I'm looking to create an argument we can present to our superintendent for why teachers should be able to use wikis in class. Our tech department is not allowing access to these sites because students could access "non-educational wikis" or might plant a virus on their wiki.

Tech pretty much runs the show in our buildings, so any help to build an argument that you might be able to give would be much appreciated.

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I'm sure you are frustrated. If you use wikispaces and sign up through the educational wiki link, there are no ads and no obvious way to visit other wikis. We've done 5 wikis, for five different reasons over the last two years (grades 2-6) . Here is one we did joining the book The Wright 3 to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.
The thing about wikis is if a students would do something as nefarious as "plant a virus" on a wiki, they have to sign in first to do it. With Wikispaces, you can track every file that has been uploaded and who did it. Wikis are especially great tools because of the built in accountability they offer in that regard.

My question is this, if they are going to visit a "non-educational wiki" what about all of the other non-educational sites that are out there like ESPN? Do they block those as well? I may sound like a broken record because it's probably been discussed before, but we can't keep our students in a protective bubble. We have to teach responsibility and hold them accountable for their actions when they go off task and into "unapproved" sites.
Al, I love the travelogue wiki, what a great idea. I have one major problem with wikis (I've only used Wikispaces), they are ugly. It takes a really developed design eye to make them anything more than page after page filled with text or long lists of web links. I still do all of our curriculum units on webpages--they just look so much more organized and the kids can easily find stuff. You can see our blogs, wikis, curriculum pages, and Moodle applications HERE.
I'm glad someone agrees with me. I teach gifted kids, many of whom are visual learners (like me) and the wiki doesn't do it for them! I'll look into Wetpaint again, next time I'm planning a wiki. I've done websites for almost 20 years, I used to do them with students but don't anymore. I've decided that the Internet doesn't need another elementary student website and they are way too time consuming. I bet you have a neat job! N.
Last year I used a web site for my computer class information but found that a pain since I had to either back it up and take it with me or just maintain it at home. I like having a wiki this year because it's easier for me to make changes to plans on the fly if necessary. I don't know if I'll stay with a wiki from year to year - that remains to be seen - I'm redoing the school web site in WordPress (I think anyway) and may just integrate the computer information into that when it's done since that will be accessible from any browser too.

I agree that wikis aren't pretty or fancy or flashy but too me that's part of their usefulness. They're easy to maintain and easy to track for accountability and seem to help focus on content rather than form. If you know HTML & CSS you can visually enhance them somewhat.
Wow! That is pretty amazing that Tech is actually holding back one of the most promising tools on the web for education. Its an oxymoron for certain...

I use wikis heaps for managing student reflection and documentation around extra-curricular involvement - required for graduation and also for managing/sharing all of my units and lesson plans.

As it sounds like you know already, Wikis are truly the one-touch method of information management. I love them because students can post comments, edit previous reflections, get activity supervisor, parent and homeroom teacher input all in one place that I can access from anywhere on the planet with or without my own computer. With pbwiki.com they are private and free but there are other providers that work just as well, I believe.

For my personal wiki that I use for collaborative projects with other staff in addition to organizing all my own files etc, I upgraded to a silver package approx 100USD and that enables me to selectively share certain pages/folders within my wiki with various faculty. I really can't sing the praises of wikis loudly enough. Unless I need overheads in a different format like keynote or powerpoint, I also frequently just use the Wiki view with a projector for my overheads and boards.

With regard to inappropriate wikis or non-educational wikis I haven't seen this as an issue but we have a very different technology use policy that places more of the responsibility on the kids to use the web responsibly but it sounds like we are dealing with different demographics entirely.

Does your tech dept prevent access to all outside resources? Youtube etc? Youtube as well can be a fantastic resource for classroom education but it too is hugely non-educational. That said there are enough gems on it to make it useful for finding more current or slightly alternative resources.
Good point, Clark. The short-sighted vision of some wikis being "educational" and others not is limiting knowledge from the very beginning. Perhaps what is needed in the education system is more focus on how to determine what is and what is not a good wiki just like students learn what is and what is not a good resource for a paper.

Also, can't most wikis be blocked access to just that group? I use pbwiki and it has that feature.
I have to say I haven't bumped into many, or should I say any, porn-wikis. N
Absolutely! Our tech department blocks YouTube despite my objections because they could access personal or improper material. Understand, i am a letter of the law guy. I uphold our school's rules, but I just see more damage being done than protection being served. I tried to embed YouTube videos on my Moodle site for discussion. Blocked. I tried to utilize Wikis (Moodle has accessible wikis, but only one person can access them at a time--which to me goes against the point). Of course, those are blocked too! I can't even get my kids on bloglines to subscribe to RSS feeds. I feel as if tech is keeping us from actually utilizing the web. My stduents can look at ESPN or Time, but they can't publish. I am extremely frustrated, so I came here for some argumentative advice.
I am not sure it is a great strategy or not but you could discuss/compare the options you have for collaboration on performance tasks. Students who have been asked to complete a group project are fairly limited without wikis.

If Google Apps isn't blocked they can use that resource but the way wikis allow you to keep track of page history and manage multiple levels of information is a compelling advantage.

If your tech dept hasn't blocked edublogs or other blog technologies (which I doubt given the other info) students could manage projects with blogs but I have found the simplicity of wiki edits is intuitive where the back-end management of blogs throws them off and takes a lot more of my time in tech support when I should be focused on content.

You could also explore the 20 year old approach of mailing word documents back and forth using comment tracking but wikis do that better.

You could also discuss the approach we took in school using the meet at the library and make things on poster board technology. That approach is time proven save since Cro-Magnon times but then again some of that cave art gets pretty pornographic with nothing but loin cloths covering the body so tech might be concerned.

In all seriousness though, I think using the "facilitate collaboration effectively" argument is probably your best bet. Good luck!
If I were you, I would educate myself and go to the top. Make an appointment to see the superintendent or someone else with some power. What are they going to do? Fire you? Two years ago I had to do this in my large district. Looking back it was a silly thing, flickr.com was blocked, other photo sharing sites were not. I felt flickr was guilty by association to Facebook and MySpace. In constructing my arguments I learned a lot. The tech committee (2 assoc. superintendents + tech guys) in my district listened to my arguments. The outcome doesn't matter because my point is this--if you feel strongly you need to fight.

Also remember to look at things from the IT guys point of view. It's easier to have strict policies and stick to them! They want to protect their machines and their network so it's easiest if they batten down the hatches. They also have to worry about meeting the criteria of the federal gov. Most of them are not teachers. Let me know how things turn out--remember "if your not part of the solution you're part of the problem"! Give em hell. (Easy for me to say, I retire soon!) :)

Did you know you can convert YouTube videos to a format that will not be blocked? I use a program called http://zamzar.com.
Thanks for the link to Zamzar. I had heard about this at the Open Minds conference in Indianapolis, but lost all my notes. I really need this because even though some of the videos I would like to use on my Moodle site are on TeacherTube, they are just too slow when embedding them.



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