I arrived home really geeked yesterday. There were a couple of reasons for this. First, I had a chance to have prolonged discussions with two of my favourite people. The second, and the “Powered by PD” part came from an after-school workshop. I am constantly humbled by the professionalism that comes from folks taking time from their lives to spend a couple of hours learning something new. Now, we all know that enduring understanding comes from working with something until it becomes part of what you do but you do need to have a kick start and therein lies the true value here.
The workshop was about how to create your own wiki. For my purposes, any wiki has the same educational value but I’ve zeroed in on PBWorks as my platform of choice and haven’t regretted the decision.
Many people want to be “on the web”. Certainly, it’s a powerful step in your digital presence. There are other reasons though – it sends a strong message to parents and students about your computer prowess; it saves on paper and a really good concept is that spelling mistakes are not forever; and you are never stuck wondering where your binder of resources are. Just get on the web and grab them.
A wiki extends the concepts and we talk about the use of them. They could be as simple as a glorified webpage, locked up in a fashion that would excite even the most aggressive control freak or it could be a wide open collaboration space where teacher and students could learn together. And, of course, there are configurations somewhere in between.
I had the nice surprise of my friend Kelly showing up to co-facilitate with me. We share the similar high esteem for the wiki technology and both took the PBWorks educator program a couple of summers ago. Our “styles” are completely different though. She’s the queen of bling and design. I’m apparently dowdy. Can you be digitally dowdy?
See a comparison of our styles at the Benson Library Wiki and my PD Wiki. Despite our different styles, our uses are very similar. We both agree on the concepts of collaboration spaces and invite participants, and we both agree on internet safety which you’ll see in her wiki where she protects certain content from unauthorized viewers.
But, the geeked part comes from the enthusiasm from our participants as they very quickly “get it”. Quite frankly, the button pushing part of working with PBWorks can be covered with ease in half an hour. It’s the power of applying this functionality into learning environments that puts you over the edge. So, once we covered the basics, it was off to create some learning environments that support motivated, engaged learning spaces. All too quickly, it was over.
On the drive home, I kept thinking about the evolution of web presence. I can remember teaching how to create web content with Notepad, Claris Homepage, Macromedia/Adobe Dreamweaver, and other products. We end up with something decent at the end but the logistics are a challenge. Even if you get something that you can post, you then have to figure out how and where to post it. It could go on the district’s server but you have to bother the keeper of the password to upload. You could go to a public hosting site but they’re blocked by the content filter so a well crafted webpage just wouldn’t be available to students so that’s out. Yes, you could have students create the content but they often confuse flashy, shiny things for content. Want to see an example? @dannynic shared this site this morning. It’s called the Geocities-izer. If that doesn’t bring back fond memories of the mid-1990s, I don’t know what will. Hopefully, your digital footprint doesn’t look like that today.
Selfishly, I always walk away from leading a Professional Development session with some ideas about how I can go back to what I do and make it better. I really enjoy working and learning together. So, yesterday, equally powered, we all go forward to improve our own footprints.
I’ll close with a shameless promotion – Kelly and I take our Wiki workshop on the road this summer and will be part of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation summer program. You can read more about this here.