WIKIed Biology

WIKIed Biology Students.jpg

Many students create PowerPoint presentations at the end of a course to show their professors what…

Georgia (Dec 3, 2010)

Many students create PowerPoint presentations at the end of a course to show their professors what they have learned. But for a group of KSU biology majors who spent the fall semester immersed in Web 2.0 technologies, a PowerPoint was too rudimentary. Instead, the 10 seniors enrolled in KSU’s new WIKIed Biology course created websites for their final projects.  
Three professors from the College of Science and Math created the upper-level course with a $200,000 interdisciplinary National Science Foundation grant designed to encourage use of Web 2.0 technologies for teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.
“As the Web becomes more powerful and interactive, our students need to know how to find material, analyze data and test ideas online,” said Paula Jackson, associate professor of biology. “Part of this course is the development of what’s happening in society. There is continuous change so we had to modify the way we teach.”
Web 2.0 describes a second generation of the World Wide Web that allows communities and individuals to share information using social networking, video and photo sharing, social bookmarking and wikis. “It’s a movement that transformed static Web pages into a collaborative medium for creating, editing and disseminating information,” said Meg Murray, professor of information systems who teaches the course with Jackson. “We want students to learn how to discriminate the valid information on the Internet, and at the same time build a deeper understanding of biology.”  
The WIKIed course incorporates technology and biology with an emphasis on ecology. One assignment required students to validate the data they discovered on the Web. Senior Sarah Telliard used Web-based tools in her research on how wasps pollinate fig trees. “Scientists are constantly challenging ideas, so collaborative technologies help you find the latest information that has been tested and verified,” said Telliard, a biology major.
The broader scope of the course, which is funded for three years, is to improve students’ ability to find scientifically valid and useful data from the vast amount of information on the Internet and become proficient in innovative technologies and communication media. “Inquiry-based science is about discovering a question you’re interested in, and figuring out how to find the answer,” said Jennifer Frisch, an assistant professor of biology education, who also teaches a section of the course.
Senior Ashley Curry plans to use the skills she learned in her future studies. “When I signed up for this class, I thought a wiki was just an Internet site. Now I know it’s really a mechanism to collaborate and share information,” she said. “All of these minds come together to create and correct information. It really does show that five minds are better than one.”
The course taught students how to use their knowledge of social networking to organize their academic research. It emphasizes folksonomy, a method used to find, categorize and share Web pages, links and other content using labels called tags, which allow users to classify information. “The students already know how to tag photos on Facebook,” Jackson said. “We’re teaching them the conceptual understanding of what a tag is and how to apply it to the sciences.” 
Senior Jackie Coral used tagging to organize her final project about the tobacco mosaic virus. “When I find the source I want to use, instead of sending an e-mail to myself, now I just tag it on ‘,’” said Coral, a biology and Spanish major. “The site contains all of my references and sources right at my fingertips, in a library that I created with the sources I feel are going to assist my research.”
Coral and Curry worked together to create an interactive website using content-sharing sites that have become popular with college students. “When you’re working with groups of people, it’s great for everyone to be able to access the same document,” Curry said. “Everyone doesn’t have to be in the same place at the same time.”
Coral added, “With Google Docs, I can create and edit my documents online while collaborating with other students in real time. I can access my information anywhere so I’m not tied to a specific computer.”       
Senior Zach Bailes, an information systems major, assisted the biology students with using web-based tools and provided technology support.
Coral summed it up, “You don’t have academic bulimia in this course. It’s not cramming information and then throwing it up on paper and forgetting about it the next day. We’re taking the tools and using them in everyday life.”
The WIKIed Biology course will be offered again in fall 2011.

-Natalie Godwin


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit