The Not-So-Intimidating World of Wiki
One challenge that faces me each year is how to achieve cohesion between in-class activities, homework assignments, class discussions, creative projects, and essays (not to mention cohesion between units and semesters). With the guidance of the brilliant and charming Mike Porter, my students and I have discovered the glory of wikispaces.
In my American Literature classes, my students each formed a personal philosophy statement that will form the focus for the semester, and perhaps even for the year. Many of their philosophy statements explore the root of evil, the impetus for rebellion and/or obedience, the destructive force of fear, the significance of vulnerability, and other concepts that emerge from early American literature.
They then connect their philosophy statements to selected readings for the semester, as well their writings, notes, annotations, and blog comments. Also, they develop their own "creative" project exploring their philosophy, and this project should emerge from one of their strengths. Some students, for example, are writing songs that revolve around their philosophy, and then performing and podcasting them. Other students are using photostory, creative writing, photojournals, and even sportscasting to express their ideas.
I like using wikispaces because the technology doesn't get in the way; a wikispace is essentially a 21st century folder that allows for almost any type of media, emphasizes professionalism, encourages feedback, and lasts as long as you want it to, unlike a notebook that you clear out at the end of each semester. We'll keep coming back to the wikispaces throughout the semester and adding to them, and hopefully by the end of the semester they'll be able to look over their work and their ideas say, "THIS is the little piece of my soul that grew in American Literature," whether they focused on hope, goodness, evil, or any other personal topic that found its way out of a seemingly boring Puritan text.
Their first version isn't due until Monday, but here are a few links to wikispaces that are pretty well under way. Be sure to click on the links they have on the left side of the page ("Personal Philosophy," "In-class Work," and "Creative Connections"), and feel free to leave comments on the "discussion" tabs of their pages!