Wednesday, December 02, 2009

My kids made something today.

My sophomores are getting ready to start reading Caesar's 'Gallic Wars'. A classic second-year text, the book is a series of commentaries written by Julius Caesar and it presents his account of the war.

It also gives his version of what the Celts of Ancient Gaul were like.

And, of course, that's part of the problem.

Year in and year out, I read this text with students and year in and year out one of them pipes up and says: "Hey, wait a minute. Isn't this book a little bit biased against the Celts?"

And I reply: "Yup."

So this year, one of my students suggested we try to level the playing field a bit. And so, as a class, we started scouring the Web for good info about the Celts themselves. We found bits of folktales and records of archaeological digs, we unearthed ancient artworks and explored even more ancient mythologies.

But we had to look all over the place for this stuff. There was no one depository adequate for the Celt-curious needs of high school sophomore Latin students.

So we decided to make one.

And that's how we came to create... drumroll, please... The Wiki of Annotated Web Links For the Study of Ancient Gaul and Ancient Celtic Culture!

So now, we're asking other teachers and students to take our wiki out for a test drive.

Edit it. Add to it. Improve it.

If you take a look, you'll see that only the first of three sections so far is organized alphabetically; and only the first section has been completely vetted (my kids have got some homework tonight!). But, you'll also find that all of the entries are in proper MLA format. And the sources range from university collections to museum holdings to records of digs to out-of-print compendiums of knowledge and information.

You might find some of the annotations to be a bit bland or too general. That's fine: go ahead and scrub 'em out and write your own. A wiki is only as useful as its readership is vigilant.

You may find the rating system a bit limited (as we only allowed sites that scored a '3' or better in our class discussions); so perhaps you will change that or find a better solution.

Perhaps you'll do any or all of these things. Because wikis aren't just about information; they are about the constructive argument that unfolds in the process of making decisions.

In a way, a wiki can be the best manifestation of Hegelian principles. They are truly synthesized projects; and that synthesis itself is catalyzed by human engagement and debate.

Best of all, wikis are made. MADE. By people. People working together. People editing one another's work. People teaching and learning by doing. And people working and learning together and producing something helpful to others.

My kids made something today.


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  2. Awesome! This year marks the 50th birthday of famed French cartoon Asterix, based on the myths of Vercingetorix in Ancient Gaul. There are a lot of resources on him. I also found this source that restores portraits of famous figures based on historical accounts. Bon courage!

  3. Funny that we were having a brief exchange on Twitter about Wikipedia and collective meaning and creation on a day my librarian asks me "What do you know about Wikipedia?" (how ominous, I know...), and a day before you publish this post about a class Wiki... on the same day my students were working on this:

    You mentioned something about "synergy" yesterday, I think?

  4. This is interesting. I haven't used wikis yet in my classroom.

    My comment though has an ulterior motive. I'm wondering if you could help me out. My principal just showed me a new document put out by my school district regarding Internet safety and how it should be taught. Their grand idea is that it should be taught in health and PE class. Brilliant. I'm reaching out to edubloggers and others to help me react to it--I want to be positive, concise, and critical in a way that makes them listen, not ignore me. pros and cons if you will.
    You can drop me a comment on my blog if you are willing to take a look, or email me at thomasbremer at

    Thanks! And nice blog!


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