Wikis for Writing Development

Looking out of the front of City Hall
Collaboration

I’ve posted before about how Moodle forums (or any forums) can be used to develop students writing. Another simple tool that I often with students at a number of different levels is the Wiki activity in Moodle. However the techniques should work in most wikis.

Wikis

Wiki is one of those bits of Edtech jargon that gets thrown around a lot. Even if you don’t know the term, you will know Wikipedia, which is the biggest wiki of them all. A wiki is simply a website that the user can create and edit. In education, we can use wikis to allow learners to easily create and edit webpages; this highly flexible tool has many possible uses.

Moodle

In Moodle wikis text is inputted through an editor similar to that found in a webmail tool such as Hotmail. Users can then come back to the page and further edit its contents. The page can be configured to be edited by all students on the course or only by individual students (teachers can edit all wikis).

Moodle wikis are simple to set up (see below), you enter the instructions for learners, decide whether you want it to be an individual or class wiki and then click on save. I use it to set students a writing task in class time, they work on this and then once they have saved their work I go in, leave comments and colour code their errors (I stole this idea from a colleague of mine). Students are then able to go in and improve their versions.

I find that this exercise works best for longer pieces of writing as students can return to their writing and reflect on what they have already done.  I then get the students to copy their proofread and improved writing into a word processor, where they can improve the look of their final piece of writing. If you want learners to print out their work, it is best to do this last phase in a wordprocessor as they will generally improve the appearance of the text.

Why use Wikis?

The best thing about using wikis is that it makes it very easy for the teacher (or other learners) to give feedback to learners, allowing the redrafting process to be informed by this input. It also allows learners to clearly see the benefits of redrafting their work (especially through the history tab). It is this easy access which allows wikis to be so useful for developing writing.

Step-by-step guide

  1. Make sure that you have editing on – click on the button on the left hand side.
  2. Wiki: EditingSelect Wiki in the Editing Menu (where you want to place the wiki)Wiki:Editing Menu
  3. Enter a title and instructions for your learners.Wiki:Title
  4. Select whether you want a group or student wiki (for this proofreading exercise an individual wiki for each student is best).Wiki: Type of Wiki
  5. Ensure that you save your Wiki!!Wiki: Save
  6. Students can switch between view (where they can see their page) and edit (where they can edit their page) using the tabs indicated.Wiki:Tabs
  7. After students have created their page (and saved it) you can go into their page and edit it – I usually colour code their errors and add comments (thanks to my colleague Sandra for that idea)Wiki:Feedback
  8. Students can then go back and edit the page further, having benefitted from your feedback. You can use the history tab to retrieve earlier versions should you wish to compare them.
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5 thoughts on “Wikis for Writing Development

  1. Hi,
    very nice advice. I have fears using wikis in my lessons as I work in private foreign schools in China… my students aren’t around enough for me to set up a successful CMS (or whatever the acronym is)… what I tried is Google Wave for editing, peer correction, and general writing exercises… have you any advice for making that a successful venture?
    Tim

    1. I’ve never really used Google Wave – but then it probably does show each participants contribution and so could be good for peer correction. Another tool I’ve seen, but not used in class yet is Etherpad – that’s probably worth a look.

      In terms of feedback, there’s always track changes and adding comment in MS Word – show your students how to do that (if they don’t know already) and it could be useful…

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