Tag Team Tech: Wrestling with Teens and Technology June 2013

Wikispaces Is More Than Just a Wiki

Sarah Ludwig

June 2013

I’ve used Wikispaces since I first became a school librarian in 2007, but it’s only been over the past year that I’ve learned what a powerful tool it is. Wikispaces, which is free, is more than just a wiki builder. Now that Wikispaces Classroom has been introduced, Wikispaces is also a learning management system, rich with powerful tools for teachers and librarians to use with their students. Until last spring, when I worked with students on creating interactive walking tours of our nearby city of New Haven, I used Wikispaces simply as a place to share links with students. After that project, I was aware of much more that Wikispaces has to offer.

Classroom Tools

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If you make the switch to Wikispaces Classroom (which is free and as simple as clicking a button in your settings), your wiki turns into a learning management system, including a news feed on the main page that allows you to generate discussions, events, and projects.

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(Above image via Wikispaces)

You can also access your wiki members and the assessment page, which shows you, at a glance, who has read, written, or saved information lately. You can also toggle to see activity within a particular project. On the members page, you can send messages within Wikispaces to a particular student, invite new members, and change permissions.

On the project page, you can create a project–students have to research a particular topic and write a collaborative document, for example–and assign members either individually or in teams. And once the students begin work on their project, you can track who is doing what.

Embedded Media

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Whether you elect to make the switch to Wikispaces Classroom or not, there are still numerous features you can use when building your wiki. Through the use of widgets, you can embed almost anything on a page, including:

  • Videos from YouTube, TeacherTube, etc.

  • Google calendars, documents, and maps

  • Photo slideshows from Flickr

  • Delicious bookmarks

  • Glogster posters

In the aforementioned project, I embedded a Google map with custom markers for each spot that the students visited. On the markers, users could click on a link to another Wikispaces page with embedded audio files that I’d exported from Audible. Wikispaces makes it easy to embed files through uploading them, and the audio files work great because they can be played right on the page.

Embedded media also made it easy for me to create a digital literary magazine using Glogster, photographs, and Go Animate. The latter provides embed code for all its videos. We used Glogster as our table of contents page and linked from each image on the poster to a wiki page. The students created artwork to illustrate short stories and uploaded them as well.

Interactivity

Along with the ability to embed media, and the tools offered via Wikispaces Classroom, educators can also use widgets to invite student interaction. These include:

  • Discussion areas where students can submit comments–the maximum number is set by the person creating the wiki

  • Surveys (using Survey Gizmo or another survey program)

  • Chat windows using Meebo, Skype, or another chat program

These tools allow you to not only share information, but also ask students to interact with it either at home or in the classroom. If you were to use Wikispaces as a library homepage, you could offer chat reference, invite patron feedback, and even run a book group using the discussion area.

To learn more about Wikispaces Classroom, visit their blog or watch their archived video tour.

Lastly, here are some great examples of educators using Wikispaces:

Ludwig-headshot, used with permissionSarah Ludwig  is the academic technology coordinator at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Hamden, Connecticut. Formerly she was the head of teen, technology, and reference services at the Darien (CT) Library, where she developed the library’s first teen program after serving as the head of library services at Wilbraham & Monson Academy in western Massachusetts for three years. She  is currently the chair of YALSA’s Teen Tech Week Committee. Her book, Starting from Scratch: Building a Teen Library Program, was published by ABC-CLIO in June 2011.

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