with an Internet connection, so they
do not have to be in the same physical
place to collaborate. Wikispaces offers
a discussion board for each page, allowing students to discuss their work
separately from the product they create and giving the teacher an easy way
to track discussions.
Microsoft Office programs, although not as flexible as wikis, allow
users to track changes as well.
Each method described here allows
students to demonstrate their contribution to the teacher. Recently, Ben
Smith’s AP Physics students worked
on a joint project with the AP Government students. Although it is likely that
the students knew each other, most of
the students did not share common
schedules. The assignment required
students to work in a group composed
of students representing both classes.
Their task was to communicate how
government and science are related.
One group chose to focus on Ben
Franklin, and another group examined both the science and politics
of the Atomic Age. They established
a wiki for the groups to use and required that all collaboration be visible.
Each group chose to communicate in
a different way. One group used the
discussion board in the wiki, while
another used the wiki itself to keep
a running list of what they had done
and what they needed to complete. A
third group used e-mail, and the final
group used a combination of all three,
including evening synchronous chats.
Some groups used the wiki as their
final project, while others made their
own webpage, which was posted on
We understand the importance of
requiring students to use communication tools and to collaborate on their
work. These skills will translate to a
new way of working and will increase
productivity. As teachers, we must encourage students to use these devices
appropriately. Students are developing
their own written language for texting
that is appropriate for their friends,
but not necessarily for the classroom.
Instead of complaining about the erosion of their writing skills, we need to
guide students to use an appropriate
style according to the medium and
context. By helping our students become more effective communicators,
we are helping them grow into global
—Jared Mader is the director of technology at
Red Lion Area Senior High School in Red Lion,
Pennsylvania. He has been a chemistry teacher
for 10 years.
—Ben Smith has been a physics teacher at Red
Lion Area High School for 20 years. He and Mader are the science curriculum specialists for L&L.
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