Overall the project (see the last post) was a success. Student groups were assigned a topic, they researched it, wrote a short article that was posted on a wiki, and then they validated each other’s articles. During the validation process, if there were mistakes, from factual errors to typos, they were fixed immediately. I did some review of the changes (under the recent changes link that comes with MediaWiki) and was overall impressed with what they changed. I was afraid that most groups would gloss over the articles they were to review. This is a group of Advanced Placement kids though; I know the validation process would be more difficult with college prep students. With the AP test now just two days away, they have another very specific resource to review.
There are two aspects to this project worth noting. First, conceptually, it is basic. The students research (mostly with their notes and textbook), and then write it up. The cool twist is the ability for students then to edit each other’s work, without having to share word documents (a nightmare!).
Second, it is easy. Yes, I have a tech side to me, but there are plenty of free resources that are actually easier to set up and use then the method I chose. I pay about $80 a year for my own domain and server space. I do have access to my district’s server and still host a majority of my materials there, but I have found having this personal space important (for one, I would have been foolish to post union related blog entries). Plus, it gives me access to features not available to me through the school.
The wiki engine I used, MediaWiki, practically self-installs. All I had to do is provide access to a MySQL database. This was easily done through an interface provided by the server company. Then I uploaded the wiki files, initialized it, and then it worked.
There were a couple changes I had to make to the config.php file in order to make sure only my students were able to edit, add, and change information. Then I had a TA enter the user accounts by hand (I could have allowed the students to do it, but I like to control their user names – let them choose and who knows what you will get).
On the first day in the computer lab, I give a basic tutorial (5-10 minutes) on how to change their password, make changes, configure the text, and save. Then they start working. Like I mentioned in the last post, this project could easily be done in Seedwiki or Wikispaces.
Any questions – let me know.