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Implementing a wiki in my language courses

This week I was thinking on how to improve my Italian language students’ experience. In fact, while in class we mostly learn and practice the language, their exposure to the Italian society and culture is reduced to short descriptions on the manual, anecdotes that I may tell, or videos that I may share with them. As we are all connected on Twitter, I often post links to interesting online resources, videos, songs, etc. But, let’s be honest, just a few of them access these links and just this little exposure is not enough to change the stereotyped or idyllic vision of Italy that they often have.

In the middle of my frustration I realized that they are just a step away from a treasure of information. What I have to do, though, is not trowing selected information to them, but build a bridge to make them reach this unknown land. However, they will have to go and explore by themselves what’s outside there. My bridge will be a wiki and their exploration a collaborative process of knowledge building through the selection and sharing of authentic resources.

To taste the feasibility of this idea I, then, set up an activity in which my advanced Italian language students will have to collaboratively edit a wiki/website with references and links to online material about the Italian society and culture. The main goal of the activity will not be to edit wiki entries according to the Wikipedia model but to create a space where an interested user could find references and links to authentic material. This space will be L’Italia dal vivo, a Google Sites wiki/website, that will be complemented by a wiki (Wiki dal vivo) where students, in groups of 3 or 4, will post and edit multimedia material inherent to an assigned topic. Embedded in this last wiki there will also be a Google Group forum where students will discuss about what to include in the final draft of their web page or other topics related to the project.

Through the all process, students will discover information and learn about the Italian society from authentic online material; they will also be constantly exposed to the Italian language and consistently practice it. This beta project, however, involves many many challenges: if it hasn’t been too hard to design the structure of the wiki/website and edit some possible students’ samples, it’s implementation may not be as easy, as students would have to work on a platform that they had probably never used before. I would surely have to give them some training session and be always accessible for any technical problem that may arise. Moreover, during the all process of selection of the material and edition of the wiki/website, student may be not too confident with the target language, Italian; this frustration, along with low technical skills, may lead to a feeling of helplessness that may affect their motivation and, therefore, performance.

I’m still debating whether to introduce the activity next term; if yes, I will probably talk more about it on these pages. What do you think about this project? Would it actually lead to the proposed goals?

(Originally posted in Wow 2.0)

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