One morning before school, I had a
terrible realization. I’d forgotten to
post four pages on the wiki. Without
these pages, the students had no place
to submit their free-verse poems. Best
case scenario: The students would
write their poems and post them on
random pages throughout the wiki.
Worst case scenario: Students would
not post them at all.
I dragged myself to school that
morning knowing that the day’s lesson was ruined. Once I logged on to
the wiki, however, I found that the
pages were already there. I was perplexed. I certainly did not create them.
When my class arrived that morning,
I discovered that one of my students,
recognizing that I’d neglected to post
the pages, created them for me. I had
never shown this student how to create pages; she simply figured it out.
The wiki empowered one student
to help a hundred others get their
homework done. How often does
Finding Their Voices
Every class has a certain number of
students who are reluctant to participate. Over the years, I’ve tried a
variety of tricks. I’ve given grades for
class participation, I’ve provided self-evaluations, I have even offered candy
incentives. The results have been
The real surprise working with the
wiki was that the reluctant participants flourished online. One student
wrote her free-verse poem and then
wrote 25 personalized replies to her
classmates. In school, she never raised
her hand. Online she found her voice.
And for once, this soft-spoken student
did not have her words drowned out
by her louder classmates. In cyberspace, everyone’s voice carries equal
Teaching the Teacher
Two weeks into my poetry unit, a student informed me that my wiki was
ugly. Her statement was honest, frank,
and sadly, true. After looking at other
wikis online, I found mine lacking
in the pizzazz department. I offered
the job of remodeling my wiki to a
few students, and they eagerly took
on the task. They quickly executed a
makeover. I was so impressed with the
transformation, I insisted that they
teach me the techniques they used.
In this situation, the normal dynamics of the classroom were reversed:
The students taught, and the teacher
learned. What’s important, however,
was that everyone took greater ownership of the final product.
When I think back to the workshop
I attended, I am so glad I took the
time to put the skills to use. There was
an initial investment in time to construct the wiki, but once it was up and
running, it actually saved time. Because the wiki is a collaborative tool,
the students do more and the teacher
does less. Now that’s an equation any
overworked teacher can get behind.
Sometimes I get to the end of the
year and I wonder: How much have
my students learned? What was refreshing about the wiki was that I
would often see my advice about writing reflected in students’ responses to
each other. They were learning, and,
when given the chance, they were
willing to teach each other.
The job of teaching certainly isn’t
getting any easier, but with Web 2.0
technology, perhaps some of the burden can be shifted from teacher to student. So I say, let the kids do the work.
We may find that they learn more as
—Joseph Lawlor, MEd, is a sixth grade language
arts teacher in Westwood, Massachusetts. He is a
team leader and editor of the school’s newspaper,
and he enjoys finding creative ways to use technology to enhance learning and community.
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