Making information meaningful

“I remember thinking that the textbook, however it manifest itself, should become a meeting place, where students come and discuss, right there at the content.” — David Warlick

I ran across David Warlick’s comment about textbooks in a post today, and it resonated because I’m teaching a workshop tomorrow for our staff on how to use wikis.   I’ve been thinking about how to create a context for the workshop for understanding what wikis can do, beyond just “host” web content and beyond just talking about a web 2.0 tool.

Warlick’s vision of a textbook which is itself a “networking” site or meeting place intrigues me as an entry point for talking to teachers about wikis, because they give teachers the power to let students create that sort of “textbook” for themselves, that is both content, and interaction, both static and dynamic, both authoritative and student-created.

Wikis are one of the simplest web 2.0 tools on the surface, but as the authors of Wikinomics point out, one of the most powerful tools in the new “economic democracy”.

How much more meaningful would a textbook be if students were an actual “part” of  using it, writing it, and interacting within it?  How much more meaningful would the information be to them?  Intriguing idea.

2 thoughts on “Making information meaningful

  1. I’m very lukewarm about Second Life in education, however this is what I’ve always pushed as an advantage of online virtual worlds generally. The data becomes the social meeting space.

    There was an exhibit on a Health Library from the Ontario Alzheimer’s Assn that had images and audio of family members affected by Alzheimers. Avatars who “consumed” that could see who else was doing so, and then start discussions about the content. Very, very different to the same material presented on a flat web page – where you often don’t know who else is viewing it at the same time … and couldn’t intereact even if you did.

  2. Hey Carolyn-I used this example–a wiki as a textbook and study guide for a unit or lesson–just this past Thursday in an interview. I was asked what a wiki was and how one might be used in a classroom. Amazingly enough I described the example of creating a textbook of sorts, as it being a meaningful tool where students are asked to become the experts of content, to create an online textbook using the vehicle of a wiki, and in that wiki add text, images, videos and more to demonstrate concept mastery. I even took it a step further and said the wiki could become the study guide too, for the big unit test given at the end. The principal was excited at the possibilities, and asked if i could do it. I told him yes–that the tools were so easy to use, even elementary kids could do this. My interview lasted an hour and a half, and the principal (who is a first time principal no less) said of the roughly 300 interviews he had already conducted (he’s opening a brand new school) mine was first interview that was exciting and one where he learned a lot himself. I felt really good about my chances. He said he’d let me know Saturday night. : (
    Here it is Monday and I haven’t heard a word, save for a crypted email saying he hadn’t made a decision yet. Now I think I may have just made myself look too “forward-minded”….talked myself right out of a job I really wanted. Oh well. So much for having wonderful ideas that are remarkably applicable to a teacher not real savy integrating technology. I thought it was a great idea anyway.

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