Though she’s new to wikis, Effie Kyrikakis’ bilingual Sunny Thought Project and Winners in Education wikis are generating a lot of buzz with their emphasis on positive thinking and global collaboration. We asked her to tell us about her experience:
A need is born
Our school has always been committed to teaching using the most up-to-date methodology and resources. So I was completely flabbergasted when I accidentally realised a few months ago that there are educators and schools around the world who are connected in different ways and actually collaborate and share resources and projects on a daily basis! Our school simply had to catch that train. But how? I had no idea whatsoever. It was obvious, though, that the ticket to this trip was a website in English where we would be able to present our school to the world and display our work and collaboration to our local students and their families — many of whom do not speak a word of English. Hard problem to solve… until I came across wikis and the idea was born to create a bilingual wiki.
Now, that was easier said than done. My greatest challenge was I had no idea how a wiki — or a blog for that matter — worked and, at the time, I would have gladly chosen to climb Mount Everest instead. (I wouldn’t suffer a mental burnout there at least…) However, our new-found Skype friends were waiting, so I finally got down to work. I found tutorials in YouTube, asked friends, slept very little for about a month and, Hurray, finally found my way around it. That wiki developed into our bilingual website, winnerseducation.wikispaces.com. It has become a huge success with our students and their parents and has been our link to the world. Although the wiki editor still drives me crazy at times, I think it is one of the best tools a school can use to present their work — for free!
What makes wikis unique for me is their user-friendly design. Once you get to grasp the general idea, even a newbie like me can create a very presentable wiki, which has the added benefit of being interactive! Visitors can take part in the discussion or ask to be members. (Be careful who you approve though, as a hard day’s work can be destroyed in a jiff.) A little more digging and you can actually turn your wiki to a professional-looking website. No programming, just easy-to-use tools.
Another very handy feature is members: All members are allowed to work independently, but still house together. Pages can easily be created and handled by a different member, while all members have access and can take part in the discussions. This is what inspired us to house in a wiki our new global project, What Makes Us Happy. More than ten schools from around the globe are already members and new ones are added by the day. Each of us can upload their students’ work at their own convenience.
There are certainly more features to be explored that will make my life easier. Yesterday, for example, I discovered by chance that I can email all the members at once by one push of the button. Wow!
I’m really thankful for this unique tool. Plus, this whole adventure has reminded me what it feels like to learn from the other side: that of the learner.
This precious insight cannot but make teaching better, don’t you agree?