OGDEN -- Nickole Brooks, a Weber State biology teaching student and aspiring high school science teacher, turned in one of her final projects Thursday.
Do you want to give her work -- on teaching plant respiration -- your own informal grade? Check out her work at the class' wiki site.
Classmate Keith Williams, a WSU chemistry teaching major, also put in hours on his final project, debunking the myth that matter that burns turns into smoke. In truth, when something like wood burns, for example, it is stored carbon dioxide that is released.
Feel like checking out the clarity of Williams' explanation? Check out the class wiki site, http://scienceconceptions.wikispaces.com.
If all goes as planned, the final reports will outlive the writers' WSU careers and will live on, on the Internet, to offer help to other science teachers struggling with the best way to clear up common misconceptions.
Professors around the nation increasingly are asking their students to post research on the Internet, rather than turning in traditional printed reports in colorful dust jackets.
"I've done this for probably four years now with this particular course," said Adam Johnston, a WSU physics professor. "The idea is they create their own database of misconceptions students have about certain science ideas. My students are creating something real and useful to others, including future generations of students like themselves. This exercise lets them create something that will have value beyond this school year."
A wiki site is one developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add and edit content. The best known wiki site is Wikipedia.com, designed as an online encyclopedia and edited by members of the general public. Because non-experts can add entries to Wikipedia, the value of information provided varies with the knowledge level of contributors.
Johnston's wiki site can be viewed by anyone, but edited only by him or his students. Johnston gets an email alert anytime a student makes a change on the site, which made for a full inbox Wednesday night as the Thursday project deadline approached.
"I find this really charming, that this is all taking place," the professor said, with a smile. "I see my students during finals week, in sweat pants, exhausted, wrought. They are doing all this work at the end, the capstone to their semester. To see these updates to the wiki site getting more and more voluminous in the last hours is fun. It's actually really energizing to see that kind of work being done."
Finals week makes Johnston nostalgic for his own days as a student, he said.
"I tell them they will look back at this fondly as the best days of their life. They don't believe me, of course."
Other students' misconception reports posted on Johnston's wiki site explore whether bullfighters' capes really need to be red; what makes objects fall downward; the nature of rocks and minerals; whether natural selection favors larger individuals; and whether continued force is required for continued motion, among a long list of additional topics.
Brooks, 34, said building a Web page was new to her.
"The editing was new," she said. "I haven't done anything like that before. The students I am going to teach will be more savvy than I am, which is a little bit shocking."
But Brooks is nearly up to speed, and knows her future students will respond well to information delivered through technology.
"My kids' teachers have blogs and websites that are really a benefit to everyone. My son in junior high logs on to teachers' blogs almost every day, and they post information to make ideas clearer than they may have been in class. They post PowerPoints and additional information."
Debbie Titmus, 49 and a WSU chemistry teaching major from Clearfield, said she created her first Web page for this course, and was happy with the results.
"I'm pretty computer savvy, but the program was a little frustrating," she said. "The process is obviously a little bit overwhelming, but putting your report online makes you research your material a little better."
Titmus noted that a lot of schools are using ebooks, and keeping a few textbooks that students can check out.
"The Internet has definitely changed education," she said.
Clinton resident Williams, 31, said he feels at home on the Internet.
"It didn't bother me, putting my ideas and research online," he said. "If you've ever commented on Facebook, everything you write is recorded forever. But posting on the wiki site did make me double check my information. There's nothing people on the Internet enjoy more than telling you that you're wrong."
Williams said he likes the idea that his class's reports may be of some use to a teacher in the future.
"I hope they can be used," he said. "I like the idea of building on the site so it grows every year. It's kind of the dream of anyone who writes a research paper that there's some use out of it to someone."