Sunday, December 16, 2007

Using Wikispaces and PBwiki

Last week I shared an article which is a good introduction to using wikis in the classroom. I also provided a link to an interview with teacher Victoria Davis who uses wikis with her students and Adam Frey of Wikispaces. This week I’ll share some of my experiences using wikis in the classroom.

Two wiki providers that provide free wikis for K12 educators are PBwiki and Wikispaces. I used Wikispaces with my classes this past semester and I plan to use PBwiki next semester. Then I will compare the two to determine which best serves the needs of my students and myself.

I’ve played with wikis myself; but, I had not previously integrated them as a required component for my students. This past semester I used Wikispaces with my Instructional Technology
classes. The students are required to create electronic portfolios which showcase their skills and strategies for integrating technology into the teaching and learning processes. A wiki seemed like a good medium to use because it’s easy for the students to read and write to it and it’s structured for organizing by content rather than chronology.

My students did not have previous experience using wikis, so I led them through the process of registering for their own spaces and through several procedures which they would need to know to create their pages and content. A couple weeks later we added more skills to their repertoire. Next semester—Spring 2008—I’ll guide them through all the necessary procedures in one class. This Fall I created a sample electronic portfolio for my students to view for ideas. I’ve already modified it for next semester.

Using a wiki for an electronic portfolio does not take advantage of a wiki’s collaborative benefits. Next semester, we shall use wikis for both purposes. We’ll start with a wiki—probably in the first class—and an assignment which requires collaboration. Having a combination of traditional and non-traditional students in classes makes collaboration sometimes quite challenging. The wikis should help! Later in the semester we will start using the wikis to build our electronic portfolios.

The students easily learned how to use the wikis… and they enjoyed working with them. The only challenge was that when they first created a new page, they didn’t see it anywhere! So early lessons next semester will have to include creating new pages from within the navigation area as well as managing their spaces so they can see the pages they’ve created.

In Wikispaces, only the Basic plan is free for university students. Consequently, our wikis have ads on them. In K12 schools, however, the Basic Plus plan is free. Thus, K12 students and teachers can have ad-free wikis.

Wikispaces provides three options for space visibility. Spaces can be public, meaning that everyone can view and edit your pages. Or they can be protected, meaning that everyone can view them, but only space members can edit them. Both of these options are free… with ads, of course. The third option (Plus) is that the spaces can be private, meaning that only space members can view and edit them. This option has the advantage of being ad-free, but it costs $5 per month… unless you’re a K12 user. In that case, it’s free. Wikispaces’ goal is to give away 100,000 free K12 Plus wikis. So far, they’ve given more than 50,000 free Plus wikis to K12 teachers. Both Basic and Plus plans have 2 gb of storage.

Wikispaces provides a variety of tutorials and instructions for using their wikis. They have their own tours in addition to linking to others such as the TeachersFirst Wiki Walk-Through. Just follow the links as you explore the Wikispaces site. You’ll find many ideas for using wikis in education, including advice for introducing them to your students (and their parents) as well as reasons to use wikis in your classes.

PBwiki provides instructions, videos, and white papers for learning about wikis, for using them, and for creating them. A wiki workshop which teaches how to use PBwiki is available at Atomic Learning (subscription required except for the first video). PBwiki has both public and private wikis. There are no advertisements… period. The free version has 10 mb of storage. I’ve made a PBwiki version of my sample electronic portfolio. I like the fact that I can use colored text; however, the layout does not seem as clean as I would like it to be.

At this point, I’m more comfortable using Wikispaces than I am using PBwiki. However, that may be because I’ve used Wikispaces for a longer period of time. I will use PBwiki for my class this next semester… and then evaluate which wiki provider is more useful for my students.

1 comment:

Candace Hackett Shively said...

The TeachersFist Wiki Walk-Through also reviews a third wiki tool that is free for K12 classroom use: Wetpaint. See the details and comparison of features that make each tool safe for classroom use under almost any Acceptable Use Policy at the TeachersFist Wiki Walk-Through