Home from three great days in Bolton, England working with high school aged kids to build what could be a really neat wiki and learning a lot about how far blogs and the like have spread, or not spread. And, learning a lot about being an American abroad..
The best part? The kids, without question. We spent full days with about 50 students with 10 teachers, and to a person they were enthusiastic, engaged, and extremely interesting. I loved the accents, and I they taught me a lot about just how varied the accents are, some being very different just three or four miles apart. They were all interested in what things were like in the states, especially what school was like. (They didn’t much like the fact that kids here don’t have to wear uniforms…) And they all took to the wiki like fish take to …er…chips.
Wikiville is the idea of John Bidder who wants to create a place where kids from around the world can come and add descriptions and narratives about the places they live. The kids in Bolton were the start, but we’ve already heard from other teachers in the US, Australia, Canada, Brazil, and Tasmania among others..Surprisingly, most of the students didn’t know what blogs were, though a couple of the teachers said they were beginning to use them with their classes in their schools. And there were only a handful that had heard of wikis, though most had heard of Wikipedia. In fact, it turned out that one young man had worked pretty extensively on the Bolotn entry in Wikipedia (somewhat to the chagrin of the editors). The good news is that the kids created a great deal of content for the first two days, and many of them continued to edit and add information even when they got home. The most difficult point was getting them to write in a non-Wikipedia voice, which may or may not be a circumstance of the tool or of the way that they have been taught to write. (And that may be the case with students all over the place.) But there were a couple of great examples of interesting voice and content.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all progresses. John and I agreed that there are some obvious challenges ahead. The students, who cam from about a dozen different high schools around Bolton, will obviously not be seeing one another again. And there are some structural and organizational issues to sort out. But we’re hoping that in a couple of weeks it will be ready to open up to more schools. (If you’re interested, just let me know.)