Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ownership of Information

How can I create a wiki that is owned by 4th graders? This is the question I have been struggling with for the last few months. I have owned the wiki for a few years now. The name may have changed a few times, but the idea remains the same. It serves as a link between the teacher, student, parent and world. The ideas that are floating near the top of my sporadic, sometimes rule-breaking mind are endless. I have thought of the creation of an entire digital classroom, where work can be completed via wiki. This idea sank when I realized the students need to be taught core 21st Century information sharing skills.
The 9 and 10 year olds that I teach are rather limited in their current views of the Internet, as it relates to purpose, relativity and possibilities. The more the world becomes transparent, the more I see these young students become stagnate with their learning. The 9/10 year old view of the Internet is a great place to play games, watch videos and chat with friends. This is the Internet for these students. I see the Internet as a vast, sometimes confusing mesh of woven arteries that lead to a completely different mesh of woven arteries. These arteries are created and destroyed. Sometimes just blocked.
The challenge seems to come when time interferes with curriculum. I spend much of my day trying to fit into a little mold of what it takes to be a successful 4th grade teacher. Sometimes this path leads to a successful, well thought-out lesson. Sometimes the lesson goes south. I still haven't figured out how to figure it out. I am constantly changing how I teach. I am constantly thinking of new and better way to introduce a skill so that the student ultimately absorbs the information.
I have now opened OUR wiki up to the world with my students leading the conversation. This is a great milestone, in my opinion. This is a step in the right direction for me. This will be one tool I will use to assess students and teacher (me). The students feel ownership. They now know what it is like to own what they are learning. Very few students have started with the process of making edits to the wiki. I have been sacrificing my lunch time in order to not take any instruction time away from our current curriculum model. These few students are creating a buzz. I am using these students as a fuse to light the entire class with the ownership of the material they are learning.
Every day, a new idea for the wiki is generated by a student. We discuss the positives and negatives of including this idea to OUR wiki. Student ideas generated so far... Going Green, Book Reviews, and Beyond. These ideas are in their infant stages of course. We are still working on our editing skills.
How it Works:
1. Students fill out a wiki editing form with a unique idea they would like to add to our wiki.
2. During the day, we discuss the edit and the process of adding it.
3. Students begin editing the wiki during lunch, indoor recess or when they have finished their assignments for the day.
Future Plans:
I plan to open the editing for students to complete at home. I haven't quite reached this point of trust... yet. I am still working with the students to understand Internet responsibility (what to make public and what to keep to yourself). I believe this will come in the near future.
I am excited about this whole "experiment". The students are also excited.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pause for Purpose

Hello all. It has been an incredible amount of time since I have posted to this blog. The time has been wisely spent. I have a new position this year as a fourth grade teacher at a new elementary school. Having spent a few years out of the classroom setting, it was a lot to grasp at first.

I have been spending my time getting used to the many idiosyncrasies of having my own class of 28... 14 boys and 14 girls. Wow, I forgot the rewards of watching students soak up knowledge like a sponge.

I have been using my wiki as a connection between school and home. I have been spending the entire beginning of the school year updating the wiki and figuring out how I was going to make it work with many Internet irresponsible 9 and 10 year olds.

I am opening the wiki up to students now. Students will be able to log on to the wiki during school and add information once work is complete. I have opened up the wiki for Reading, Social Studies and Math. They are labeled "A students View of..."

The students will post anything they deem to be appropriate for the sharing of knowledge with the world. Hopefully we will start with our first entry tomorrow. Depending on how this works out, I plan to have students create their own pages and eventually blog with a purpose. Wish me luck.