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If you wish upon a Wall – Wallwisher October 3, 2009

Posted by IaninSheffield in Teaching Idea, Tools.
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As part of their Study Skills lessons, our Year 7 students are provided with an induction session to our learning platform.  Developing and delivering this session has fallen to me.

wallwisher

One of the starting points with any new class is to find out a little of their previous experience; often this might be through a Q&A session.  However since the students had access to ICT, I thought I might try an alternative approach with a tool I recently came across.  For wallwisher.com, think online noticeboard – one to which you can attach sticky notes.  It’s incredibly easy to use and quick to generate a wall, though on this occasion I took the trouble of registering – this allowed me greater control and flexibility as I was able to prepare the look of the wall and add instructions to the students explaining the task.  It also meant I had a URL I could deliver to the students through our learning platform.

The task was a simple one – “Tell me about any time you used the Internet to help your learning.” The sticky note format restricts comments in a single note to 160 characters, but image, audio or video links can be added to the post.  It didn’t take long for us to have 20+ stickies, but then things got more interesting.  Because there was an IWB in the room, we could look at all the comments on the wall, discuss any issues arising from them and using the IWB, move the notes around, creating groupings where appropriate.

A couple of things I had to bear in mind:

  • the notes were going to be visible to all on the IWB which could be open to abuse, but the students were a pleasant group of Y7s and as a result, the worst I got was one or two comments which weren’t focused on the task (The wall owner can delete notes if necessary).  Simply a matter of setting expectations.
  • walls can be either private or visible to everyone, and the same two levels of control exist for the submission of notes.  So to allow student access, I had to open the wall up to the world, with all the issues that might entail.  So I only opened the wall a few minutes before it was needed; even then we did get one comment which clearly wasn’t from the group, but fortunately in spanish!  It simply provided an opportunity for a chat about e-safety, being careful about what you post in a public place, and strategies we can use to deal with the unexpected.

It was interesting to see the students’ reactions; this is clearly not something they do often and certainly not in a learning context.  Wallwisher offers much more in a classroom context than a place simply to post notes – that’s only the starting point to lead into further discussion or a classification exercise done as a whole class or in smaller groups.  It can provide a means of drawing out comments and opinions and has obvious uses in brainstorming.  Certainly one to come back to.

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