Monday, February 26, 2007

Students writing their own textbook using a wiki

At Old Dominion University in Virginia, Dwight Allen and his graduate assistants teach over 200 students in "Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education." The course has many sections, some taught on campus, some in a distance learning format.

Allen saw that the textbook was not engaging students effectively, so he decided that, the next term, the students would be assigned to collaboratively create their own text, using the same software used by authors of Wikipedia.

Allen's team provided the chapter headings; students each worked on a different section, writing for other students. Three versions of each section were written and, later, students critiqued the drafts, and voted for the best version of each one. Using their advice, the faculty picked the versions for each chapter; the other versions were also included as supplementary material. All this was done in the first month of the course; after that, the students studied the textbook they'd created, as well as using other elements of instruction: lectures, discussions, readings, and so on.

For more on how the course and writing were organized, click here.
What you see above is a new addition to our materials on 'Digital Writing Across the Curriculum.'

A little explanation: Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) is important because writing is the lifeblood of most college courses: when students entering a course can already write well, the instructor has more options for how to teach them, and how to assess what they've learned. When those same students also have skills of digital writing (e.g., creating web sites, using multimedia, writing for wikis and blogs), those options expand even further. That's my hypothesis, and this TLT Group resource gives examples of disciplinary courses that are being taught in fresh, effective ways by using assignments that involve digital writing. Please send me more examples! We hope that our subscribing institutions will use this web site to consider whether, and how, to foster such skills in their students in order to help all departments improve instruction and assessment.

If you like this work, the best way to support it is to urge your institution to subscribe to The TLT Group.

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