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Monday, July 5, 2010

Wikis and Moodles

Technology is an important tool in the classroom. It may not fit into every lesson, but you can bet students will pay closer attention when it is. Wikis and Moodles are two examples. I heard about Wiki’s and Moodles at a technology conference several years ago. I learned that they are both customizable and secure. However much of the information was geared toward students beyond 2nd grade. I set out to find just how much a 2nd grader could do with such tools.

A wiki is a site where several people can collaborate on a page of information, adding to and editing text. Beginning in the 08-09 school year, my partner teacher and I created a wiki at http://www.wikispaces.com/. The great thing about Wikispaces is educators don’t have to pay for the service. We educators do love a bargain! We introduced the wiki during our Abe Lincoln/Slavery unit. I used the smartboard to show the classes how to add/edit information to a page, and how to use the message board. (We also discussed internet safety and digital citizenship, which I will discuss in another article.) Letters were sent home to parents introducing the wiki and explaining how to access it as they would be doing this from home.

Our wiki was focused around our Core Knowledge subjects. At the time we were studying Abe Lincoln and Harriet Tubman. The kids were excited about the wiki and couldn’t wait to get home to work on it. Sure enough, that evening the kids discussed with their parents what they learned in school that day about Abe Lincoln. Parents and students worked together to add their information to the wiki. It was wonderful! This went on the rest of the year for every unit we studied. We would frequently see information appear that we had not discussed in class, so it was clear there was extra learning going on at home.

Some extra things about Wikispaces… There is a message board option where you can create one for the whole wiki, or a message board for each wiki page. I highly recommend doing only one board.

Privacy settings are customizable.

You can assign your students usernames and passwords or have their parents sign up for a Wikispaces account. I recommend assigning the names yourself.

Wikispaces was a wonderful experience for our classes. They even wanted me to make an ‘alumni’ wiki page so they could come back and ‘visit’. However, the next year we opted to try a Moodle.

According to http://www.moodle.org/, a “Moodle is a Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It is a Free web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites.” Now don’t let the word FREE mislead you. The software itself is free, however the implementation and hosting of the software is difficult so you’ll probably want to pay for a hosting service.

The Moodle is incredibly customizable! There is way more available than I could ever use. Go to www.moodle.org to feast your eyes on everything available. We added wiki pages for each unit, message boards, a calendar of events, links, a collaborative story about ‘Pat’, and polls. We introduced it to the parents on Back to School Night, and to the students soon after. They loved it at first, but I think it was too much for 2nd grade and kind of died. Our eyes were bigger than our student’s attention spans. However if you have an upper grade this may be just the thing you’re looking for. It is definitely worth looking into. I’m not saying that a Moodle won’t work for lower grades, I’m sure it could. I just didn’t get it there. We are going back to Wikispaces this next year. It is a simpler interface that is better for our grade level.

Students love technology. The home-school connection provided by a wiki or moodle is valuable. We just have to find what works best for us and our students. I’m sure there are other educators with some wonderful ideas. Please share what you have, I would love to hear.

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