It’s been a weird week. We had Monday off for MLK. I was on call for jury duty on Tuesday, so I had a sub (sorry, they’re called guest teachers @ Laguna). To make it easy, I had the guest teacher administer the “District Benchmark Exam Part II,” the results of which I’m not sure what to do with. Mostly our English department has been ignoring them, saying the tests don’t really test what they claim to. Also, everyone covers the various standards at various times throughout the year – I don’t do a research paper until the spring, so we haven’t talked much about citing sources – so the idea of testing standards a-g in the beginning of the year, and standards h-m during the middle part, and so forth, just doesn’t work very well. Plus, why do I need to waste three class periods from my precious allotment giving yet another test? Anyway, I had the guest teacher give them the test, and I’ll figure out what to do with the results later.

Then we were in the computer lab on Wednesday, to work on the Tom Sawyer Moodle. This is the main reason I’ve been lagging on the blog; I’ve been tending my latest experiment. For the past week and a half they’ve been editing the summary wiki, responding on the forums, and adding definitions to the slang and vocabulary dictionaries. To encourage (enforce) participation, I required them to make at least 20 “contributions” per week. That could mean 6 wiki edits, 5 posts on the discussion forums, 5 vocabulary dictionary entries, and 4 slang dictionary entries, or any such combination. I actually have it figured out how to parse the logs (techno speak, baby) so I can see how many of each thing each kid does. My student assistants can enter that info into a spreadsheet for me, and etc.

As I looked at the first 5 or 6 days worth of stats, I noticed some loopholes in my initial system. Many of the kids have already figured some easy ways to pad their stats. Some make super short posts, “Yeah, I agree with Mary.”  Some put entry after entry into the slang dictionary. There was a glitch that let them put in multiple entries for the same word. I was getting an awful lot of “gay means cool” entries. Some would just start a wiki summary edit, “In chapter 13.”  Some would just add a title. Also, with all those short posts, the forums have literally thousands of posts already. A lot to plow through. And I want them to write a little more in depth than the “How old do you think Injun Joe is?” thread on the forums.

But the wiki is working beautifully so far. So I’m expanding the experiment in that direction. I was about to begin my yearly 600 words/week program, but now I’ve decided to try to merge it for a while with the TS wiki. I’m phasing out most credit for the slang and vocabulary dictionaries, because they’re both mostly complete. I’m changing the requirement for participation to a word count instead of number of entries sort of thing, with a 75 word minimum in the forums. They will also have to author at least one wiki page per week that will be linked to from the Tom Sawyer wiki. What I’m picturing is a sort of sprawling work that is filled with links to their pages of informative essays, literary analysis, character sketches, poems, etc. They can peer edit (literally) each other, and link to each other’s pages, and… Well I hope you get the idea. Here is the page of suggested topics for the additional wiki pages. Here is a link to the main wiki page with links to the new guidelines and instructions. If you have any writing prompts you use for Tom Sawyer, I’d love to add them to the topics list.

See? Almost 700 words, and I’m only through Wednesday.

(BTW: wiki wiki means quickly quickly in Hawaiian.)