Friday, July 21, 2006

AP Biology, Blog or Wiki?
I was listening to a podcast of Alan November speaking at NECC. Several things he said resonated my own thoughts as I decide how to effectively integrate the Web 2.0 with my curriculum. Because the medium is different, the assignment that utilizes the medium has to be different as well. If pencil and paper could be used to complete the assignment, why use the computer? If the assignment can be cut and pasted to completion in a few minutes, of what value is the exercise to the student?
For example, this will be my first year teaching AP Biology. I understand the time constraints will require that a lot of the work on the part of the student to be completed outside of class . One idea I had was to post an essay question online and have the students collaboratively develop an answer. There were a few things I needed to be able to do with this assignment.
First, make it a true collaborative effort. Not the usual group project where one person does most of the work and the rest of the group sits back and takes credit. Therefore, my second need was to verify student input and award credit. Maybe 3-points for an original and correct content contribution, 2-points for a content correction or clarification and 1-point for grammar/syntax correction.
The dilemma then, do I use a blog or a wiki? I understand the collaborative nature of wiki pages and originally had thought ot employ this tool. But, after reading FAQ's at the PB wiki site, I decided to use a blog instead.
The PB wiki does allow for verifying which student modifies the page and when, but unless I search back through the various permutations of the developing page, I won't know what content the student contributes.
So, I've decided to use a blog. It will be a restricted one, accessed only by my students with an assigned username. The comment section will be used to verify what content was actually contributed. I would also like to set up the blog with an "I'm on-line" indicator in the sidebar so that students may chat as they develop content.
Next post, an idea for a wiki!


Sean Martinson said...

An interesting post, you tackle quite a few topics! For starters it's an excellent point to make about using a technology tool when paper and pencil and/or cut and paste will suffice. You really have to think through the essential questions and knowledge you want your students to gain and decide whether either of these tools will fit. I think you saved yourself quite a bit of hassle by reading up on wikis and finding out right away that in order to track student contributions you have to wade through an ocean of updates and track whose is whose, not very effective. Blogs may work as well showing postings and tracks to work, a little easier to feel the work.

If I may be so bold, you may want to think about running a companion course to your website through a course management system such as Moodle. This option at least allows you to offer wikis and blogs (haven't tried blogs yet) in a one stop environment in which you can control access to. With Moodle you can also offer students discussion boards and chat rooms, again which you can moderate.

Doesn't really answer your question but I think Moodle may be something worth looking in to.

Not to just offer a suggestion and leave you hanging.... if you want to I can set a course up for you at: and let you tool around and see if that will work for you.

Again, great post! I love to see it when people question why we'd use these tools. There has to be a purpose!

Sean M.

Stormcrow said...

Thanks Sean. You must have just polished your crystal ball! I think you have answered the question that I would probably have had to ask in about three post; "Is there a way to organize these tools for effective integration into my curriculum?" Moodle sounds like a strong candidate for doing just that! I had previously read your post "Moodle VS. Desire2Learn" ( and had Moodle on my "learn-more-about-it" list. I will be in touch.
Thanks again.