During week seven of my writing course, we focussed explicitly on the writing process and now during week nine, students are dutifully using prewriting, organizing, drafting, editing and revising. It is a sight (and a beautiful one) to behold. Some where in all of this, we began to use the wondrous wiki for editing and revising.
Step one was to for me to set up the wiki for our class. Here I’d like to offer you a word of warning. When I used a wiki with students for the first time, I learned about something called orphan pages and I am hoping that you won’t make the same mistake. With my original (wicked) wiki, I thought everyone could simply do their work on the same page, but that is when the orphan pages began to appear (or not!). Orphan pages are pages that users create, but then don’t link to any other page. In my case, without being instructed to do so, some of my students created their own pages, did all of their hard work on that page, saved it, and then closed. The unfortunate thing was that there was nothing on the home page or any where to indicate that these pages even existed. It wasn’t until some students said that they had done the work and couldn’t find it that I went hunting. Under “Pages” I found these little lost pieces of work and quickly made links for them to the home page. To be honest, it was kind of a mess.
The best way that I have found to avoid this is, when I make the wiki, to create a page for each student and put links to these pages on the menu. When you use a wiki, you won’t always want everyone to have their own pages, but because my students use the wiki to write rather long pieces, I wanted each of them to have his or her own page. Next, I familiarized the students with the wiki. I showed them where their links were and explained they needed to click on edit, do their writing, and then save.
Wikis are excellent for editing and revising because I can look at the history of the pages and see what improvements have been made. With paper and ink pages, this type of insight is lost. This weekend I graded students’ tests and next week students will take their tests, put them on the wiki with the mistakes, save the page, edit and revise, and save the page again. Not only does this ensure that students benefit from feedback, it allows classmates to see one another’s work, ah — from wicked to wondrous.
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