Monday, February 22, 2010

Wacka Wacka Wacka!! Is a Wacka like a Wiki?

Figuratively speaking no, the two are completely unrelated. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if someone knew what wacka wacka wacka meant and was totally clueless about the wiki, or vice versa. I remember being a little girl and watching all the children’s programming that was done on the local Buffalo new station. I also remember the shows on PBS including Sesame Street. From Jim Henson’s Muppets, to Tom Jolls on WKBW in Buffalo, to Romper Room I loved learning cool new things and being entertained by these shows. I was especially fascinated by Sesame Street and the outrageous and colorful characters made by Jim Henson on his popular The Muppet Show. These ‘old-fashioned’ shows still give me a charge. What saddens me though is that most of the children I meet while I substitute at all school levels do not know what wacka wacka wacka means. Jokes that I made it high school were often followed with this punchline. Now, if I make a joke and follow it with this phrase I get blank stares and the occasionally grumble that sounds something like: “is she making a joke?” , or “is that a real word?”, or most recently, “is a wacka like a wiki?” Surely with all the important subjects that must be taught in school today, educating students about 1970s and 1980s sitcoms is surely of negligible important. None the less, I know what a wacka and a wiki are, so why doesn’t everyone else?
As an adult, and a teacher, I have forgiven all those who do not know what Muppets are those who are unfamiliar with Wikis. My focus has shifted too Muppets to wikis. I remember them in their early developmental stages when I was an undergraduate at teaching college. wikis had a bad rap for being inaccurate, poorly organized, and unreliable. Several years after they have had time to grow and flourish, with much needed help, many people’s initial apprehension to using wikis has developed into an eager curiosity. In Will Richardson’s book Blogs, wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Tools for the Classroom, he explains this phenomenon with detail and clarity.
I willingly admit that I am one who was once skeptical, but is now curious and eager to learn more. This book made connections for me and explained how useful Wikis can be adapted for classroom use. Although there are potential downfalls with any kind of Online instruction, especially in schools where content is filtered, I think wikis can do much more good than bad. Our Wiki for this class is private and requires an invitation for membership into the class. I think if a teacher could develop a secure site such as this, students would really benefit, Without the confines of paper printing, notebook organizing, or limited instruction or discussion time, a wiki can truly transform a good classroom into a fantastic, interconnected, and challenging one.
In chapter 4 of Wil Richardson’s book, he uses dynamic examples and straight forward explanations to convince the reader of how use class wikis are. Although a strong leader and information manager is necessary to ensure the success of a wiki, his logic is that this will positively impact your teaching and your students. He feels a wiki can encourage better communication, more sharing of ideas and resources, more timely delivery of information and instruction, and provide a place for students and instructors to express and exchange ideas that were not discussed in class. With students so actively exploring an enjoying multimedia outlets, he views a class wiki as a way of making a class more complete. I wholeheartedly agree with ideas. Although I do not have the skills yet to produce a Wiki, I do have the skills to locate reliable information and to create a physical outline of how I would like my wiki to look. I no longer think wikis are all bad. I am excited and intrigued by them.

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