Groupwork for the 21st Century

Groupwork. It can be a powerful learning experience for students, but a headache for teachers to manage. So much so that I was often tempted to avoid assigning group projects rather than develop new ways to keep students interested and individually accountable. Yet, many companies depend upon results from teams of people working in distant places, and even more so as the world becomes smaller, technologically speaking. Teaching these life skills may be almost as important as teaching our content.

Wikis are a large part of this new global collaboration trend. Many of us may know of Wikipedia, but this extraordinary example is only one of many wikis online. In fact, many teachers are now using wikis as tools for group work in their classes. Lee LeFever and the Common Craft Show provide a good introduction to this Web 2.0 tool. As you watch this short 4 minute film, be thinking about how this tool could be used to redefine groupwork in your classroom.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://blip.tv/scripts/flash/showplayer.swf?enablejs=true&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fthecommoncraftshow%2Eblip%2Etv%2Frss&file=http%3A%2F%2Fblip%2Etv%2Frss%2Fflash%2F251312&showplayerpath=http%3A%2F%2Fblip%2Etv%2Fscripts%2Fflash%2Fshowplayer%2Eswf" width="400" height="255" wmode="transparent" /]

With a wiki, students can add and modify content to pages you set create. They can have discussions, ask you questions, and post new resources. And, an added managerial bonus, every change a student makes is recorded, easily viewable from their profile or the history of a given page.

Group results, individual accountability.

Two popular hosting agencies for wikis are WetPaint and Wikispaces. Each are now offering ad-free versions of their commercial wikis, with settings that keep your students’ identities and work secure. WetPaint hosts its own education support page and Wikispaces is offering its premium services to K-12 educators free of charge. Visit these sites or contact your technology integration specialist for more information about using wikis in your classroom!

WetPaint offer wikispaces offer

If you would like to view examples of wikis created in each of these wiki providers, I recently created this wiki with a group of elementary teachers in wikispaces, and WetPaint is highlighting this teacher’s work with 9th graders.

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2 Responses to Groupwork for the 21st Century

  1. Megan Schacht says:

    I love this video to explain wikis. I get it now! Very nice! I wanted to know which you thought was better: wiki paint or wikispaces. I saw that both had some perks. Which would you choose? Thanks!

  2. dmcallister says:

    I’m not sure I’ve used either enough to fairly judge, but here’s my opinion of using them so far:

    wikispaces has a very clean look that doesn’t seem to be easily altered. I like this possibility for classroom use because the less bells and whistles to get students distracted, the better, at least in my opinion. This could channel more student energy into content rather than pizazz.

    WetPaint wikis seem much more customizable. This could create distractions, but you may be able to lock those options down. What I really like about WetPaint is the ease of inserting content. Their wikis, when you hit that ‘Edit’ button, appear with a floating toolbar, which is great when you have a large amount of content to edit, all on one page. This toolbar also makes importing multimedia content (like from Slideshare) a snap.

    So, like many things, the answer is: it depends. I’d make the choice based on your lesson goals and your own teaching style. Hope this helps.

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