Wordle as Discussion Synthesis

Wordle: Reign Of Queen Victoria

Edit: Wesley Fryer has a great post this week with a variety of digital means of delving into President Obama’s recent speech at West Point (among them Wordle).

This past week our socials class made use of its Wikispace’s discussion boards to conduct ranging conversations around major themes in their respective chapters. For the grade nines, this meant the English Civil War; the tens discussed Canada’s colonial society and its political issues.

Wordle: Talons multiculturalism discussionStudents divided the chapter into sections which were read and mined for a discussion topic by partners or groups of three. The class then was assigned the reading of their respective chapter, and was asked to post in a variety of the discussion threads at a rate of three-to-five quality posts for each of the assignment’s two days. The student-groups who had crafted and posed each of the original questions were charged with moderating their discussion thread, and at the end of the week the task of Wordle: parliamentsynthesizing the major points of the discussion. As one of the wiki’s purposes is to serve as a reference and study tool as the socials curriculum (and respective stories of the European march toward independance and exploration, and Canada’s first steps into democracy and the West) will continue to accumulate through the final exam in June, a brief representation of what became at times passionate and articulate debate could potentially go a long way.

Wordle: Reign of Queen VictoriaBut this was also a tall task, given that many of the discussions had veered into tangents that may not have had any bearing on the original purpose of the material.

Out of the density of text, Wordle.net came to the rescue, the results of which freckle this page, and aided in the creation of the intended summary paragraphs of the discussions’ major themes and ideas. When the final does arrive though, I wonder if these wordles – as well as those which will follow – just may prove to be the more valuable study tool?

3 Comments:

  1. An interesting project Bryan, I just glanced at the Wikispaces page and read one of the discussion boards. Some good discussion from the students too. How did you start them using Wikispaces, did you have a tutorail for them to view on how to make a page etc. or did you merely show them in class (the luxury of a high school classroom)? I am just asking as I am about to embark on a Wikispaces project with my students – having them set up their own Wiki’s on the novels that they are reading in English for their independant novel study. They have the option of doing a Wiki or a scrapbook but I am hoping that most of them, especiallly my gifted students, choose the wiki option. I just feel that it might be difficult for the majority of them to set up their wiki’s and am busy trying to put together some Jing presentations on how to set up a wiki etc.

  2. Hey Paul,

    Thanks for looking in on what the students are doing with the Wikispace. In the age of digital information, using a textbook that was published in 1998 (and contains chapters on “Modern Canada” and “Canada and the Pacific Rim” (written while Hong Kong was still British!)) seems to demand being annotated in some form. We’ll see where the Wiki goes, definitely: I am hoping it becomes sort of a class “work book,” representative of the variety of projects and learning that occurs over the course of the year.

    We’ve (the grade tens anyway) used a lot of the Wiki stuff in Sharepoint last year (and the nines are familiar with either Wikispaces, Wikipedia, or SharePoint wikis, for the most part), so the general functions weren’t too difficult to master (and for what it’s worth, everyone is very pleased to be free of SharePoint’s clunkyness at Wikis). No real instruction on how to use it, as the first project involved only certain group members publishing to the Wiki (I assume as we continue forward this knowledge will spread), though things like embedding html (the Wordles, video, etc) were a surprise to many last week.

    Is your class setting up separate wikis? It could be much easier to moderate if they were all ‘housed’ on one central English wiki (in the long run – a whole year – I think that there are few better repositories of links, video, images, etc). This way you can jump between different users posts from the “Manage Wiki” screen, and they can easily visit one another’s work.

    Be sure to share the link when they start to come up! We have some voracious readers in our bunch, and it would be cool to start fostering some conversation between the classes.

    Cheers,

    Bryan

    • I was thinking about having them set up individual wiki’s as that would allow the students to work independantly – also would eliminate any issues of socially irresponsible behaviour – not that I think that would happen though but it is likely to with the younger students. My project is also set up so as to have various parts to it, such as a characters facebook page, ipod list etc. I have also left it up to the students to decide if they would like to do a wiki or simply a scrapbook so this may not be an entire class activity. Let me know and I will send you a copy of what we are doing – I have adapted it from an idea taken from Chuck Baker at Best.

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