What, Why and How of e-Portfolios for Learners

DigitalPortfolioHeaderWhat is an E-Portfolio?

A digital portfolio or e-portfolio can take several forms, and have different purposes. Whether it’s a place to share a learning journey, record notable achievements, provide a platform for a learner’s reflections on progress, or to link to records/artefacts/evidence stored elsewhere of skills, examples of work or achievements, or chart future goals and stepping stones to objectives. It may provide opportunity for feedback by peers of learners or educators, and it can provide a means for a learner to collate aspects of their digital footprint as they journey through life.

wikipediaeportfolioWikipedia provides a detailed description of e-portfolios and examples of the different forms and purposes for having an e-portfolio which may include documenting skills and learning, recording and tracking development within a course, planning educational journeys, evaluating and monitoring performance or a course, and helping to find a job.

Why have an E-Portfolio?

The purpose is the key – it’s all too easy to get bogged down in technical set-up issues rather than have a focus on why it’s going to be used by learners. And, while in educational settings the purpose may sometimes be laid down as a requirement, whether by school leadership, or local education authority or by governments, the teacher and the learner need to be clear about the purpose of having the e-portfolio so that it does not become a chore or seen as a burden but instead supports the learning process of the learner. Prasanna Bharti has described at The EdTech review how e-portfolios can help learners

DrHelenBarrettDr Helen Barrett at the site www.electronicportfolios.org provides a comprehensive source of information about e-portfolios – why they should be created, what should be in an e-portfolio, and what tools might be used to create an e-portfolio. The site describes several models, provides answers to frequently asked questions about e-portfolios, and details how different tools/platforms (whether online tools or mobile device apps) can be used.

EdutopiaBethHollandDigital Portfolio: The Art of Reflection by Beth Holland - a post which gives a useful background to what the focus of an e-portfolio should be, not on the technical how-tos, nor on a digital portfolio as a summative-only “curate>reflect>publish” model but instead on the process building on developing asking the essential questions to make reflection at the centre of the process.

VickiDavisE-portfoliosVicki Davis has produced “11 Essentials for Excellent E-Portfolios” – this article describes the necessity to be clear about the purpose behind learners having an e-portfolio, and the importance of it being embedded as part of the learning process, including a focus on reflection and ownership by the learner. The article describes a variety of tools which could be used to create an e-portfolio.

eportfoliosareawesomeePortfolios are Awesome – a presentation by Lisa Johnson about the why, how and what of student digital portfolios. This presents in graphical form links to a host of articles about why digital portfolios are important, things to consider (including ownership, who gets to see it, feedback, how it’s organised, when and how it will be populated, and what tool to use), and examples of e-portfolios.

How to Make an E-Portfolio?

What tools can you use to create an e-portfolio? There’s a whole range of tools which lets the user record their learning journey, record their achievements and reflections – whether that’s a paper record, a digital form of a paper record (whether simply Microsoft Word stored locally) or a digital tool which is stored in the cloud (and which can be kept private to the individual, or shared with limited others such as parents/carers or teaching staff, or made public for all to see online).

The choice is determined by the purpose and audience (who will get to see the e-portfolio) – and may be determined in a school context by a school policy or Local Education Authority providing the tool, guidance, and support.

In making your choice (if you have a choice) consideration should be given to moving on from one educational establishment or local education authority to another. Take into account when making your choice of platform the ease with which the content on the tool used can be shared or exported in a form which can provide ease of continuity into another school or Local Education Authority.

Wikiclick on this link for more about wikis – an online repository which can grow and expand and be interlinked in different ways for different purposes. Jacqui Murray has provided a detailed description of how she used wikis with her pupils for their e-portfolios. This describes the purpose behind the e-portfolio for her primary-aged pupils and explains the steps to making use of a Wikispaces wiki (Wikispaces are the wikis available to all Glow users) – which can be either private so it’s only accessible to the learner, or shared with their teachers or made public (it all comes back to the purpose and the audience).

Microsoft OneNoteclick on this link for more information about Microsoft OneNote – essentially an electronic ring-binder with different sections or subsections, in which there can be multiple pages. And each page can include text, video, audio, images and links – and all works across platforms, online or mobile devices.

Blog – there are several blogging platforms available which are suitable for use in an educational context. Click on this link for more about blogging tools for schools. Glow users in Scotland have access to WordPress blogs. Also look at the blog examples on Dr Helen Barrett’s Electronic Portfolios site: http://www.electronicportfolios.org/. Microsoft Office 365 has a blog option within SharePoint (available to Glow users – however note that in Glow a SharePoint blog cannot be made public outwith Glow, instead there is the option to use WordPress blog or a Wiki from Glow, both of which can be made public, or kept private, or have parts private and parts public).

Word-processed document – there are a variety of word-processing options including Google Docs and Microsoft Word in Office 365, some of which may include a template which can be adopted to get started creating and maintaining an e-Portfolio.

Mobile device apps – there are a number of apps available for different mobile device platforms. Dr Helen Barrett has produced a site which looks at the use of mobile devices for e-portfolios, including examples of apps for different device platforms. As with any choice of tool for creating an e-portfolio the portability of the data would need to be borne in mind – how easily will it be able to be exported to another mobile device platform, how easily can the information (whether in full or part) be shared when a learner moves establishment or beyond formal schooling? Many e-portfolio tools take this into account and some provide the information to undertake the necessary steps, some have inbuilt sharing or export tools.

There are many other tools which could be used to create an e-portfolio - it would just be recommended that the purpose is central to the choice, and that it takes into account requirements laid down by school leadership, local education authority or government to have best chance of that all that’s collated by the learner can be moved as the learner journeys through their educational path at different stages, and that it best supports the needs of the learner.

What other resources are there to help create and maintain an E-portfolio?

Cybrarymane-portfoliosJerry Blumengarten has collated a host of links to resources about e-portfolios, including links to articles explaining the purpose behind an e-portfolio, as well as many different tools and how they can be used to create e-portfolios.

ShamblesgurueportfoliosShambles Guru has collated a series of resources about using digital portfolios – these links by educator Chris Smith include tools for creating e-portfolios as well as articles about the purpose and effect on learning and teaching when learners make use of e-portfolios.

HuffPostEportfolioHuffington Post Education post by Tom Vander Ark “Every Student Should Have a Digital Portfolio – this post sets out reasoning behind the recommendation that learners should have an e-portfolio, and then lists and describes a range of e-portfolio tools which can be considered for creating and maintaining an e-portfolio.

JisceportfoliosGetting started with e-portfolios – a post on the Jisc site which sets out the rationale for having e-portfolios at university level, with suggestions of tools to use, tips for creating an e-portfolio, voids and examples of e-portfolios.

Why Wikis – the wonderful world of wikis in the classroom

wikiwordle2What’s a Wiki?

Probably the best know Wiki is Wikipedia, ranked in the top ten of all websites, attracting hundreds of millions of visitors a month to the reference articles by tens of thousands of contributors. And, in a nutshell, that’s an illustration of what sets a wiki apart from other websites, blogs and online spaces – a wiki provides the facility for creation and editing of an online space by multiple users, with a transparent trail of edits for all who visit, making changes (and who made them) visible to all, and providing the facility to set alerts to changes made on the wiki so that anyone can be notified of changes as soon as they are made.

Why Use a Wiki in the Classroom?

Anywhere you might wish to have a collaborative online space for an educational purpose then a wiki can provide the means to support this. Whether it is for an online space to share resources with learners, or somewhere the learners themselves can jointly pool their research findings, links to articles elsewhere online, or with attached documents, presentations, videos, images and more. Not only can the wiki content be modified, but so can the look, feel and structure be manipulated to meet the needs of the group of users. So it might be a piece of creative collaborative writing, or it might be a place to bring together several pieces of writing on the same topic by each pupil in a class.

You can decide with a wiki who is going to be able to see the wiki – perhaps just the individual pupil and teaching staff, or a group of pupils and their teacher, or a whole class or school. Or you can make the wiki public for all to view. And equally you can decide who you wish to be able to modify the wiki – just one person, a small group, a class, the whole school or the entire world!

Here’s just some ideas for using a wiki in the classroom:

  • Outdoor learning or class trip observations, individually or jointly with others.
  • Science experiment planning, the process and record of observations – you can add video, pictures and audio descriptions.
  • Historical project – bringing together different pages perhaps by different learners on their chosen area of a local study, or a combined research topic on a historical theme.
  • Creative writing – individuals can use the revision feature of the tool to demonstrate to their teacher and others how their writing has developed. Other learners can be invited to add comments to encourage and offer suggestions.
  • A teacher can collate all resources on a single topic into one online space, bringing together documents in different formats, video, audio, images and links to related resources elsewhere.
  • Set tasks for learners, and the wiki can also be the space for them to submit their work – the wiki can be set to only be viewable by those in the class, or each pupil can have a space private to them and their teacher, with only the teacher’s main wiki space able to be seen by only the whole class.

TeacherGuideWikisThe Teacher’s Guide on the Use of Wikis in Education can be found on the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning blog – this provides many examples of the uses of wikis in a classroom setting and more advice on how wikis can be used in education.

Cybrary Man wikisCybraryman’s Wikis page – a comprehensive page of links by Jerry Blumengarten to hosts of educational wikis, guides to making use of wikis in a classroom setting, advice, examples and much more – worth a visit to be inspired to use a wiki in your classroom.

 What wiki-creation tools are there for classroom use?

wikispacesWikispaces provides a wiki platform for all users, and a specific wiki platform for  educational use, called Wikispaces Classroom. It is described on their site as “A social writing platform for education. We make it incredibly easy to create a classroom workspace where you and your students can communicate and work on writing projects alone or in teams.

GlowWikisGlow Wikis are available to all Glow users in Scotland, and Glow wikis are provided by Wikispaces, giving Glow users all of the functionality of a Wikispaces wiki (including Wikispaces Classroom which gives the option for additional classroom-specific tools) using their Glow username and password. Glow Wiki Help provides step by step guidance to getting started and how to develop a wiki in a classroom setting.

PBWorksPBWorks Education Wikis – free wiki platform for use in education (with premium version available for additional features). Lets you create student accounts without an email address, provides automated notifications of chnages to your wiki, easy to edit, gives you the option to grant access to those within or outwith your school, and of course to share pages, documents and any other content on your wiki – and it all works via mobile devices too.

 

Minecraft in the Classroom

MinecraftcollageThere are many teachers who are using the enthusiasm of their learners for Minecraft to make use of this in creative ways in the classroom to engage learners across the curriculum.

Teachers can find the hook of games-based learning can bring otherwise reluctant learners to the table and let them shine. For some learners this can be one of their main interests outside of school, and a platform such as Minecraft, with a huge following, provides a motivational pull when that can be used to support learning in the curriculum.

Many teachers around the world have sought to make use of this enthusiasm by the learners for Minecraft – and many have shared their experiences for the benefit of others. This post seeks to bring together some of the resources shared by others to support teachers looking to use Minecraft to support the curriculum in their classes.

So what is Minecraft?

ParentGuideToMinecraftA Parent’s Guide to Minecraft: 5 Reasons to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Cubes – this post by Dan Tynan provides a nice description of Minecraft, aimed at parents trying to understand what their child is doing when they are working with Minecraft, which will be useful for teachers unfamiliar with Minecraft. The article not only serves as a concise introduction bu also explains what to expect in Minecraft, with advice about some of the issues which may arise.

Minecraft in Education Advocates in Scotland

HotMilkyDrinkDerek Robertson (@DerekRobertson) is one of Scotland’s pioneers and advocates in the use of games-based learning and wrote about the benefits to learning  and teaching using games-based learning, including Minecraft, on Education Scotland’s blog (click here to read this).

http://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/LearningExperiences/2013/06/02/educators-learn-more-about-learning-in-minecraft/

Derek Robertson also has his own blog where he wrote more about the use of Minecraft for a local project (click here to read this).

http://hotmilkydrink.typepad.com/my_weblog/2014/11/minecraft-on-the-waterfront.html

ImmersiveMindsScotland’s Stephen Reid (@ImmersiveMind) is a Minecraft teacher, running a Minecraft server dedicated to teachers and parents all over the world and running lessons with children and Minecraft in curriculum learning. Find details here http://www.immersiveminds.com/ahpminecraftserver/. Stephen wrote about using Minecraft for classroom projects, such as this one here: http://www.immersiveminds.com/minecraft-lesson-idea-flags/

MinecraftEdu – an education-specific version of Minecraft

There is a version of the Minecraft software which is specifically designed for use in educational contexts and there is a MinecraftEdu wiki on setting up and using Minecraft in Education version of the software which can be found at: http://services.minecraftedu.com/wiki/Getting_started#How_to_purchase

Andrew Miller (@betamiller) has written about the use of Minecraft in education: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/minecraft-in-classroom-andrew-miller

Article about use of MinecraftEdu in the classroom: http://www.edge-online.com/features/minecraft-in-the-classroom/

Setting up Minecraft in School

The following link provides guides to setting up a Minecraft club in school: http://www.gamingedus.org/ – with good advice here: http://www.gamingedus.org/2014/11/seven-tips-to-setting-up-a-minecraft-club-at-your-school/

The following link is to a guide to setting up and using Minecraft specifically in Primary School: http://primaryminecraft.com/starting/

There is an Australian site which is for a child and parent to set up a free online Minecraft account hosted by JoKaydia in Australia – it is not for schools but they have a contact to ask about a subscription for use by schools for a class: http://massively.jokaydia.com/about/

Microsoft have a site specifically for teachers interested in using Minecraft in Education – have a look at the trailer video below http://education.minecraft.net/

Set up off a network

Many teachers around the world report  technical hurdles in using Minecraft in school. The issues are not generally about the software (which can usually be purchased in the same way as other software), nor the installation (in many schools, as with most software installations onto a network device, that would most often have to be done by an ICT Engineer or support technician) but around the fact that if using a school networked PC it requires a dedicated server to be set up. That would require quite a bit more time for an ICT Engineer and may cause some anxiety for network engineers around security of the main school network and bandwidth demands, and solutions which have been found to work in schools situations in one part of the world don’t necessarily sit comfortably with the other priorities and concerns of network engineers to meet needs of all users of an education network.

One solution is to avoid the school network altogether and to use a PS3 or Xbox 360 with Minecraft in offline mode. This can present the least expensive route for some schools to get going, and to avoid issues with being on the network:

1. Obtain a PS3 or Xbox360 – someone may have one at home which they will happily donate to the school after they  have upgraded to a new model.

2. The device needs to connect to the Internet at the beginning at setup in order to download updates, set up the account and download the software, all before it comes into school (where, in many schools, you would not be able to connect to the network/Internet). So this would be easiest done by someone on a home wireless network – connect to the web, go to xbox live – create a profile – download updates – go to the store – purchase and download Minecraft and texture packs such as city (if using Minecraft rather than MinecraftEdu then educators have recommended to ensure that then when setup set to use offline, creative mode and peaceful!).

3. Back in the classroom it would then be connected directly to the projector or to a TV with DVI connection.

The Minecraft experience at Shieldhill Primary School

ShieldhillPSMinecraftChiara Sportelli wrote about the experience of first using Minecraft with pupils at Falkirk’s Shieldhill Primary School: “Using Minecraft the pupils are really engaged with their work. It has allowed them the experience of being ‘experts’ as some know more about it than some of their peers who are unfamiliar with the game. For some children working on Minecraft has allowed them to demonstrate equal or in some cases more advanced knowledge than their peers for the first time. One activity involves children completing a comprehension task where they create and build a camp based on a written description. They were all really keen to work on the project as homework (they actually asked for homework!). My idea was that they are a group of adventurers who have discovered a new land, they have had to build their camp and plant crops for survival. The write a journal entry each week detailing their progress and any obstacles they have encountered. They also created a 2D Minecraft version of themselves and character profile as part of the adventuring group, on paper. We then started a decision based continuation of their original story as settlers in a new land and planned for them to create a story path within the game and treasure hunt linked to moral dilemmas.”

So how have you used Minecraft with your pupils?

Do comment if you’ve used Minecraft in the classroom and would like to share your experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

Improvise a coherent presentation from images you’ve never seen with PechaFlickr

pechaflickrPechaFlickr – for encouraging learners to think on their feet, and have fun as they try to improvise a coherent talk to a presentation of 20 random photographs which they have never seen before, each displayed for 20 seconds.

This free online tool lets you specify a word (it’s set up by default to be “dog” and if not changed will present a random series of images of dogs, each on display for 20 seconds). All you do is replace the word dog with another word, then either set a topic on which to talk (not necessarily related to the chosen picture topic!) – click play and then return to the slides as they display one at a time. The speaker must try to make a coherent presentation from these slides. This develops the PechaKucha form of making a presentation.

At a simple level the learners may try to narrate a made-up story relating to the pictures they see, but for more interest and challenge the learner may try to talk about something on which they are trying to demonstrate their learning and understanding, while in some way linking to the random images which appear every 20 seconds, the image topic not having any obvious connection to the subject on which the learner is demonstrating their learning! Challenging and fun – give it a go and see if you can do it!

Learn a second language with Duolingo

Duolingo – https://www.duolingo.com/ – a free online tool which works via PC or mobile device (via browser or mobile-specific apps) and supports learners in learning a language of their choice from a range of languages available.

Duolingo combines game based learning with online rewards systems of points and milestones to encourage and chart progress with goal setting, and your choice of topics to suit your needs.

Text, images and audio are included with tasks, broken into small steps to make learning fun through manageable chunks of activity which build on learning as you progress. text which appears have clickable links to definitions and audio which helps reassure learners when they feel that need.

Learners can use the beginning activities in the system without creating an account. However by creating an account the progress can be recorded and development made to activities which build on previously learned words and phrases.

While individuals can work on this without needing to be grouped together as a class there is now the facility for a teacher of a class to support their learners and provide further feedback through being able to track progress using Duolingo for Schools https://schools.duolingo.com/ – this lets teachers either set up their class for their pupils from scratch, or collate existing accounts which learners may already have been using. Larry Ferlazzo has written about getting started with Duolingo for schools here:

http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2015/01/08/duolingo-for-schools-opened-today-heres-how-it-works/

Here’s an introductory video to Duolingo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OebgtUjLg4

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OneNote to Rule them All

OneNote is a free tool which works online through a web browser, or through apps for mobile devices, or as a desktop software (it’s also part of Microsoft Office 2013).

And it’s available to users of Microsoft Office 365 (so all Scottish school pupils and staff with Glow access have this as part of the features available automatically to them via their Glow login).

But what is OneNote?

It’s like a ring-binder where you can choose to have multiple sections (like card-dividers in a real ring-binder), and within each section you can have multiple pages​. And it all synchronises on multiple devices should you wish it to do so.

How might OneNote be used in a classroom context?

So you may be a teacher who may have sections in a OneNote file for each subject, and within each subject pages for each pupil. Each page can contain text, photographs, comments, web links, audio or video so may be an evidence gathering tool for a teacher. A picture to show evidence of a piece of practical work can be instantly inserted via mobile device straight to a pupil’s page for a particular subject in the OneNote file.

Pupils could create a OneNote of their own and use it as a learning log, an eportfolio, a place to jot down their notes, links to resources, documents, websites, etc. And a OneNote stored online can be shared with another user – so a pupil may create a piece of work in a OneNote file for a particular topic, subject or teacher and share access to that so it could be shared only with that one pupil and their teacher.

The creator of the OneNote file can choose to make it so that the teacher can add comments to the document for feedback to the pupil, directly on the document. And in some versions they can also add an audio file of feedback straight into the page.

Here’s a video tutorial showing how OneNote might be used as a pupil topic research tool

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0hfsJaHTOM

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Here’s a video showing OneNote being used as a learning journal shared by the pupil with their teacher http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=pAubfxGwRJQ

Here’s a video by educator Lisa Cuthbert-Novak showing how her learners use OneNote to chronicle their learning journey in writing, particularly noting the reflections the pupils added to what they were learning as they added examples of their work, their thoughts on the process and links to resources they found:

http://vimeo.com/113114835

Choose Your Own Adventure stories - this links to a blog post by Pip Cleaves describing how using the facility to add links to different pages in a OneNote file pupils can create stories with alternative texts for different junctures in a story for their readers.

Here’s a video by Tamara Sullivan explaining how learners in Sydney and Brisbane, who did not meet face to face, collaborated on a photo essay project using OneNote as the vehicle by which they could share ideas, tasks, photo-essays and comments by learners on the work of others.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4kSzezVzq0&WT

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So how do you get started using OneNote?

Here’s a link to a basic guide to OneNote Online: ​http://goo.gl/tbVYsL ​

These two links below also give an overview of the features of the different versions of OneNote, whether the online version, the full desktop software version, or the apps specific to different devices:

http://goo.gl/qLY6go

http://goo.gl/PGrwkA

MessageOpsPlaylist of videos with short tutorials on the use of OneNote 2013 from Message Ops. Each video is short and specific to one task you may wish to do in OneNote, such as adding a new section, password protecting a page, adding an image, and much more.

 

OneNote Toolkit for Teachers – a site which provides guides, examples and hints and tips for teachers looking to use OneNote in a classroom context.  This comes from the Microsoft Educator Network

​OneNote Class Notebook Creator

If schools are signed up to Office 365 then they also have the additional option to use OneNote’s education-specific class tool OneNote Class Notebook Creator where a OneNote class file can be set up so that individual sections or pages can have different access rights or permissions. So a teacher may have a pupil’s page in a class OneNote file shared with only that pupil and the teacher, meaning that nobody else can see that pupil’s work except the teacher and the specific pupil. Or a group of named pupils could have access to specific pages for collaborative working. This is designed to make management easier for the teacher and give more options for different purposes.

Note that in Office 365 the OneNote Class Notebook Creator needs to first be enabled by whoever administers the school’s establishment site – once it’s installed teachers can then set up their own class Notebooks.

Here’s a video showing how to get started setting up and using OneNote Class Creator so that a teacher can set up a personal workspace for every learner, a content library for resources, and a collaboration space for lessons and activities https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVF90nP9qGQ

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Here’s a video showing how a teacher can set up a OneNote Class Notebook from their OneDrive in Office 365:

Here's a related interactive online guide to setting up and using OneNote Class notebook creator - listen to the information, move on pages at your own speed.

OneNote and Assessment – this is a blogpost by Chantelle Davies describing how they see the use of OneNote for assessment with a focus on the audio and video features providing the facility for teachers to create a workspace for every pupil, to offer a content library for adding material, and a collaboration space, with which pupils can work in their space and teachers can give feedback in the same place. The work and feedback can be accessed anywhere any time.

OneNote for Teachers – a comprehensive site which details how OneNote can be got for any device, how it can be set up for use, examples of ways in which it can be used, help guides and much more – all within a classroom context.

Microsoft Office has also produced a visual walk-through guide “Getting Started with the OneNote Class Notebook Creator: A Walkthrough for Teachers”

Visual Dictionary Online

Shahi Visual Dictionary – a free online tool which lets users enter the desired word and it will generate definition texts from the free online multilingual dictionary Wiktionary along with images from Flickr, Google and Yahoo. You can specify from a drop-down next to the text box as to which image search tool you’d prefer as the default tool (though can click on any of the tabs too. Once definitions appear, with examples of the word in contexts, there will be words within these definitions which also lead to further definitions.

Wordnik – a free online dictionary which provides multiple definitions, displays where the word has been used in contexts online, searches Twitter for use of the word and displays the tweets with that word, searches Flickr images, has synonyms, homonymns, a reverse dictionary, and even gives the Scrabble score for the chosen word!

Wikipedia in the classroom – do you know all it can do?

Wikipedia ranks in the top 10 of all websites and may well be used by learners of all ages who search for information and find a Wikipedia entry one of the first suggested results from a web search on many, many topics. For all that it’s now a well-known encyclopedia, it could be likely that many users will only be aware of a fraction of the resources available via Wikipedia.

Wikipedia has a set of policies and guidelines summed up in its five pillars which all contributors must follow: Wikipedia is an encyclopedia; Wikipedia has a neutral point of view; Wikipedia is free content; Wikipedians should interact in a respectful and civil manner; and Wikipedia does not have firm rules. This requirement for anti-bias, verifiability, and reliable sourcing as well as the worldwide community of contributors can be seen to set Wikipedia apart from print-based published encyclopedia.

From the Wikipedia page about Wikipedia itself can be found the following: “Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference websites, attracting 470 million unique visitors monthly as of February 2012. There are more than 76,000 active contributors working on more than 31,000,000 articles in 285 languages. There are 4,644,653 articles in English. Every day, hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world collectively make tens of thousands of edits and create thousands of new articles to augment the knowledge held by the Wikipedia encyclopedia. People of all ages, cultures and backgrounds can add or edit article prose, references, images and other media here. What is contributed is more important than the expertise or qualifications of the contributor. What will remain depends upon whether the content is free of copyright restrictions and contentious material about living people, and whether it fits within Wikipedia’s policies, including being verifiable against a published reliable source, thereby excluding editors’ opinions and beliefs and unreviewed research. Contributions cannot damage Wikipedia because the software allows easy reversal of mistakes and many experienced editors are watching to help ensure that edits are cumulative improvements.”

Wikipedia is a live collaboration differing from paper-based reference sources in important ways. Unlike printed encyclopedias, Wikipedia is continually created and updated, with articles on historic events appearing within minutes, rather than months or years. There is a Wikipedia page aimed specifically at providing advice for parents/carers or teachers of children and young people, about their use of Wikipedia: “Wikipedia’s goal is to offer “the sum of all human knowledge” in a format which is legal to copy, modify and redistribute (copyleft, as we call it) to all, at no cost. With this aim in mind, we have grown to become one of the largest collections of information ever assembled, and enjoy a high profile as one of the most popular websites on the internet. We hope you will find huge educational value within this project; and amongst our millions of articles, you will certainly find many relevant to almost all areas of study. No encyclopedia should be the end of the line in any research, however, and we hope you’ll find our articles useful road maps for further exploration across a whole range of subjects. Wikipedia is freely editable by anyone and everyone, but this does not mean that anyone can write anything. Both inaccuracy and sheer vandalism are therefore problems that the project faces on a daily basis. However, a number of safeguards are in effect. These include insisting that editors cite reliable sources, as well as Recent Changes Patrolling for vandalism, and New Page Patrolling for recently created articles with inappropriate content.”

Did you know you can see the history of contributions or editing of a wikipedia entry? This lets you see what was changed, who added, edited or changed it as well as a summary of what the reasons for the change were. Look for the “view history” tab along the top of a Wikipedia page. On that page you can also find out more about contributors to a page. So if your learners are looking at digital literacy in the context of study or research on any topic this is a useful tool to provide sources of information, authors/contributors and to give an indication of how reliable and up to date the information provided on the Wikipedia entry is.

Did you know there is a Wikipedia for schools? This is a selection of articles from Wikipedia to support the school curriculum (specifically aimed at schools in the UK though can be accessed worldwide) and aimed at use by pupils. 6000 articles, 26 million words and 50,000 images which have been checked for use by schools, and are also categorised by school subject. You can even download Wikipedia for Schools from www.sos-schools.org/wikipedia-for-schools. You can also get a copy on USB memory stick.

Did you know there is a section on Wikipedia “Guidance for Young Editors – this gives advice aimed at young people creating or editing content. While this may not be seen as something which many young people will be looking to do, there are many who have particular interests where this would be useful to provide guidance aimed at them. For all younger users the guidance also provides a useful starting point, written in more accessible language aimed specifically at younger readers, about how Wikipedia as a joint collaborative research tool works.

Did you know there is a Wikipedia WikiProject Schools site? This provides space, templates and guidance specifically for schools to provide information about their school.

Did you know there is a Wikipedia:Student Assignments section? Occasionally teachers may have learning situations where it would be appropriate to have learners collaborate together on a joint project as an assignment using Wikipedia as the tool – it may be for specific areas local to the school or on specific topics where Wikipedia does not have a wealth of information. In that case the extensive guidance for teachers is essential reading for the teacher.

Did you know there is a Wikipedia List of Historical Anniversaries? For any day of the year, in any year, for any month, you will find an entry listing events on that day, births, deaths, holidays or observances. And of course, as with any entry in Wikipedia, there are links to the Wikipedia pages providing more information on any of these entries, whether individuals, groups or events. So in a classroom situation if you are going to be teaching about a particular topic it’s likely you will find something relating to that context on the particular day on which you are teaching that topic. And that can provide a form of engagement for learners to the topic about which they will be learning.

Did you know that, although you will often find using a search engine of your choice will bring up a Wikipedia page in one of the top returns, Wikipedia also has its own search box – just enter what you’re looking for into the Wikipedia Search box on any page and it will search only Wikipedia. Wikipedia also has a very useful Wikipedia Help page – this provides guidance about how to better target your searching to find exactly what you are looking for; it provides answers to commonly asked questions about Wikipedia itself; it provides links to guidance about how to go about editing Wikipedia pages; and how to report an issue with any Wikipedia page.

Did you know there is a Wikipedia Community Portal where you can see what’s needing to be done, whether adding an image to accompany an article, whether checking spelling, whether adding links to related material. This page provides a list of the elements needing attention, and may provide a useful way into using Wikipedia as a contributor for learners of all ages, rather than as simply consumers.

Did you know there is a Scots Language version of Wikipedia? This comprises many tens of thousands of articles written in Scots, which provides a rich source of material for all Scottish schools looking at the Scots language.

Did you know there is a Simple English Wikipedia? This has the “stated aim of providing an encyclopedia for people with different needs, such as students, children, adults with learning difficulties and people who are trying to learn English” and contains over 100,000 content pages. Not only do the articles use a simplified English, the tabs and menus also use simplified terms, making this ideal for use in the classroom with younger learners.

This article only scratches the surface of all that Wikipedia offers for schools – explore and see how it can help in your classroom




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