Thursday, February 5, 2009

EFL writing using wikis by Berta

I would say that one of the best features Wikis provide for writing courses is that students can see their progress. Every change they make to their page is registered in its history and nothing is ever lost (if saved properly). Students start by writing a draft, then revising, after that they can go to their page with a classmate and they can both revise it together; the student might work on it with the teacher at a student-teacher conference, and the process can go on and on until the student and/ or teacher is/are satisfied with the piece of writing. The student can go to the first version and see how it has changed, identify what mistakes he had originally made and appreciate his progress.

Wikis can also work as online classrooms where there can be a main page with the syllabus and links on the sidebar for the activities for each week, tutorials, collaborative exercises, other external class sites such as blogs, bookmarks, aggregators to keep track of several sites simultaneously, etc. Pages can hold videos, slideshows, chat boards, images, hyperlinks, voice threads, in sum, anything that is embeddable.

I have already mentioned a wiki we had in our last EFL writing course where the main objective was reflecting on EFL writing, what it meant, what it involved and how to get more self control in order to learn to revise one´s texts, revise that of peers, write for a real audience beyond the teacher and even beyond the classroom through collaborations with EFL students abroad, etc. Here is an example of activities for a given week, materials needed and the weekly list of benchmarks.

The tool my students always find the most useful is the chat board. There, all members can communicate with one another, ask for help, send quick messages and write their ideas in a few words. Every message is recorded and students can go back and re-read instructions, previous threads, etc. The chat board we use is Cbox, a free tool that can be embedded in wikis or blogs.

Something that happens to me over and over again is that whenever I start using a new tool, it is very
difficult for me to change to another. I started working with wikis in Wikispaces and although colleagues have mentioned the benefits of Pbwiki or Wetpaint, I stick to Wikispaces, even if it has ads on the right sidebar. The same with blogs at Blogger. I have tried Wordpress and Motime and Blogger is still the one for me. Does this happen to you too? or are you more flexible and adaptable?


Mariel said...

Thanks for your useful discussion. The wiki you mentioned, Introduction to EFL Writing 2008, is really superb, and so is the class blog.

I have followed your advice and included the CBox widget in my wiki. PBWiki suggests another chat widget, but it is full of advertisements, so I opted for the one you use.

Congrats again on all your great work!

Beyza said...

Dear Berta,

I have just checked EFL Writing 2008 wiki and found it very organized and helpful for my wiki design. I have been using wikis for more than a year as an an instructional tool and trying to improve my wiki design constantly. I conducted a research on my students about the class wiki I have used with them this semester and the results supported your students ideas about the chat function. They suggested me to add a chat option to the wiki. I think I will add this function to my prospective class wikis.

I also agree with you in that they are great for collaborative work and I think they can also be used as webfolios.
I started with pbwiki and I am still using pbwiki. I took a look at wikispaces but I could not get used to it. I would like to try wetpaint in the future as it seems to contain some cool features.
I also believe it is difficult to change the first tools we got used to such as blogger. I first started blogging with blogger and just could not get used to the others just like you. It is necessary to be flexible but getting used to these other tools or feeling comfortable with them takes time.

Berta said...

Thanks Mariel and Beyza for your comments. The wiki I posted was one of the tools for my promotion thesis to full professor. My students and I felt it was quite successful for collaborative work and reflective writing. I worked with many tools my students had never worked before and they all did quite well. Most of them were digital natives and very intuitive.
I am glad I sufggested Cbox. It is really very useful and students love to have this area.
Can´t wait to see your wikis.
All the best, Berta

Mariel said...

Hi, Berta!

I continue trying to improve my wiki, so I wanted to follow your advice on "How to create Table of content" at

but it doesn't seem to work on pbwiki. I have used both ((toc)) and {{TOC}}, but all I can read is just that.

Could you help me?

Thanks in advance


Berta said...

Hi Mariel,

Sorry for taking so long in answering you.
I am afraid I don´t know how to do it in PbWiki, but I am sure if you google with key terms, there will be something posted somewhere.

Sorry I am not of help.

Best, Berta