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aPLaNet ICT Tools Factsheets_12_PBworks

aPLaNet ICT Tools Factsheets_12_PBworks

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Published by: Burcu Akyol on Jan 19, 2012
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Resource Number 12

URL http://pbworks.com Keywords collaboration, editable, shared resources

Category IV Collaboration Tools – Wikis Rationale

PBworks aims to support collaborative learning and is connected with the assumption that learning can be much more effective when not done in isolation. Moreover, it decentralises learning, since the teacher is not necessarily the central figure. Advantages of using wikis such as PBworks, include the development of learner independence/autonomy, the negotiation of learning objectives and methods between teacher and learners, and choice of activities. PBworks and all wikis, more generally, facilitate sharing ideas, resources, teaching and learning materials and the learners' own work, i.e. projects, assignments etc. In this way, learners can learn from each other as well as from the teacher. Needless to say, teachers can also learn from their learners, as well as from each other, so sharing ideas, opinions and resources among educators is a key feature of collaborative learning. PBworks is also a great tool for Continuous and Autonomous Professional Development for Teachers as it is ideal for collaborative projects for teachers from the same institution or from a variety of countries within and outside the European context. Description PBworks is one of the best known wiki platforms. It is a very simple version of an editable website, which allows multiple participants to contribute and edit pages and documents. It is extremely versatile in form and structure and this makes it ideal for sharing and shaping content in a variety of contexts. A PBworks wiki can be as public or as private as preferred, by adjusting your preferences in the Users and Settings tabs on the top bar. The administrators can choose who can have access to the wiki and at what level. One has to be authorised as a Writer in order to be able to use the Edit option or to create a new page, upload a file etc. Additional options can be seen at the top right-hand corner. Resources required All that is needed is a basic functional Internet connection. This tool is very user-friendly and suitable for less experienced technology users. Obligatory resources  desktop computer or laptop  an Internet connection (not necessarily broadband)  an e-mail address (although it is possible to register students who do not have one)  registration at http://pbworks.com. Cost PB works offer two options:   Free Plan All the features needed for a relatively small group are free. That includes the ability to invite up to 100 members to your wiki and 2GB of storage space, as well as some customisation options. Paid Plan For more features, subscriptions start at $99/year.

The project Autonomous “Personal Learning Networks” for Language Teachers has been funded with support from the European Commission. This document reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Setup and Configuration There is no need to download any software. In order to get started, a user account has to be set up at http://pbworks.com. This requires a username and password, as well as a valid e-mail account. The next step for a free wiki is to choose the Personal option from the home page menu and choose a name for the wiki. This generates a link to the wiki that looks like this: http://name.pbworks.com. The option “I agree that this workspace is for non-commercial use only” has to be ticked and then there are two more choices: select whether the wiki is for individual or educational use and whether it is going to be public or private (by invitation only). Then the front page is displayed and customisation may begin. Styling    There is one customisation option for free accounts: the colour scheme. However, since it is very easy to add pictures, videos and sounds to any wiki page, the final look can be quite polished and distinctive. Furthermore, a set of 5 ready-made templates is available, which can be used to form the layout of the new pages created. Of course, there is also the option to start with a blank page and build it up from scratch. Finally, there is an excellent word-processing tool at the top of each page, accessible through the Edit tab. This looks similar to Word, is very easy to use and allows for further customisation: along with all the usual font and colour options, tables can be inserted and coloured, pictures can be inserted and edited and widgets can be embedded.

Navigation and operation There are four tabs on the front page: Wiki, Pages and Files, Users and Settings.  The first one leads to the main content.  The second provides access to content management and organisation.  The third allows administrators to control the level of access the current users are to have.  The fourth deals with privacy, security, notifications and more advanced technical configurations. The main navigation tools are on the sidebar on the right. All that is needed is to left-click on any of the links in these twon windows and the relevant page or file is displayed. The Navigator window automatically classifies pages and files in alphabetical order. The Sidebar window is editable and it allows for complete control over content structure and navigation. In order to create new content - once the necessary permissions have been granted – one goes to Create a page. Apart from the above-mentioned template, table, image, video, colour and widget selections, there is one more very important option available: by left-clicking on any of the links provided in the Navigation and Sidebar windows, this link appears on the new page, is clickable and enables cross-referencing. There is also the option of uploading new content from the hard disk: once in Edit mode, the sidebar looks like this: By clicking on Images and Files, the option Upload files becomes available. Having selected and uploaded your files, they automatically appear as links in the window on the right. Left-clicking on a link will automatically insert it on the page. Please note that this function is available not only for document formats, but also for image and audio files. After adding the desired content, left-clicking on the Save button at the bottom left-hand corner allows you to exit the Edit mode and saves all your content. The same procedure is followed if one wishes to change or add to the content of any wiki page. Finally, it should be mentioned that, depending on the Notification settings, there is the option to immediately inform all wiki participants about new content directly through their e-mail accounts.

The project Autonomous “Personal Learning Networks” for Language Teachers has been funded with support from the European Commission. This document reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Implementation methodology A wiki is an excellent platform for content storage and sharing. This makes it ideal for organising course content in a variety of contexts: distance, contact or blended learning. The emphasis on collaborative editing and ease of access in a highly customisable yet very secure environment renders PBworks wiki suitable for use with learners of all ages and levels of proficiency.

Teaching/Learning ideas:  Organise and deliver course content in a variety of formats, all in one place if so desired.  Organise assignment work, deliver products and feedback.  Have learners work together on a project.  Set up task-based activities in general.  Have learners edit each other's assignment work.  Provide learners with further resources, like additional reading, videos to watch and other relevant online content.  Assign each learner their own individual page, where they can upload their work and receive comments and feedback.  Keep records of learner work and progress.  Facilitate self-access work.  Help learners create their own work portfolio.

The project Autonomous “Personal Learning Networks” for Language Teachers has been funded with support from the European Commission. This document reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Example of implementation Type of lesson: General English course Level: A2 of CEFR Lesson Title: Composing Class Dictionary, Stage 1 Age group: Primary school students (aged 11 to 14) Number of students involved: 30 Duration: 90 minutes + work on the dictionary during all classroom sessions

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Introduction: T presents the SS the aim of today lesson. Using the PBworks application, SS will create a foreign language dictionary to catalogue new words encountered throughout the lessons. Lead-in: T introduces the class to the format of PBworks and explains what the usage might be. Then he explains the long-term goal of the course – to compose the class dictionary. It is up to discussion if the SS consider more useful to keep the dictionary sorted by topics or if they prefer to build one personalised but general dictionary. Focus: SS will work together divided into groups or pairs to compose their task on the dictionary. T assigns each group or pair a letter or letters they will be working on. Each group needs to come on the first session with basic expression they already know that start with the letter they were given and write them down using the PBworks application. T can provide help if SS are not sure how to do it. At the end of the first session, a basic outline of the class personalised dictionary should be built. Follow up: The dictionary can be viewed online and updated and expanded very easily. This way, SS can keep track of what vocabulary they have come across with and should be already aware of.

Other issues Teachers should be careful when deciding on the Notification settings: it may be important for participants to be kept in the loop, but too many e-mail notifications can be quite disruptive. One has to strike the right balance, depending on the learning context. The following PBworks wikis have been used in a variety of contexts:  This is an example of a wiki created by a teacher for her students  This is an example of a wiki created for and by teachers of Business English  Here you will find a wealth of technology resources for young learners, organised by Shelly Terrell and Ozge Karaoglu  This site offers tips, instructions and resources on creating a PLN to teachers and learners alike, again by Shelly Terrell. Useful tips      . There is a very comprehensive user's manual here http://usermanual.pbworks.com/w/page/11632089/FrontPage Pages and files can easily be organised into folders by clicking on Options in the Navigator window. The entire content of the wiki can be downloaded in a Zip file and saved to a hard disk, by selecting Export in the Settings tab. There is a very handy Comments box at the bottom of each page, with a Reply option for a nested format. Finally, a recently added feature: the Check for Plagiarism button on the top right-hand menu, just above the Navigator window.

This Factsheet is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 2.0 License. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/

The project Autonomous “Personal Learning Networks” for Language Teachers has been funded with support from the European Commission. This document reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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