1. Briefly describe your group, your wiki, and what you use it to do:
Our design and writing team for Expedition Earth and Beyond (EEAB) was originally composed of four educators representing three states along with the project director from the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. Since the members of the team lived in different parts of the country, most of our project development was conducted remotely via conference calls and email. As lessons and activities were written and evolved through multiple revisions, the need for a collaborative online workspace became apparent. We chose Wikispaces.com and the use of a wiki to meet that need. The project wiki became a highly useful website on which to store and review documents, images, PowerPoint presentations, and even video clips. When we eventually looked for an online tool for teams of students to participate in the project, a wiki was an obvious choice. We created a template that follows the process of scientific research; and we embed it into the new wiki that we create for each student team that chooses to participate in EEAB.
2. Besides the Edit button, which wiki feature is your favorite?
One of the special features of Expedition Earth and Beyond is the opportunity for each team of students engaged in a research project to be assigned an online mentor. The mentor is typically a scientist at the Johnson Space Center — a real “rocket scientist.” The mentor can follow the progress of the student team on the team wiki and communicate with the students through the discussion tool. This feature provides a wonderful opportunity for the exchange of ideas, questions, and advice between the students and their assigned mentor, and all communication is done in the public arena of the wiki discussion board. We have also created a teacher wiki for the purpose of sharing ideas and resources between different teachers who are guiding students through the EEAB project.
3. What is one way you’re using wikis and other web 2.0 tools in your projects?
The goal of Expedition Earth and Beyond is to engage students in grades 5 through 12 in the actual process of scientific research. The focus of their research is Earth System Science, and their main source of data comes from astronaut photography — images of Earth features captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and other manned spacecraft. Thousands of these images are now archived and available online through the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Students working in teams use their own wikis as collaborative tools to conduct and share their research about specific Earth features. Their research often involves looking for visible changes to specific features by comparing astronaut images taken of the same locations over time. An added bonus of the project is the opportunity to request new images to be captured by astronauts aboard ISS to assist the students in their research.
4. Tell us about a particular moment that made you say, “Aha! THIS is why I use wikis!”
One memorable moment was when a class of eighth grade students was quietly engaged in their EEAB project work and the first message from their assigned NASA mentor arrived. A student suddenly yelled out, “We have a mentor, we have a mentor!” and the rest of the students immediately turned their attention to the wiki’s discussion board to read the mentor’s introduction. It was very rewarding to see and hear their excitement upon making the initial contact with their own mentor from NASA.
5. If you could ask it, what do you think your wiki would say about you?
I think that our wiki would recognize that our design and development team has worked very hard at creating a rewarding experience, and that through the collaborative tool of a wiki, teachers and students can together experience the excitement of real scientific research.