Featured Wiki: Mr Bruce’s History

Larry Bruce started the first Mr. Bruce’s History in July of 2007. In June of 2010, he updated to the current Mr. Bruce’s History wiki.

1. Briefly describe your group, your wiki, and what you use it to do:
Mr. Bruce’s History serves as the class website for my 9th grade U.S. History courses. But more than being a web site where course material and instruction can be disseminated and delivered, it serves as an online collaborative workspace — a community hall, of sorts, based on the shared goals of the course and of the students.

Through Mr. Bruce’s History, students have access to an interactive class calendar, a curriculum guide based on the state content expectations and links to unit pages, a personal portfolio where they can post links to their work next to the content expectation that it is intended to address. Students also access class readings and participate in frequent discussions — all without leaving Mr. Bruce’s History!

2. Besides the Edit button, which wiki feature is your favorite?
I would have to say templates. The key functions of our wiki is based on the quick creation employment of complex pages. Creating such pages from scratch every time would prove to be unwise, taking far more time than necessary. Rather, by having templates ready for the calendar pages, the student pages, reading assignment pages, and any student wiki project pages, the workload is greatly reduced by eliminating the menial editing and all pages are uniformly matched to the site.

3. What is one way you’re using wikis and other web 2.0 tools in your projects?
As we intensified our use of Wikispaces for course management and a collaborative workspace, we also used it in combination with Google Docs to embed small group note-taking/collaborative content resources. Where we wanted real-time collaboration, I embedded a Doc on the curriculum page for that content and posted the open link and we would go to town while reading. Watching students make connections without speaking was somewhat thrilling and it drove verbal conversation as well. Setting up things like this is so easy to do on the fly, that even if a portion of the class benefits, it can be set up on the spot by anyone in the classroom.

4. Tell us about a particular moment that made you say, “Aha! THIS is why I use wikis!”
Yeah, that would have to be the first large asynchronous project that I did when teaching 8th grade U.S. History – The Big Kahuna. This project required students to work in collaborative pairs and asynchronous groups of four or more. They chose a topic from the Era of Expansion and Reform 1800-1850 that sparked their interest. These pairs would work with another pair in a different hour that chose the same topic. Pairs would produce a video on their topic and the group would construct a wiki page in which the videos would be embedded. Witnessing the pairs work in class and then communicate using email, wiki discussions, and wiki mail to collaborate with classmates outside their class was invigorating. It also generated conversations about History class outside the walls of my room. It fully utilized the purpose and design of Wikispaces and the outcome was better than I had anticipated.

5. If you could ask it, what do you think your wiki would say about you?
I think my wiki would say that I put an emphasis on a well-designed online workspace. When I speak at conferences or to groups about wikis in the classroom (or about any aspect of an online web presence for teachers) the emphasis I make is on designing it around its intended purpose. If a teacher creates a web presence (blog, wiki, WordPress, etc.) without the forethought of what function it is intended to serve, then it will exist without one. I hope that the wiki designed for my U.S. History classes demonstrates what online collaborative workspaces look like at the intersection of form and function.

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3 Comments

  1. Lauren Luwisch
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Oh man, this is the kind of thing that feels so above my head right now! I want to incorporate these amazing teaching strategies and advances in my class but do not even know where to begin. As a first year teacher, getting through the basics feels difficult enough as it is but my desire to strive for these elements is so strong.

  2. Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Lauren – As a first year teacher, I know some of your frustrations. But, I also know that by the start of classes next year you could have a really awesome wikispace page! When I got hired to teach middle school last April, I immediately started thinking about building a wikispace page. I was substituting at the school, so I could mention to students we would have a website next year. Then I started building the pages I wanted.

    By July I had all my main pages up and running! I’d sent E mail invitations to all the parents on my roster telling them there would be “summer enrichment” on the website and to visit often. They did! In July alone I got over 1,000 individual page visits – and that’s when school was out! I found that you have to add something new every 3 days or students and parents will stop coming. (Watch your statistics and you will see this trend.)

    Now, our website is a great way to communicate homework assignments, project outlines and rubrics, and share pictures of student work. That keeps students coming back.

    So, my advice is, once school lets out this year and your stress level starts going down, start up your wikispace page!

    Mr. Stickler

  3. Jennifer Gamb
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    This is such a great idea, I hope more teachers try wikis like this. The future generations depend on us to stay current with trends especially with technology. I am sure the focus and the energy used here translates into the classroom with excitement and learning! Great information!

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