Wiki Solution Manuals

4/29/2006 10:54:00 am

Six days ago I launched 3 new wikis. I call them "Wiki Solution Manuals." There's a wiki for AP Calculus, Pre-Cal 40S and Applied Math 40S. I used to use xwiki as my host but spammers have chased me away. I've moved over to pbwiki. (Peanut Butter Wiki - it's as easy as making a peanut butter sandwich.) Pbwiki has a more elegant look-and-feel and better security. Eventually, I'll move BPRIME over there as well.

The idea behind these wikis is that the students will collaboratively build a solution manual on the wiki to go hand-in-hand with the "textbook" they're writing on their blogs. My first foray into wikis didn't really take off because I didn't structure the activity well enough. Well, now we've got some structure and the students seem to be excited about it.

Here's how I've structured it:

  • »I've posted exam level problems, three from each unit of study, on each class wiki. The AP Calculus Wiki is a little different. There I posted 6 questions from the Open Response section of the exam.
  • »Each student must make two edits on the wiki. I've classified them as a Significant Contribution and a Constructive Modification:

    • »A Significant Contribution means ...
      you completely solve a problem including a detailed annotation of the steps involved. You may want to look at an example.

      You may have another idea for a significant contribution to the wiki. I'm open to your suggestions. Talk to me and make a suggestion. If we both agree that it would fall under this category then go ahead. Be creative with this; I'd really love to hear your ideas.

    • »A Constructive Modification means ...
      you edit someone else's work, not your own. You might correct a significant error or several small errors. Maybe you want to reorganize a page or the navigation from the home page. Maybe you want to edit someone else's entry, not for content, but for the way it's written such as by adding some meaningful colour or graphics. The main idea here is to move this project forward in some constructive way. Again, be creative with this.
  • »I'm using irows for marking student work. I've subscribed to the feed for each wiki in my Bloglines account. Whenever someone makes an edit the pbwiki feed contains their name and the content they've added/edited. I open my irows account in another tab in Firefox, open the appropriate spreadsheet I've created for just this purpose, and grade the student's work on the fly. I use a 4 point rubric (0 - 3) to grade the Significant Contributions in three categories:

    • »The math -- is the work correct?
    • »The annotation -- is it sufficiently annotated so that someone else can learn from it?
    • »The presentation -- how does it look? Is it easy to follow and understand?

    The Constructive Modifications have no categories but are marked using the same 4 point scale.

  • »Some problems may be easier to solve than others. So there is a bit of a competitive aspect to this project. The race is on to "claim" the problems. You "claim" a problem by posting a solution and annotation. I've learned that girls learning styles are more collaborative so a wiki is a very apropos. Boys thrive more in a slightly competitive environment, hence, the "race."
  • »I've explained to the students that this project is about getting them to think about their work and learning at a higher level (metacognition). The annotation aspect forces them to adopt the medical school paradigm of "watch it, do it, teach it." The editing of others work forces them to think critically and analyze the work of others. Operating at this level of cognition will deepen their learning and enhance their knowledge of the material. Hopefully their standards tests will be less intimidating as a result of their deeper understanding of the material. The editing of others work, in the search to make a Constructive Contribution, will require them to look at several different problems in this way. If nothing else, I hope they walk away from this experience with an appreciation of the powerful learning experiences inherent in collaboration.

The wikis are password protected so that only my students can edit them but they are open for public viewing. These are the three wikis:

The students in the Pre-Cal 40S class wanted to know if they could earn bonus marks on the wiki. Maybe ... we'll see how the project evolves.

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  1. Anonymous30/4/06 06:18

    I like how you've broken down a marking scheme to refelct the different kind of changes that need to be made to advance the knowledge base of the classroom.

    The ability to see who made what changes is new in pbwiki. When I started working there earlier this year, they didn't have that. It was difficult to monitor, and kids were only bascially doing it out of good faith. Now we can actually track them and monitor their changes. It gives us an interesting look inside their heads at how they think of knowledge.

  2. The idea of a wiki solutions manual is awesome!!! I had a similar idea using slightly different technology. I the near future I will have a smartboard installed in my classroom. It is essentially a special kind of whiteboard. I can project anything I create onto the smartboard and then, using the touch sensitive smartboard, I can write on the board. It records all of my writing and I can save it a s a pdf file. I can then have the notes I write everyday in class posted on the Internet.

    The second thing I can do with the smartboard is record my voice.

    The idea I had was to take individual questions from previous provincial exams and record complete solutions for them. Then I would post them to the Internet. This way, when students are stuying for their provincila exam this year they could watch and listen to complete solutions to problems. It also helps me having to repeat a solution to a quetions 20 or 30 different times.

    I will let you know when I have this up and running. It would be a great resource for any of your students.

  3. Very cool idea, Darren. Thanks for sharing it. I think pbwiki offers just enough of a "door" to make wiki work in K-12 classrooms successful. You're right in that they are just getting better and better. And I have to say, it's too bad that Terry doesn't have a tablet pc...he could start screencasting the solutions as he inked them onto the tablet.

  4. Anonymous10/5/06 23:45

    Will: A tablet sounds like a great tool. I've never even seen one. Nor a smart board. I still have a lot to learn.

    The thought occured to me as a read your comment that it would be even cooler to have the kids screencast solutions to their math problems (or pick your content ... any content) and then post it to the blog. ;-)

    Joan: You're the third person to talk to me about how much they enjoy using sikispaces. I'll have to take another look at that tool. Thanks for the push. ;-)

  5. Anonymous1/10/06 13:52

    Hi Darren,
    I am having trouble logging into your class' wikis in order to leave complimentary comments. Some posts look fantastic, especially the post on circular functions.

    When I tried to create my own PB Wiki account, the profile page asked for the password of your sites. I do not expect you to give it to me, of course.

    Can you tell me what I am to do in order to leave comments?

  6. Anonymous1/10/06 13:52

    One more me Frank.

  7. Anonymous4/12/06 11:54

    Why not just provide the solutions manual for the texbook? That would have an even greater effect.

  8. Anonymous4/12/06 12:00

    Whats the point of providing solutions to only half of the problems at the end of the textbook? Math is best learned by doing. You can't "do" effectively unless you know which methods to apply. And math is just too abstract for the average normal person (like me) to learn the methods by doing 24 problems at the end of the chapter.

  9. Anonymous4/12/06 12:26

    I would echo the comments of Anonymous II and add that reading and doing require different metacognitive skills and engagement from the learner.

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