Something special to start the week, as we welcome our new guest blogger, Jo Steel. From now on we’ll be inviting the occasional blog from writers who work with us on special projects, and Jo will be helping us out on future training activities in Spain. Jo is a Teacher Trainer and Teacher at the CSIM, Universidad Complutense in Madrid and has been teaching English since 1995. She is particularly interested in learning how to use new technologies in and out of the classroom, teaching and training online and developing professionally online. Wikis are a sadly underused resource, yet relatively easy to set up – here, Jo gives us a few pointers!
My boss started an email to me last week about the wiki I’m designing as an ‘online staffroom’ for teachers at our centre. ‘You have great ideas and vision,” he wrote, “but we shouldn’t be surprised if the take-up is slow.’ I was flattered and gutted at the same time! I was thrilled that he appreciated what we are doing to give our teachers more flexibility to develop together, but was also saddened by his lack of faith in it. If it’s promoted well and there is good support, it can only benefit teachers and kick start their online professional development, now known as PLNs or Personal Learning Networks. So, what are wikis?
Well, they’re sites where you can share materials and collaborate on projects. You can make them public or have private groups and all participants can be informed of contributions by email or you can set them up without email. In my experience, these communal spaces really facilitate the whole learning experience. This video from Common Craft shows how they can work.
I woke up to wikis about two years ago at a conference and it took me about a year to actually design one myself. Why? Because I was afraid I didn’t know enough about them and that I’d get it wrong. Then I saw a talk on using ICT in ELT and I was convinced that I could learn by doing four things. 1 Do a little at a time (say 20 mins). 2 Do it often (or you’ll forget what you learned). 3 Expect to make lots of mistakes. 4 Don’t give up. I’ve heard a lot of resistance to learning how to use tools like this, but I’m not buying any of it. Education is moving on to what is called ‘21st Century Skills’, which refers in part to how digitally literate young people need to be to cope in a digital world. I think that as a result of this view of education, we as teachers need to have our set of digital literacy skills, in addition to our set of teaching skills. You may know the term ‘Bring your own device’ (BYOD) which refers to jobs where you have to provide your own tablet, smart phone or laptop. Well, I think that soon, in job interviews, we will be asked to ‘Bring your own digital literacy skills’ or BYODLS!
We are in a period of transition with teachers with varying levels of knowledge and experience of using ICT working together and we won’t be on the same page for some time. In addition, many managers have little or no training or experience and so don’t know how to help themselves or their teams. Lucky teachers will eventually get training and support from their centres. But the rest will have to train themselves or pay to do courses themselves. So, by now I’ve taught myself to use lots of technology and tools, but how have I used wikis? Well, my first one was a training course for teachers at my centre to learn how to develop online. We wanted to allow teachers to choose between online or face-to-face (F2F) training. It was quite interactive with collaborative and research tasks, and a tutor monitoring and guiding. Teacher feedback was good so it also prompted me to start wikis with my classes.
I think you should wake up to using wikis too as it’s a springboard to help you develop your own digital literacy, which, let’s face it, is just like teaching, you’ll never stop learning about it!