiki was one of those tools for me. Prior to this course, I had no real reason to play with wikis, so I didn’t realize just what they can bring to the table.
I have used collaboration tools like Google Docs, and I found the platform to have real strengths and weaknesses. The clear strength of Google Docs is in the ability of multiple users to edit and review the same document in real time. All users can see what each user is doing to improve the document “live.” This technology paired with a tool like Skype makes it extremely powerful. Edits are clear and immediate. Every participant is able to see what is going on instantaneously. The greatest drawback to the platform is the whole formatting problem that arises when you try to bring the final product out of the online format into a real Word document. Users have to be prepared to carefully review the converted document prior to submission.
Wikispaces, like Google Docs allows multiple users to access, review and edit a common document. The most apparent difference being that the edits have to be saved and posted by the individual making changes to the wiki before other participants can view the updates. To avoid confusion and overlap, users must carefully communicate.
During the project
As the project developed, it was easy to see what applications could be brought to bear in the classroom. Three days into my group project, I had the opportunity to point my students in the direction of Wikispaces to allow them to collaborate on their own group projects.
This aspect of this group project completely validates a major portion of the research we found concerning Professional Development (PD). As it turns out, collaboration is one of the most effective forms of PD that teachers have at their disposal. It allows teachers to air-out concerns while listening to others’ issues and solutions. Being heard is powerful medicine.
Having a touch point in our group wiki was valuable. It allowed members of the group to go back and review concepts and add new components as they had time, benefiting themselves and their teammates at the same time.
Wikispaces is a tool I will use in the future. It is flexible, easy to set up and use, and uses tools which are very easy to identify and apply.
a.) My contribution was to help find resources to bolster others’ research and understanding. I also helped lead the group in the Skype discussions. I generated video clips for the group video component and submitted the group PD submission.
b.) Using the wiki opened my understanding of how these tools can be effectively applied to educational projects, aiding in collaboration and understanding.
c.) Working on the wiki contributed to my understanding of the material simply because my group found itself conducting research in the area of PD which led me to find material on how collaboration can impact PD. Writing about collaboration using a collaborative tool – go figure!
d.) Working on the wiki turned out to be valuable experience for me as a classroom teacher. I can use this experience to share with my colleagues. The ability of students to collaborate over distance on a common project enhances their ability to understand. This skill will allow me to collaborate with others into the future, keeping my skills sharp and help others discover what the wiki can bring to their classroom and beyond.
e.) Working on this wiki has contributed to my sense of reciprocity during this course. Of course, the limitations discussed earlier may be overcome with another wiki, but this was a solid starting point. I was able to contribute and benefit from the contribution of others on the wiki. My students will benefit from this experience by learning to love collaborative work both in and out of the classroom.