Wikis and marking

Interesting conversation with my co-researcher and primary school TL (thanks Stephanie) about wikis and how they are used in schools. One the one hand, wikis can be seen to be used very well, to stimulate learning and encourage cooperation amongst students; to enable students to create knowledge; and to involve students in a range of literacies e.g. as in the Futurelab Report. On the other hand – and this comes from anecdotal evidence as most of the material on wikis tends to stress the positive only – wikis are being used in ways which may, in fact, restrict cooperative working amongst students. This is where students are given tasks to complete and to only contribute individual comments on or ideas on to the wikis. This is usually a case of technology being used for its own sake, as in “This is new for the class and makes them use ICT, so they will be motivated”. Well, maybe not for very long. Wikis and other educational ICT tools are best used as an addition, and not a substitute, for student centred learning, which includes group working and discussion – face to face.

I’ve been marking all day and before anyone thinks that this is a plea for sympathy or is preparing metaphorical violins, let me say that I accept that marking part of what I do and provides very good feedback to students – whether that feedback is positive or negative, or both. Marking tends to be a mixture of exhilaration, where some students excel and take their learning further than the subject requires; satisfaction, where most students have learned from your teaching, have stayed on task and produced worthwhile (if improvable) work; frustration, where some students produce a mixture of the incisive and the plain banal, but lack consistency (e.g. they appear to have read one part of the advice but ignored other parts); and downright annoyance, where a very small minority of students appear to have ignored the speicfication, the marksheet, the advice on the forum, and the podcast. The trick with marking is always to end on a high note i.e. the last assignment you mark should always be a good one. However, it’s like cycling – you don’t always finish feeling good, no matter what you’ve done earlier.

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