Vicki Davis & Westwood Wiki: How Did it Start?

Recently, I had a very insightful and wide-ranging conversation with Vicki Davis (blog), a teacher in the Westwood Schools, Camilla, GA, and the visionary behind the Westwood Schools Wikispace. As part of our conversation, Vicki answered a series of questions about how she started using the wiki, how it’s structured, the types of assignments for which students use the wiki, and students’ & teachers’ reactions to it. Over the next week, I’ll post Vicki’s answers and insights on each of these topics. I hope this serves as a guide for you if you’re thinking of using a wiki, and want to see how another teacher has done it, and thanks to Vicki for sharing her experience!

  • How did you find out about/get into using the wiki?
    I came back from the GAETC conference and had attended three amazing sessions with David Warlick. After the session, reading his book, and some recommended blogs, I made a list of all of the technologies that he and other visionaries feel are most conducive to collaborative learning.I decided to #1 Begin blogging myself and to actively participate in the blogosphere as an educator to chronicle my experiences and LEARN, and #2 Begin using Wikis with my students.
  • How did the Westwood Wiki start?
    This was the first technology that I chose to deploy in my classroom because we have had several training sessions on collaborative learning and authentic assessment – I just felt wikis fit better with what I’d learned and with my Socratic teaching method. I used it to introduce the Concept of Web 2.0 to my computer science class. In my blog entry on December 9th I go into greater detail, but here is the synopsis of how I began..I have two computer science classes with parallel curriculum. I split them into teams of 2-3 students in each class and gave each group one word. Their assignment was to explore and create wikis on each topic in a collaborative effort with the team in the other class to help them understand the emerging concept called Web 2.0.. The six words were: blogosphere, wiki pages, social bookmarking, podcasting, RSS Feeds, folksonomy. At the conclusion they were to demonstrate the topic to the class and lead a class discussion about it.I gave them several guidelines:
  1. I asked them to post meaningful, relevant information on their topic.
  2. I asked them to summarize information they found on the Net and to link to it.
  3. I asked them to continue to read their topic and ask themselves — “What do I not understand about this topic?” and then to proceed to answer that question and post their findings.
  4. I asked them to use some of the websites that they read about.
  5. They were not allowed to delete information of another unless it was redundant or they paraphrased/edited it to make it better.
  6. On the third day, I gave each team 5 minutes to present their topic — they had to summarize and demonstrate the use of their term in action.
  7. At the conclusion of the presentation, I asked all students to post a comment on the page providing feedback or asking questions. (This was just to introduce them to the feature and to keep them focused on the task at hand.)

I really planned to just use the wiki once to introduce Web 2.0 and then move on, however, the students loved it so much and I found that it fit in so well with the Socratic teaching method that I love, that we’ve continued to supplement everything we do with the wiki.

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