Students using wikis!

Wow – a wiki that works!

Jane Shuyska from the Department of Education at Oxford Uni has been showing my year 9 class (whom I call Marwick cos I can’t retain the complicated computer numbers that they go by in the school timetable) the wiki / mind map combination she’s working on called "thinkspace".  Jane is doing some research as to how / if students use this combination to aid their learning in history.

So, the day before yesterday she came in to explain how it all worked.  The students were shown how to make pages and links (they actually gasped at how easy it was!), picked up on the buzz of being able to present their ideas in a wiki, and set to work.

In an hour they managed to produce a mini-wiki about medieval medicine in Europe and the Islamic World.  The resultant diagram looks like this:

The greenish links represent links between the different ‘wings’ of the wiki. Each wing was produced by a different table group.  This is an hours work!  You can see that they worked together across groups without being asked.

It’s also clear that there’s more work to do.  However, aint that one of the important things about a wiki – you keep working on it, it’s as much process as it is finished article.    I’m really excited about taking this further – next time we’re going to start with the mind map, stressing the need to explain links between the nodes, as a planning tool, perhaps, but also as a way of extending and strengthening their thinking about the topic. 

Thinking back about why this worked so well, for a first view at the sofware, I think its because we discussed what the advantages of wikis were over print media a couple of times in a couple of recent lessons.  I think they had a pretty strong idea of the point of using a wiki – and perhaps they were even itching to try out some of their ideas.

Anyway – I’ll keep you posted.

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