19 April 2010

Thing 18: Writing on Wikis

So I feel very accomplished, having contributed for the very first time to a content-rich wiki.  Admittedly, my contributions were about my favorite books and restaurants, so not necessarily all that academic, but I do feel very powerful.  At the beginning of the 23 Things project, I thought a lot about how all kinds of Web 2.0 tools provide opportunities for self-publishing.  I had a long post about how that was both exciting and terrifying to me because I'm sensitive to and aware of how people might perceive me based on what I put out there in cyberspace.  What I didn't consider then, because I was imagining more of a forum for personal expression, is another concern about expertise - I'd be beyond mortified to publish content to an educational or informative wiki that turned out to be inaccurate or biased or incomplete.  I know enough to be skeptical of online sources and Wikipedia because of shared authorship, but every time I've contemplated how dubious it is, I've been thinking as a reader rather than a writer; now I have a whole new anxiety.

And at the same time that I'm a little embarrassed to admit how self-conscious I am about the possibility of making a mistake in something I post to wikis, I also secretly hope that everyone who posts to wikis considers that fear as much.  Already, however, I suspect that that's not the case; that's exactly why I iterate to students time and time again that Wikipedia is NOT a totally reliable source.  I'm stoked about the democratizing the exchange of ideas and information, but careless or deliberately misleading posters poison the well and undermine the whole project.

In either case, as I played with the ones I was referred to, I also kept thinking about classroom applications.  One that I keep thinking about is vocabulary.  I struggle every year with how to make vocabulary instruction relevant to students - I hate the idea of generating lists with definitions and passing them out before we read books.  For one thing, students have a wide range of vocabulary levels and don't all need the same words (or number of words) defined.  Secondly, I don't think it should be so passive for students - I think they should look up definitions and be involved in the research.  A vocabulary wiki could be a great idea - students could contribute the words they came across in their readings that were unfamiliar and share them in context, but also share links to definitions.  It would be a much more student-centered and student-owned list.  In the past, I've made students create their own vocabulary lists, but then I had to photocopy them and pass them out to share them with classmates if I wanted to quiz them on the complete list - this seems to be a better idea.  We'll see...

1 comment:

  1. Love the vocab idea! It's perfect for a wiki. They tend to be better for text than images. You could have a link to it from your OneNote course pack.