Sixth grade group writing in Moodle wiki

I had a great conversation with Carter, our sixth grade language arts teacher, about the writing assignment he has organized in a Moodle wiki. Carter described in the clearest terms I have heard in a long time the advantages that wiki has facilitated for his students. I won’t remember them all now, but this is a start, and then I will ask Carter to edit this post.

Carter has taught this writing assignment previously, without computer assistance. Each group of students writes to five required aspects of The Hobbit: setting, characters, conflicts, climax, and theme. Within each group, students must write to different aspects of each required aspect. For instance, two students could not write about the same character. The entire exercise serves as a precursor to a set of group presentations in class.

Last year, when the project was on paper, it did not effectively attract students’ attention. The kids wanted to move quickly to the more interesting class presentations. This year, on the wiki, this phase of the project has held students’ attention on its own. The wiki has provided several benefits, mostly through making it possible for students to read each others’ writing. In a classroom with writers of different abilities, some students have become writing models for other students. Students are improving their comprehension of the text by reading what their friends have figured out. The wiki has made it easy to ensure that students write on different topics. If one student has already posted on a particular character, the next student who posts needs to write about someone else! To top it off, much of the work took place on days when class did not meet! Carter especially appreciated the ability to comment on students’ work without having to first meet them in class to collect a printed paper.

Other ancillary benefits: keeping the project online reduces paper consumption. Students learned a new, web-based technology. They wrote online. A few found creative workarounds when the wiki failed them (see previous post).

This collaboration between Carter and me met many of the criteria that can lead to successful technology integration efforts. Carter first identified his pedagogical objectives, and then I suggested a technology we had that matched them best. Carter carved out time to introduce the students to the technology and wrote up detailed instructions for the students to follow. Carter invited me into the first class of the day, and then he taught the rest by himself. The students demonstrated enthusiasm, adaptability, and supported each other when working with the new technology. Carter called me back quickly when some students encountered a Moodle bug that stopped them from completing their work.

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