Evaluation of student facing web-based services: WickED (CORE Education) Publications
The document provides a final service report on the WickED website as part of a larger evaluation of web-based learning services for children and young people in New Zealand. The report is complemented by similar reports relating to the AnyQuestions and Studyit websites.
Author(s): Ann Trewern and Derek Wenmoth, CORE Education Limited.
Date Published: August 2008
This document provides a final service report on the WickED pilot as part of a larger evaluation of web-based learning services for children and young people in New Zealand.
This report focuses largely on a qualitative interpretation of data, and is designed to complement the quantitative evaluation being conducted by Nielsen Net Ratings.
The evaluation of the WickED website is being conducted with a view to achieving two main objectives:
- Understanding more fully the impact of each service on users, teachers, schools, and the service providers themselves.
- Determining how web-based services (in general) are currently aligning and integrating with children and young peoples’ overall learning experiences and outcomes.
WickED Website Background
WickED is an educational resource website aimed at students between the ages of 7-12 years. It is a non-commercial site funded by the Ministry of Education1 and was developed in 2001 as part of the government led Digital Opportunities initiative. Originally the aim was to provide online materials to motivate and extend student learning and to support the use of ICT by after-school ‘Study Support Centres.’ Study Support Centres were required to have a teacher in attendance and to be connected to the web. Four Study Support Centres were located in four South Island venues, and operated during the first round of Digital Opportunities initiatives from 2001- 2003. The purpose was to provide educational resources (particularly online) for students who may not have access to ICT at home, or whose personal circumstances require that they need a quiet, after-school-space to help them with their studies. The Study Support Centres are no longer operational.
While the original focus of WickED was to provide after-school activities for Study Centre students, the WickED site access statistics, have in recent years, indicated that the greatest use of the WickED site has occurred during school operating hours. This has led to the site moving towards catering for more school-based usage in addition to independent student use in study centres or from home.
The original goals of WickED included the following,
- Offering a free, multicultural (including resources in English, te reo Māori, and Pasifika) student-facing, quality assured, online space for late primary/intermediate-aged students where they could find engaging learning activities linked to the curriculum and the likely activities of their classroom.
- Supporting an inquiry-based learning approach for students, providing springboards for group, and independent, study around topical themes.
- Providing an environment where students could share their work with their peers, families, whanau, and the community in response to a range of topics and explorations set by virtual hosts called Wiki2 and Ed.
- Creating an environment in which students could post questions for ‘Ed Celebs’ featuring role models and leaders of interest to students.
- An environment in which parents and caregivers could participate in online learning activities in their home.
- An area where teachers could share strategies and perspectives, and to ask the WickED development team to reflect particular themes and topics to support their teaching programmes.
WickED Website Content
The content of the WickED environment at the time of data gathering incorporated the following areas:
Interactives include a variety of mini games, quizzes, crosswords and language activities. These activities, which cover a range of curriculum areas, were designed to be used by students independently.
- Homework Talk is the name of the WickED language, Maths and Study topics forums. This is where students can ask a question or talk to a teacher or other students about their homework. This area aims to help students studying from level 1 – 4 of the New Zealand curriculum. Messages are moderated by teachers before going live.
- Homework Help provides links to games and activities for reading writing and spelling.
The Student Gallery
The Student Gallery provides an opportunity for students to contribute work for display.
These are integrated units with activities from several curriculum areas involving students in a range of thinking and learning skills. Students are led to quality assured websites to complete activities or gather information. They can present their work using a variety of media text and visually based applications. These activities are designed to be completed independently by students.
WickEDtv provides an area for students to share their own video clips. Information is included to help students with the video-making and editing process.
The information Station
The Information Station provides a safe way for students to use and search the web. It includes directing students to the use of child safe search engines, online dictionary and thesaurus, maps, atlases, online newspapers, encyclopaedias, As well there are links to New Zealand libraries, search hints, web-hunts, and instructions on how to use the software ‘Frontpage’ to create a webpage.
The Teachers Lounge
The Teachers Lounge provides background information about content on WickED and includes, how to have materials published; how to contribute ideas for new content; how to use WickED; and how to help teachers via telephone, email or workshop tutorials.3
Areas of the site that existed during data collection in 2005 included the following areas:
- Korero Mai
- Literacy Stuff
- Maths Stuff
- Science stuff
- Technology stuff
- Cool stuff
Later additions to the WickED site that have not been included in the data gathering include,
- Cool Kiwis were New Zealanders that students have identified as being of interest to them are featured. These include actors, writers, musicians, and presenters. A new cool kiwi is profiled on the home page each month. The profile consists of a photograph and interview transcript. Past profiles are still available on the site and are updated as necessary or archived if information changes substantially.
- The Kokona Māori area contains links to Māori content on WickED as well as other educational information and interactives in te reo Māori.
- WickED website
- ‘The virtual hosts’. WickED is hosted by three virtual hosts. They are designed to be enigmatic, intriguing and featureless to students who are invited to consider who they were and their heritage. The name WickED combines the two original virtual hosts of the site Ed and Wiki. Ed is a pakeha character, Wiki is Māori, and a more recent arrival is Tipani who is Pasifika. Students can email these characters in either English or Māori and receive responds in their language of choice. Recently, these characters have had a lower profile as the site has developed.
- The WickED website has been reorganised between the data-gathering (October to December 2005) and final report writing stages (August 2007) of this research. This background section has been included by request of CWA and the Ministry of Education and does not describe some areas of the site that have since been relegated to searchable data bases but are referred to in the analysis and the discussion sections of this report.
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