Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wikispaces now has classrooms!

Okay, so I am not talking about real classrooms that you can walk into, drop your books on the floor and then sit down at the nearest desk to take a nap. These are virtual classrooms that teachers can create to host a virtual class.

There are many sites out there that offer virtual classrooms (e.g. My Big Campus, Edmodo), but this one is ideal if you already use Wikispaces or want to make virtual spaces for projects quick and easy and on the spur of the moment.

If you don't need an introduction because you are an experienced Wikispaces user, just check out this Wikispaces blog post to get started.

Some Basic Information

This new product by Wikispaces is called Wikispaces Classroom. A general definition of a wiki is a website that is quickly and easily updateable by anyone who has permission to do so. The most famous example is Wikipedia, the encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Users can quickly make changes, additions, and deletions to any Wikipedia article. This is the model that Wikispaces runs on as well. But now a teacher can create a Wikispaces Classroom instead. He or she can even turn an existing wiki into a classroom if so desired. Best of all though, it's free.

Wikispaces has repurposed  and rearranged some of its existing features and add some new ones to make the interface more teacher friendly.

Here is a quick overview:

Organizer Bar
The organizer bar lets you see and manage your classroom all in one place. Access options for managing members, projects, an overview of student activity (assessment) and settings for the wiki.

The newsfeed is kind of like a feed that you might see in Facebook or other social media programs. It shows a steady stream of activity in classroom so you can quickly see what is going on in real time. For example, if Johnny updates edits a page, you find out right away in your newsfeed. You can also create new discussions, projects or events right in the newsfeed itself.

The projects features lets you create individual projects for groups of students that are members of your wiki. You can set up custom permissions to control what they can see and do, as well as privacy settings. To get started, you give the project a name, assign team members, set permissions and add beginning and end dates for the project itself.

The assessment feature allows you to see by project or user the activity on the wiki at a glance. If you want to quickly check to see who has been writing, editing and saving work, just click on the assessment link. Then you can follow with individual students who might be having some difficulty.

Discussions and Events
Discussions are basically group discussions that each team can use to communicate about the project, brainstorm ideas, etc. The Events feature is a calendar that you can use to set up deadlines, activity reminders, and other things you might include on your classroom calendar.

For More Information

Check out the Wikispaces blog and help menus for more information. 

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