What is a blog? How do you use a Wiki?
These are questions that Ultranet will help us answer. As with many technology tools, it is often easier to see them in action but in this week's article, I'm going to try and clarify the different purposes and uses of these now everyday tools.
The Ultranet is a virtual learning environment that offers different 'spaces' for different purposes (learning, information sharing, group meetings, personal info). On all of these spaces, blogs and wikis are an important tool. They allow users to interact, give opinions and share learning. Most importantly, it encourages us all to reflect on our learning - what we teachers call 'metacognition'. So how might they be used in a classroom?
Blogs were initially a kind of online diary, a web-log. There is one owner, who posts their thoughts, ideas, opinions and then accepts comments (or feedback) from those who read their posts. In Grade 5 and 6 we use Blogs in our classroom programs. Students access information online and complete tasks, reply to others and ask questions. The Blog is owned and run by the classroom teacher who posts the activities and the students respond. They aren't owners of the space but can contribute - following cyber-safety guidelines of course!
Wikis are collaborative. Wikipedia is a well-known online encyclopedia that has been created by thousands of individuals around the world. Every member can edit, add to or contest any content. Each member has equal ownership and privileges. In classrooms we use wikis when we want students to create, design, debate and interact online. For example, a wiki based on our local environment lets all students upload photos they have taken, write about their research findings, edit each others' work and create pages for different sub-topics.
As Blogs and wikis continue to evolve it can be difficult to see the differences. But the way they are used is the key point – both offer 21st century learning in online virtual environments. The Ultranet, soon to be released for student access, will give the opportunity to use Blogs and Wikis for a variety of learning and teaching opportunities.