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Using Wikis to Foster Authenticity in Middle School Writing: The Rationale

Written by Kaili Phillips
March 27, 2011

How familiar does this sound to you—a student gets a writing assignment on Monday and it is due on Friday. He waits all week to begin and crams it in on Thursday night (start to finish) at 9 pm. He hits spell check (mindlessly obeying every squiggly green and red line there is), never has anyone read it (if he even reads it over himself), hands it in to his teacher (the only person who will ever see it) and exclaims, “DONE!”

I am a middle school language arts teacher… this is my life.

I began this school year like I do every other—with one of my goals making writing an authentic task for students…aspirations of facilitating an attitude and environment in which they want to write, want to share, ask each other for advice, and help each other become better writers. A supreme objective of facilitating this natural writing process instead of the artificial, “Have your rough draft done by Thursday so we can share and give feedback in class.”

Idealistic? I didn’t know.

To achieve the goal of authenticity, I needed a way in which all students could share their writing at their leisure—from anywhere, anytime, any computer, and inside or outside the confines of our particular block of time and group of students. Enter: TAMSapedia.

“TAMSapedia” is the name I gave to the wiki site I created to try to meet my needs listed above. One side benefit of using a class wiki was the kids realizing exactly what Wikipedia is. They (my 8th graders) firmly believed that Wikipedia was a wealth of correct information about nearly any topic. So, I thought they’d find a TAMS (Thornton Academy Middle School) version of Wikipedia very cool. I am not sure what the final “coolness” verdict was, but they went along with it…game, set, match.