August 5, 2006

21st Century PD is on wikis

I am becoming convinced that all, or at least most, of the professional development sessions we participate in as educators and share with others should be organized via linked wikis. Dean did a great job modeling this last month in his multi-day digital storytelling workshop. I attempted this in June when I shared several workshops with teachers in College Station, Texas (Bryan ISD) focused on digital literacy— primarily the use of blogs and podcasts to help students develop both traditional and 21st century literacy skills. I started a blogging tools wiki a few weeks ago after an engaging skypecast on this topic, and the MTI 2006 conference I attended 2 weeks ago in Winfield, Kansas utilized a conference wiki that a fair number of folks have contributed to successfully.

So, why all this educational wiki-use? I think the answers are pretty straightforward:

  1. Wikis are collaborative, and one of the ideas we want students and teachers to both understand and LIVE is the idea that groups of people can generally come up with better ideas and solutions than people working in isolation.
  2. Wikis are iterative, meaning that they improve over time. They are not a single snapshot or a static creation, but rather a dynamic, living creation that can continue to grow as ideas change and evolve over time.
  3. Wikis are free. As teachers, we like free stuff. And wikis don’t cost anything to create in our present climate of abundant web 2.0 free tools.
  4. Wikis are RSS subscribable, which makes them easier to track and update. More information services in the coming years will embrace RSS for good reason: Pulling information of interest to you is much more preferable than having information PUSHED to you that may or may not be desired.
  5. We learn best by experiencing pedagogy and technology: Using wikis permits teachers to take on the role of learners, and directly experience how powerful but yet simple wikis are and can be for instruction– and especially group work.
  6. Wikis are fast to create and update. I’ve been making webpages to accompany my educational technology workshops since the mid-1990s, but I’ve never used anything as fast and easy as a wiki. Yes, using a tool like Dreamweaver I can create a website with many more bells and whistles– but our focus in education should generally be more on CONTENT and IDEAS rather than bells and whistles. (Vendors and our own students may lose sight of that idea often, but as the teachers in the room we shouldn’t.)
  7. Wikis can emphasize the idea that learning is ongoing rather than one-shot, and enable conversations and idea threads to continue long after the staff development session or group project deadline is over.

I am probably going to create a wiki for all the workshops that I’ll be doing for educators from now on. Thanks to Dean for already modeling this for us with his digital storytelling wiki. I’m guessing Dean and many others will be creating more wikis for use in professional development settings in the months to come! If so, we can look forward to continuing these conversations as we learn and share together. 🙂