Friday, May 15, 2015

Tilting at Windmills, Vol. 1, No. 1.

Creating Wikis and Using Twitter in a Flipped Classroom: A Walden University Blog Entry

            This is the Module Six blog assignment which requires me to explore two technologies that can be used in teaching. As I try to focus on technologies that help me with my particular teaching style, I have chosen Wikis and Twitter for these choices. As many of you know, I am an advocate and practitioner of the flipped classroom when it comes to F2F teaching. Lecture is Dead! No more kill and drills, no more Death by PowerPoint treks into mind numbing ennui. My students are now the instructors in charge of their learning, or as close to it as possible under the interactive system.

            As students work in groups within this interactive learning model, they are taking multiple streams of content and translating it to each other in making a group answer to the questions posed to them in each lesson. They deliver these answers to the rest of the class. What happens when students miss the class? How do they receive the processed information? For that matter, what if students wish to revisit that information? Also, should we expect them to retain this information for the duration of the semester for retrieval when we ask them to write the comprehensive essay at the end of the course? 

            Obviously we should consider a way to record that information. One method is that of recording the group answers in a podcast. This is possible using the existing technology in most classrooms. It is also possible with an app through the Canvas LMS which uses webcams are the recording device. Thus any PC, laptop, smart phone, or webcam equipped tablet becomes a digital video recorder. The podcast can be uploaded easily into the LMS or a website or YouTube for retrieval by students at any time. 

            Call me old school, but I like the concept of a written wiki. It has advantages that the podcasts do not. First, it is changeable. Let’s say the group answer is wrong or needs some refining by the professor (Yes, I still have to be there). The podcast may not capture this whereas in the wiki the group can alter the answers so that they are correct. Also, the wiki is able to be printed out. It can be read and I really think that mode of data transmission has some advantages when it comes to students processing information. Students will fluctuate either way on that, but for now the print version of material is still dominant in education. Thus, those who are not good visual and audio learners will not be at a disadvantage. 

            Also, both wikis and podcasts are mobile learning forms. I like that and it fits in with the flipped design. However, the wiki is an option that can be built over time and show the change over time element in the themes we explore in the survey course (O'Bannon & Britt, 2012). It also serves as an assignment for assessment, reinforces learning with the written component, and can easily be done at any time whether students are in or out of class. Since time management is very important in college, having flexibility is wonderful. 

            The other option is using Twitter. I am not certain if this is necessary in smaller classes, but it has been used effectively in large lecture halls. Of course, we will not be lecturing, but having an open Twitter feed can allow for a class wide exchange of information and ideas. I have never used Twitter in class before, but I have read on how it has been used. At this point in the development of the summer courses, I am debating on how to use it. It is possible for students to use Twitter to ask questions during the out of class content processing stage. All students in the feed could see the questions, answer accordingly, point out content locations, affirm success or failure, even better have questions there for the instructor to work with  (Junco, Elavsky, & Heiberger, (2013). 

            One of the major issues with the flipped design is that some students will try to get out of the content processing stage before class. Using the Twitter feed, an instructor can make it mandatory that students ask three questions via Twitter or content comments before the class period. Let’s say in my Geography course we are on Chapter Four studying Europe. A student in one group might have to be exploring France and its geography. The course is Monday. He could work with the delivered content on Sunday, have a question about the biomes in France in conjunction with Google Earth, and ask it via the Twitter feed with practically any device. (Yes, this is m-learning capable. Beginning to see a pattern here yet?).  He asks the question, and then two more over something else while getting answers from others or reading earlier questions and tweets. He could answer some questions too. 

            This would serve as one potential check on students blowing off the interfacing with content prior to class. So will a nice quiz on selected days, particularly after noting some students obviously trying to skate. A few marbles on the floor will disrupt some, but not all of the skaters. Some are determined to wipe out. Also, nothing beats a good old writing assignment which is why essays are always needed in any course. The one thing about essays is that I want to talk about them in class. The problem is that by the time they get them turned in we’ve moved past the subject. This is another place the Twitter feed can be used. In fact, this is probably one of the best places to use Twitter. Mandatory tweets on the essay can be used by the instructor to develop some talking points for class.

            Basically, use these technologies to push students in the learning process. Yes, they are going to fight back. Some will not do the work no matter what you say, use as a learning technique, or use as bait. However, others will get involved and run with the plan. There is no magic bullet. We have to work with what we have, but let’s make that work fun and challenging. Using wikis and Twitter in the flipped interactive classroom as learning technologies can be useful. I sure hope so because I am using them this summer. I do want to note that Facebook could work in place of Twitter. This is something that may be a class by class thing. I think Twitter is less of a distraction than Facebook though. Your mileage may vary.


Junco, R., Elavsky, C., & Heiberger, M. (2013). Putting Twitter to the test: Assessing outcomes for student collaboration, engagement, and success. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(2), 273-287. 

O’Bannon, B. & Britt, V. (2012). Creating/developing/using a wiki study guide: effects on student achievement. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 44(4), 293-313.


  1. Hi Jim,

    I like the fact that a wiki’s content can be shared and modified by the readers. In a two-year study conducted by Stafford, Elgueta and Cameron (2014), it was found that students who engaged in wikis scored five percent higher on their final exams than in previous years where wikis were not employed. When modifying content in a wiki, students are given the chance to improve not only their writing skills, but also their critical thinking skills including social and collaborative competencies. Having students contribute to wikis supports the idea of student learning through constructivism!

    ~ Sharon


    Stafford, T., Elgueta, H., & Cameron, H. (2014). Students’ engagement with a collaborative wiki tool predicts enhanced written exam performance. Research in Learning Technology, 22.

    1. Sharon,

      I really am looking forward to getting things going with the wiki. I am not so sure about the Twitter part, but I'm going to see how it goes. I am pretty sure that I will be the only professor doing much of this at my school. I checked with eCollege and it will not host a wiki. When I get Canvas later this summer I will see about it.

      Judging by the wall of silence I do not think I made some staff members happy with what I had to say about the lack of features in LMS. Then I made it worse by saying a lot of instructors might benefit from actually using a tablet to access the textbooks. Apparently, they want the eTexts gone. When I mentioned using wikis none of them did so.

      I really want to see how the summer class does with their final essays after using the wiki.


  2. Jimmy,

    Have you ever tried using SoftChalk to create a lesson? There are many excellent features that can be used, and some make the lesson interactive.
    I have not flipped an entire class yet, simply because I have not had the time but I plan to next spring and see how it turns out.

    Mark B

  3. Mark,

    No, I have not seen that feature yet. There are ways to make a PP into activist instruction, but most instructors do not use those methods. They are locked into the lecture mode. They are convinced that their method works because it has always worked. See this recent news article:

    Yet, does the chalk-and-talk work that way? Recall the video clip in class. We have had 800 years of lecture based instruction. Does it work as well as what some think? This is the part I love. Recent testing shows American students have a horrible grade in history and government. The reasons for this are numerous and will be the subject of a post later on.

    While many lament this horrible history grade of our youth, two things get overlooked. The first is that the American people at large have a horrible understanding of American history. The second and this is the most important; ever since the first large scale tests were undertaken regarding American History in the early 20th century, students have scored terribly. What has really happened is that there has been no increase in learning...what methods were used then and now?


    The flipped model and many other forms of constructivist teaching have just now begun to be used in teaching. We have no hard data built over a longitudinal study to show whether this works or not. We have studies that show it is effective in the short term. What we do know is that based on 800 years of lecture, there is a learning wall with plenty of barriers to hinder those who want to learn.

    I know speaking to everyone in this class that we have recognized this fact. What we are doing is seeking ways to overcome those barriers and push that learning wall back. In order to do that, we are looking at activist teaching practices as part of the constructivist philosophy. Hopefully, we will part of the larger group out there working to develop better teaching methods in the next two decades.


  4. Jimmy,

    I flipped two weeks of lessons last semester to try it out and it worked nicely. I just so stretched for time this semester, I do not plan flipping my class this fall while I am working on my study. If all goes as planned in the fall semester of 2016, I will flip my f2f class on Computer Applications in Justice Administration. It would be a great class for my experiment since it has rich content.

    Mark B