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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Since they have blocked the "hosted solutions," why not have them install free and open source solutions. That way your school has 100% control of the data.

Personally, I have problems with handing over data to third parties as well. You can do anything that hosted providers (with the exception of Google Docs) with free and open source software. No giving away your control over the data or access. No exposure to ads and 100% control over content.

You get your resources and the students won't be able to access "non-educational" content.

See the world from your administrators' viewpoint. What do they worry about? Students: extending for gifted ones and helping out those who struggle. Teachers: supporting the idealistic new ones before reality beats them down, and getting more from vets who are skilled but could coast if they wanted. I'm a veteran administrator cum teacher again, and after using a wiki in my classroom for only 3 weeks, I see promise on all 4 of these fronts.

Here's how for students. Wednesday I posed the assignment, "Find 3 articles on the current financial crisis. Post each link to your page. Beneath each the link, write a 4 bullet point summary of the article and 3 questions the article raises in your mind." In class, groups comb through what individuals collected, identify the most interesting articles and most relevevant questions raised, and then whole group discussion proceeds from there. Pedro and Suzie, the dynamic duo of my class do great, as usual. So I say to them, "Wow, why don't you two comb through the best of our wiki pages and class discussion, write a letter to our US Representative explaining what you think they should consider as they work through the mess?" I notice that Amanda only did part of the assignment. In my friendly email to the parent and learning specialist I can be very precise: "Here's a link to the assignment, here's a link to the work Amanda actually accomplished, and here's a link to a well done assignment Amanda can use as a model." So the wiki allowed me to do instant up and down differnetiation, in much less time than it took me to write this description to you.

Here's how for teachers. Veterans. I'm a skilled teacher with a big classroom personality. I write lessons in my head while doing dishes or coaching kiddie league soccer. I don't have to write much down, because I'm good enough to get away with it, usually. But I'll occasionally miss a step -- and my students will suffer a little -- because I was flying by the seat of my pants. When I upload a big chunk of a unit onto my wiki, though, simply writing it down slows and disciplines me to think though each step, and I'm less likely to make ana error. Rookies. So the new guy next door struggled some last year. He's a lot smarter than me, and certainly knows more history, but he hasn't spent the last two decades in school houses, you know? The more of my assignments and support materials I poste, the more of my comments to kids he can read behind me, the better he can learn his new craft. I would say he's tucked in behind me like a running back behind a pulling guard, but that's really not accurate. Yes, I'm clearing a path for him pedagogically. But then he'll lob a comment into my class's discussion page, or post a link to an article I didn't know about, and boom, it's the rookie who is making the veteran look good. And that kind of exchange is what education is supposed to be all about. Good luck! Mike
Sounds like you're the kind of teacher I'd like to have...you're thinking about each kid as an individual and buy into "what's fair for one may not be fair for another". I wish more good teacher would leave adminstration and go back to the classroom and fewer good teachers would leave the classroom for administration. Heres a plan--any former adminstrators who were great teachers and would like to return to teaching do so at their current salary. hmmmm?
And let them bounce back and forth. I've "hopped the fence" 5 times in 20 years. Each time I do, I gain a deeper appreciation of what education is all about. At their worst, teaching is babysitting and administering is fire fighting. At their best, they're remarkably similar: In each you first assess the needs and potential of those you're working with. Then you provide encouragement, coaching and resources so that they can exceed their own expectations and rise to yours.
These are good points. I do plan on having a sit down with our superintendent. We have a good relationship (I am also the association president) and he has respect for my opinions. Sadly, my experience so far has been that tech depts. sort of rule the roost on issues such as these, because too many administrators still do not understand web 2.0 tools.

I think you've got an uphill battle on your hands, but I would keep fighting. I have been inspired by teachers who have used wikis as publishing forums for their students, e.g. Vick Davis's FlatClassroom project, etc. I think wikis are excellent tools for project-based instruction, because student teams can publish contributions that can be organized into a class product. Others have pointed out that all student activity can be tracked so that students are held accountable for their online behavior. Reading teachers' accounts of their use of wikis, I don't get the idea that this is really much of a problem.
This is the problem. "Techies" have no business making pedagogical decisions unless they are so trained.

I wouldn't dream of telling our BOCES tech person how to configure the network (I do have knowledge in those regards--but I wouldn't do it), but she seems to think that pedagogical issues are her domain (nope--no training in pedagogy on her part). Of course, she wouldn't read a bit of what I have thrown her way!

Dave Jakes tweeted a few months ago:

"IT departments implement policy, not determine it."

So often the tail wags the dog in this regard.
Using wikis in class has completely changed the way I teach. Please visit us at www.team8blue08.wikispaces.com and see how we are building a community of learners, sharing information with our parents and friends, and creating the content of our class daily. I can't imagine teaching without our class wiki.



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