wikis in the classroom: technique

On a long roundabout tour (reading up on using twitter, originally) I bumped into a teaching technique by Jason B Jones on The Salt-Box :: Wikified class notes.

Class notes themselves are epistemologically weird. Usually, we think of notes as private, but if they’re *too* idiosyncratic, they might not be very accurate, or very useful later in the semester. What would be useful is a set of canonical class notes: This is what we agree happened on this day in class.

I’ve had good results with a similar exercise in College Writing II, having groups of students develop definitions, as well as locate and create examples of rhetorical appeals. My exercises aren’t as neatly structured as Jones’s, but I’m in class while the students are working to oversee how they are doing and provide some scaffolding.

As Jones finds, the first results are pretty cutandpaste: copy from the book and paste it in. It takes some time for students to move past the found object, processed information and more towards their own developing understanding. Over a few weeks, however, they begin to see the wiki – and the web and the book – less as a repository and more as elements in their writing space.

I’m not sure what drives this change, however: what moves students past recitation and towards consideration. What’s interesting is that we can see it happen on the wiki by paging through the revisions and refactoring.