Having Students Create a Wiki for Macbeth
Something Wiki This Way Comes
Using wikis in classrooms has had a small but reasonable presence in secondary and higher education for the past decade or so. There is some research to support the use of wikis as collaborative educational tools. (Here is a short annotated bibliography of research I found useful and inspiring.)
Some benefits I see derived from the wiki project in practice:
- The wiki format supports a few key meta-cognitive goals: understanding how collaboration can foster learning, understanding how individual contributions can lead to collective learning benefits, and understanding how to see ideas from other people's perspectives.
- The wiki format can also help overcome some common obstacles to effective group work: members of my group are not working hard, what other people contribute doesn't help me directly, I can't work at my own pace, and so on.
- And in the case of textual analysis, the wiki format underscores the potential for annotation as a core reading and analytical skill.
The Project Goals
The goal was to use Shakespeare's Macbeth to teach students about inter/intra/extra-textuality; annotation as an analytical skill; literary concepts like tone, mood, word choice, setting, characterization, and theme; and to reinforce the meta-cognitive ideas listed above. I wanted students to move from concepts to application of those concepts. I wanted to give students multiple opportunities to work at their own pace, recognize the benefits of their work to others in the learning community, and to make their own decisions about how the text "ought" to be read and understood. I wanted to leave plenty of room for creativity and risk-taking.
The tools I decided to use were Mindomo, EdPuzzle, and Vialogues. I created the wiki project inside a PowerSchool Class Page, which is an LMS feature very much like a Moodle or BlackBoard course page.
I used the mini-lesson model. Teach a short, focused 10-15 minute lesson on a specific skill. Provide an example, some practice, and a chance to apply the new skill. For a short demonstration of this, go here.
Enrichment and Practice
Asynchronous online discussion can enable quieter students to join a conversation and can enable students who process more slowly to participate more fully. Discussion forum software is ubiquitous, but tools like EdLabs Vialogues allow students to discuss and annotate video. For a short demo, go here.
Once students have a good grasp of basic concepts, the elements of annotation, and have done an initial reading/viewing of Macbeth, it's time to dive into the wiki.
Each team grabs the full text of a scene or scenes from the play from the MIT edition and pasted it onto their page of the wiki. (The only limitation I impose at the beginning is that initially the pages must be organized chronologically, to make cruising through the text easy for a visitor.)
Then, the challenge for each team is to use hyperlinks, images, videos, or their own creative responses to enrich the text with definitions, resonances, and interpretations. I encourage them to link within the text – to other instances of a phenomenon, to other ideas or related scenes – and to sources outside the text – dictionaries, artwork, other stories or plays they know or discover, adaptations of the play, and so on.
Finally, once the web of associations and interpretations has taken shape, they present the other teams with a "wiki hunt" designed to lead the others through the main discursive threads that they have established. Each student comments on and adds new annotations to the web.
We end with a discussion and reflection on the wiki and how it has shaped both their understanding of this particular text as well as how the experience has altered their attitude toward collaborative learning and annotation.