Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Wiki at Frisch on Identity/Integrated Curriculum

As I wrote at the beginning of the school year, Frisch decided this year to integrate the ninth grade curriculum under the theme of identity and to do so using a wiki. The school set up a private wiki for the purpose so students could post freely. As of now, we have many pages that are inter-disciplinary. For example, a page entitled "Civic Responsibility" has hypothetical scenarios Gemara teachers posted that pertained to tort law in Bava Kama. Students had to post answers to the hypotheticals on the wiki discussion board for that page. Recently, I used the page to discuss the conflict between civil law and religious law as seen in Antigone. I asked students to consider how religion might come in conflict with civil law. Some students wrote about laws they had learned in Gemara, making the integration of the classes even deeper.

I recently asked my ninth grade class (I teach only one, an Honors class that is very bright) what they were getting out of the wiki. Some of their replies were:
1) seeing other students' answers makes me want to be original and come up with something different
2) seeing other students' answers makes me understand the assignment and how I can do it
3) I want to be the first to post, so I rush home to be able to be the first one to do the homework
4) since many students are visual learners, I find the wiki more stimulating than other educational tools
5) I like seeing what other students say and how they think

There was less educational gain in how the wiki helped the students develop a sense of their own identities. Once I directed them slightly, they were able to see what I meant, that the information on the wiki should be developing a different part of their identities. The task for second semester, then, is to develop meta-cognition in this area.

Another goal for second semester that may help with the previous one is to allow the students to create their own wiki pages. So far, only teachers have been creating pages, and students have been posting on the discussion pages. We want the students to take greater ownership of the wiki, but obviously that has to be done in a responsible way. We're working out the kinks of making this happen and will hopefully do so soon.

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