Posted by: Bill Hagar | March 1, 2010

Wikis and the Science Gateway Seminar

 

As part of a Davis Foundation-funded project to improve the success of students majoring in STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), the College of Science and Mathematics is developing a Program for Instructional Innovation (Pi2 ) to help CSM faculty develop and implement “new and innovative pedagogical methods,”  including the “effective use of current and emerging instructional methodologies and technologies to engage students; strategies for the introduction of active learning, peer-to-peer learning.” 1

As part of this initiative, in Fall 2009, CSM instituted a new “Gateway Seminar” to address the freshman seminar requirement for its students, with the goals of engaging students in inquiry-based science education, building a strong student cohort, helping students make connections between the world around them and the science they will study, and guiding students in a collaborative process of researching and sharing information on a variety of topics.  The seminars, two of which were taught by the college’s dean, Andrew Grosovsky, and its associate dean Bill Hagar, address topics of broad societal impact under such themes as Science in Today’s Headlines, and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”   

The wiki has emerged as an important tool for these seminars.  Because it allows easy posting to an online site, it allows students to collaborate across time and space and to share their discoveries and developing understandings.  It supports collaborative writing by teams, modeling the writing process that is often characteristic of work in the sciences, and facilitating students’ comfort with scientific discourse. The wiki also supports group presentations:  students can upload images, links, and PowerPoints, bringing together multiple resources.   A wiki can also become a UMB community or a public resource on the topics being explored if faculty and students decide to use it that way. 

Feedback from the fall semester suggest that both faculty and students have found the wiki to be a valuable tool in supporting inquiry, writing, and collaborative learning.

1 CSM Davis Foundation Proposal

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