Internet, Learning, Tech, Writing

Using Wikispaces in less than 30 minutes

Do you have a wiki?  Do you hear that work and kind of brush it off? Do you wish you had one but don’t have the time and are not sure you would even use it?

I was you!

My class are knee deep in their How We Express Ourselves unit and we are writing poetry like it is our job. They are loving it and so am I.  But what to do with it all?  We have writing folders for paperwork and we have computer folders for online documents but that just wasn’t enough. I wanted somewhere for the kids to publish their work in a way that worked for them, allowed them to see each others work and be inspired by it, comment on each others work and enter into a real community of poetic learners.  Cue: THE WIKI.

I had never made one. But I found a really cool poetry wiki of a high school class and I knew that is what I wanted. This surprised me because as you will see, the wiki itself is not particularly beautiful – and I like beautiful things.  But it was really, really functional (my husband would be so proud!) and so I knew this was it.

Here’s how simple it is to do:

1. Go to Wikispaces and in the “Join Now” box on the left-middle of the page, click “I’m a Teacher”.

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 11.21.40 PM

2. Choose a username (this can be changed once every 30 days if you so choose), a password, and enter your email address.

3. Fill in some biographical information to prove you are using this for educational purposes and name your wiki (this can be changed later if you wish).

4. Your Wiki is ready!

5. Look to the far right/top of the screen for your information:

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 11.29.01 PM

I am the Avocado Alligator and my one wiki is called “4Dpoetry”.

6. To add your students, click on your wiki, click on “Settings” (top right) and then click on “User Creator” on the left column:

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 11.31.34 PM

7. Here is the thing I really love.  After clicking on ‘User Creator’ you have the option of how you will add your students:

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 11.33.39 PM

I chose the second option and a small box opens for you to type in names (one on each line). I made up names by putting together a color and an animal with the same initial letter and then the number 44 just in case someone else was as clever as me!  After typing in the names of all your kids (or enough pen names to be able to match one to each child) hit ‘next’ and you get this screen:

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 11.37.13 PM

You can see I added “PolkadotPanda44” to my list of usernames. I kept it all as one word.  I then kept the first box checked ‘no’. The second box kept as ‘Column 1’, and the third box as ‘These users do not have email addresses’.  I also had Wikispaces generate the passwords for me. Basically, get to the page and just click ‘continue’!  You may find there is a warning if your name is a double-up, so be creative and add perhaps two or three more names than you will need so you can delete any that may not be suitable (already in use).

When you ‘continue’, you have the option of printing a list of usernames and passwords.  We have a studybook with a section for usernames and passwords so these went in there. I allocated usernames with some input from the students.

Finally, create a page for each student by clicking on the + sign next to “Pages and Files”:

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 11.42.43 PM

I made a page for each student and the home page explains the purpose of the Wiki. When you add a new page, you do have to put something on the page in order to create it (I just wrote on each page, “This is the poetry page of the Golden Gorilla” etc). The rule for us is that on the wiki, we are always referred to by our Wiki Name. I haven’t investigated the use of the ‘Projects’ feature but my initial look tells me you can create an assignment and assign different students groups to work on tasks together. It looks good but I don’t have a use for it just yet. Check out the Wikispaces Blog for more information on the Projects feature.

Here is what I like about this:

1. It is free

2. You don’t need email addresses for your kids

3. The editing interface is super simple

4. The speech bubbles let you start conversations with other users

5. The clock icon shows when edits have been made and by whom (in case work is “accidently” deleted!).

6. It is really easy to add screenshots, upload photos, or to import images via web addresses.

Most of all, I love that my kids love it!  When we started, I had the homepage as my domain but not my own animal/color name or page.  I changed my name to be like the kids and I created my own page.  I started adding work to my page as a model for what they could add to their page. They were excited that I had gone from ‘sterborg’ to ‘AvocadoAlligator’ and used the message feature to get in touch.  Here is what one student said:

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 11.50.22 PM

“Welcome to our Community”. I didn’t need to tell them that this was their special place – they were telling me that it was ours. Perfect!

I saved the best for last, though!  You can go to “settings” and click on “Exports/Backups” and from there, download a PDF of your Wiki. If you have set it up the way I have with a page for each child, these pages become “Chapters” and all their work (including formatting) will be stored in one document:

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 12.07.31 AM

At the end of the unit, we can print a copy of our poetry anthology!

If you are more of a visual/auditory learner, check out this video explanation:

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