Bringing Science Alive! Total visitors since 15 Mar 2007: 100,190.
In the last 4 years, a little Science Wiki that I created with a couple Grade 8 classes has been viewed over 100,000 times. Wow! Here is what I tried to do with the wiki:
Let’s bring Science Alive!
What do you want to learn about in Science?
Welcome to our Science Alive project!
We are students in two Middle School Grade 8 classes that have been working on a Science topic of our own choosing.
First, we chose a topic and then we had to create our own wiki page that demonstrated our understanding of our topic.
I wanted students to do an experiment, and I wanted them to demonstrate higher order thinking skills, as seen in the Digital Blooms Taxonomy.
The project was far from perfect. Here is a reflection on it that I often share with teachers who are planning a big project: Wikis in the classroom: a reflection. But the rewards were amazing! Students loved that they had a choice of topics and they really pushed each other to do better! They loved having free access 24/7 to share their work. Also, as Kimberly said in her evaluation of the project:
“I thought this was a great project because it was always fun, and when you needed inspiration, it was easy to just click on someone else’s page, and see all the neat stuff that they’ve done, and then it makes you want to make your page just as good (or, it did for me).”
This wasn’t about doing a project for a teacher, it was students doing something for themselves and each other. Also, students gained so much from sharing their projects during the process rather than just at the end, like in a Science Fair. Furthermore it continued to be used after the project, unlike a Science Fair poster that gets thrown away, or at best, stored away in the back of a garage or under the stairwell in the basement. Sebastian, one of my students on this project, recently reconnected with me on Facebook. We spoke of this project and he said,
“I have actually referred back to the wiki many a time believe it or not. Various persuasive essays where I have purposely chosen topics we studied so that whenever I started an essay I at least had something to run with! That was a great project though! I wish more teachers where intuitive enough to use something like that.”
This project was also about students sharing their project with the world! I would start class and of the 25+ computers that were turned on, I would see 18 to 20 students taking a look at our large-view ClustrMap.
… Where in the world did the next person visit from? Some students were emailing friends in other countries to share what they did, so that we could get more ‘dots’ on our map. Incidental Geography lesson occurred. Audience mattered.
Audience mattered to me too! It mattered that I was publishing my daily agenda to the world on the front page of this wiki. I was keenly aware that things went slower than I’d hoped, that I was winging it as I learned to use a wiki at the same time as my students, that I was asking them for public feedback, etc. As I recently said in a comment on George Couros’ post: Why Social Media Can and Is Changing Education,
Teachers are forced to be more reflective when they are open. When I started to open my classroom and share what I was doing with parents, and the world, I thought more about what I was doing and why I was doing it. My practice changed.
As I connected with more and more educators online, I began to learn from them in ways that I was not learning even in my own building. I was working with some amazing educators, but I wasn’t having ‘learning conversations’ with them on my own personal time lines, feeding my passion for learning when and where I wanted to learn. I noticed the same desire for ‘learning on your own time’ by my students who were contributing to our class wiki at all hours of the night, and also at lunchtime at our school (when they should not have had access to computers). Our learning practice had changed.
Being “open” unintentionally changes us so that doing things in new ways isn’t just a possibility, but a necessity and a convenience. To me these are two key point in why social media is changing education:
Necessity – Being open makes us more reflective educators.
Convenience – Being open creates opportunities for anytime learning, beyond the confines of classrooms and schools.
Going back to my reflection post, the comments tell a story… a story about me as an educator that would not have been possible without the audience a blog gives me:
Your reflection goes beyond teaching science, no doubt. Perhaps that is a result from blogging to an audience of teachers at large. You have learnt how to spot the core edu-issues to be discussed. […] Blog readers and commenters become part of the network of your thoughts. They help us to refine ideas, express them in a precise manner and direct them to the people who may continue developing them.
~ Claudia Ceraso
Your mindfulness about trying to approach this project differently and trying not to “steer” students too much was fascinating. Glad to have helped in some small way!
~ Carolyn Foote
I really enjoyed your authentic reflection and willingness to share your learning with all of us. It is this that is probably your greatest success with this project.
~ Dave Sands
I think that I’m a better educator because I’ve created an audience. I think students can benefit from an authentic audience in the same way. We tell students to write to an audience and that ‘audience matters’, but they don’t get it… I didn’t get it as a student or even as a teacher, until I started blogging.
Create an audience for yourself. Create an audience for your students. Raise both the level of interest and the level of concern in your projects and your practice. If you don’t blog, think about what it can do for you and your students. If you haven’t tried an ‘open‘ project, here is some simple advice to help you get started. Being open, and sharing your work and student work online, invites an audience and an authentic audience matters!
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• Related notes: My last post was about AUP’s, questioning their value as opposed to just making online expectations an extension of current school policies. On the Science Alive wiki, I shared our school beliefs as they related to online activities, and when I had a cyberbullying issue, it was dealt with in class as a teachable moment and also treated as a bullying issue in the school.