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Google Docs versus Wikis

Here at the Science School, I would say that Google Docs has become one of the tech tools that has had the greatest uptake across our classrooms. Over the last couple years, students and teachers have begun using this tool to take collaborative notes and study guides, peer edit across classes and grades, make group presentations and have shared planning sessions with other teachers.


A couple of our classrooms have also begun to design work using wikis as the tool for collaboration, rather than Google Docs. Wikis are a type of webpage that are easily created and edited by anyone you give permission to.


I believe the power of wikis comes when you have multiple topics or perspectives that are being examined side by side. For example, in this grade 8 project, students are researching 8 different elements of the Italian Renaissance, and then gathering local expertise. Using a Google Doc would still have allowed each group to get in contact and receive insights from experts outside the school. The power of the wiki lies in the fact that each group has access to all the other groups findings. On this site, you can see an example of how each group has set up a page for their topics, and also how easy it is to access all the other groups findings.

This takes the work from being an isolated gathering of information, into a collaborative knowledge building space. Each student-generated presentation now has many audiences: (1) the experts and (2) all the other students.

By designing a final question that pulls together all the different groups findings ("Does Calgary have the necessary conditions to become a renaissance city?") the work becomes public and purposeful. Each group is relying on the quality of the other groups research, presentations, questions and findings.

However, all of this is built upon design and crafted a good question that pulls all the student work together. And this becomes the hardest part of designing strong inquiry work.

1 comment:

Mike said...

A good explanation differentiating the possiblilities of these two tools. I can see how I can use wikis to have students studying different things come together.

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