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Using Wikis to Foster Authenticity in Middle School Writing: Success?

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Experiment Success?

So, was my experiment a success? Did implementing a wiki in my classroom increase student authenticity in the task and process of writing?

I deferred to my students to find out the answers to these questions. I told them that this project of mine was kind of one of their science experiments; I had a hypothesis of what I thought might happen but that their feedback would tell me if I was right or not. Let me tell you, they were way more than happy to help tell me if I was correct or not. I was careful to word the questions so they were not leading at all and I also mentioned that they should be as honest as possible.

Some notable statistics include:

As mentioned above, when asked, “Do you feel safe/confident sharing your writing in class?”, only 20% reported that they felt very comfortable sharing. In contrast, when asked, “Do you feel safe/confident sharing your writing on the wiki?”, 53% of students reported that they felt "very comfortable" sharing.

When asked, “To what extent does knowing your friends, peers, or teachers will look at your page affect your motivation to write?” 54% reported that their motivation increased "some" or"a lot".

When asked, “To what extent does knowing friends, peers, or teachers will look at your page affect your quality of writing?”, 58% reported that their cared "more" or "much more" about the quality of their writing. Of that 58%, 25% cared “much more”.

60% of students value peer feedback regarding their writing "highly" or "very highly".

Some notable anecdotal responses include:

“It is fun to explore what other people like to write about.”

“I like to know what my classmates and peers are writing so I’m not the ‘odd’ one.”

“It interests me because I can see what they made a mistake on and if they made a mistake that I know of, I can edit the page and correct what they did wrong.”

“I can let other people see my work and other people can write comments about improving on my writing.”

“If other people tell me it’s good, I feel more confident.”

“I love it when my friends put feedback on my papers. It really gets me thinking.”

“If I am writing something that will go on the Internet I try my best.”

“I love it. I like seeing everyone else’s stories and ideas.”

I categorize the wiki as a “success” because, although these responses aren’t representative of every single one of my students, I truly believe that no student felt it detrimental to their learning or a waste of their time. I do acknowledge that some students did not get “into” the wiki and I wonder why that is. Is it because they don’t enjoy writing to begin with? Because they didn’t know how to use the site well enough? Because they just didn’t care what peers thought of their writing? I have many other questions as well— did the wiki work so well because of this particular group of students? How valid was the survey data I collected? I can (and will) ponder these things as this year continues and I begin to think of how I might introduce or use the wiki next year.

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