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Policy Paper: Wiki Technology in new Learning – I

 

This paper contains the background of the experiences reported in this section. It has been divided into two parts, to make the post more friendly. The first part focus on the theory, while the second focus on the real experiences.

It was written as part of EDTED 467 Course, Emerging Web Technologies and Learning, instructed by Priya Sharma. Peer revision made by C. Maggiore and N. Squeri.
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WIKI TECHNOLOGY IN NEW LEARNING

Part 1: Theoretical foundations

 

Executive summary

Current technologies are making possible a new learning, with theories and ideas that had been thought before they could be applied into classroom. In addition, claims become greater about the need of deep change learning.

According to Wikipedia, a wiki is usually a web application which allows people to add, modify, or delete content in collaboration with others. This technology is a proven way of implementing those new learning theories.

Firstly, the new learning approach is described focusing on the two most relevant theories and how wiki technology fits them quite perfectly. It continues with implications on teaching and learning. Then, three real applications in classroom are presented to illustrate the given insight. It follows more examples related to context different than classrooms, emerging uses, and, finally, some references are given.

OVERVIEW OF WIKI TECHNOLOGY AND THE NEW LEARNING

“ ‘It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture’, observed Thomas Edison in 1913, predicting that books would soon be obsolete in the classroom”However, “education has proved stubbornly resistant to the improvements in productivity that technology has brought to other jobs.” (The Economist, Jun 29th 2013)

Contrary to education, world is continuously changing in many ways: work, communication and learning, among others. Consequently, educational institutions are becoming more and more disconnected from the real world. Thus, “many students who excel academically do not fare well later in life” (Dede, 2008).

On the other hand, Web 2.0 facilitates implementing learning theories that previously were far from being applicable, and bring technology closer to teachers (Grabowski, 2009). In particular, wiki technology offers some characteristics that allow us to experiment with new learning practices. Lamb (2004) remarks the followings:

  • Anyone can change anything, being fully collaborative. However, depending on the specific site of application, an administrator can managed who has access.
  • Wikis use simplified hypertext markup, so users are not required to acquire high technical skills.
  • Wiki page titles are mashed together and they are easily linked in other pages of the same wiki, making connections among them.
  • Content is ego-less, time-less, and never finished. Thus, learning makes a shift from individual learning to community learning

Let us see now some main points of this new learning and how wikis help to bring them to practice.

Constructivism and learning driven by learner

Digital technologies have dramatically encouraged self-learning. Web interfaces have made for less hierarchical and more horizontal modes of access” (Davidson & Goldberg, 2009). This statement matches with constructivism theory to perfection. “Constructivism suggests that learners create knowledge as they attempt to understand their experiences” (Siemens, 2004). In other words, people learn by constructing their own knowledge. Even it is said that instruction consists on fostering construction (Reigeluth & Carr-Chellman, 2009).

This leads us to implement some knowledge-construction process instead of making learners assimilate what they are told (Bielaczyc & Collins, 1999). Furthermore, this suggests that not only learning content is necessary, but learning-to-learn. What is more, learning-to-learn becomes crucial (Dede, 2008). And so, coming back to constructivism, it is necessary “to help learners learn, which means identifying ways to help learners construct knowledge” (Reigeluth & Carr-Chellman, 2009). Learning becomes learner-driven.

Bannon and Brit (2012) stress that “wiki allows students to generate their own knowledge by creating, communicating and collaborating. Students must develop the ability to think critically, problem solve, and seek out information.” Thus, wiki provides a technological solution for implementing constructivism in a learning context. Furthermore, it also provides collaboration.

Connectivism and Community Learning

Although constructivism seems to be a powerful theory for learning in the digital age, there are some points that it doesn’t address. In particular, something remarkable is that nowadays, any organization or corporation prefers team-workers to genius-workers. Meanwhile, very little has changed in learning in this way. Nonetheless, if team-learning were promoted, the learning could reach further than ever before.

Constructivism is a good point to start, because it addresses how individual constructs own knowledge. Siemens (2004) states that “the starting point of connectivism is the individual”. The following step goes from the individual to the learning community, from the personal knowledge to the organizational knowledge, from the knowledge construction -constructivism- to the knowledge co-construction and collective sense making -connectivism.

This leads us to a new shift in learning. It stops being just “learning about”, and now it becomes “learning to be a full participant in the field” (Brown & Adler, 2008). A new concept arises, taken from classical apprenticeship: the learner’s “legitimate peripheral participation” (Brown & Adler, 2008). In fact, such participation is the essence of a learning community. Individual knowledge construction is the first process, although it quickly becomes tied to other processes related to the community collaborative knowledge construction.

How wikis facilitate that learning in community has been described by Cress & Kimmerle (2008). They find four processes that take place when collaboratively constructing knowledge with wikis: Internal assimilation, internal accommodation, external assimilation and external accommodation. The first two internal processes refer to individual knowledge.

IMPLICATIONS IN TEACHING AND LEARNING

New teaching roles

Much has been written about the new roles of the teacher. Let us start by saying that the teacher “acknowledges the autonomy of learners”. In addition, due to the shift made from learning content to learning-to-learn, the teacher is required to be “an expert learner” (Siemens, 2007).

On the other hand, “instead of controlling a classroom, a teacher now influences or shapes a network” (Siemens, 2010), or say, a learning community. He or she is who builds and shapes the community from inside, being, as said before, an expert member. Teachers “are very likely to be peers who may have picked up something a little ahead of the curve, or who may have more experience in something than their peers” (Jenkins, 2011).

With wikis, the teacher’s role depends on the skills that students have got as learners. Thus, his or her presence will be more or less prominent depending on the case. In a mature community of learners, he or she will just give the support they need and encourage their networking establishing connections, fostering discussion and, to conclude, guiding individual and collective learning, shaping the community from inside.

New learner roles

At least there are three tasks that are assumed by learners: information search and validation, authorization by peer revision, and learning driver, as a member of a learning community. As well as teacher role becomes closer to learner role, now the learner assumes some responsibilities that always had been the exclusive competence of the teacher.

Learning evaluation

In concordance with what has been said, evaluation is in some way made by all the community members as far as they have established connection among them.

With publishing tools such as wikis, peer evaluation usually has a great importance for the writer. In fact, he or she usually is looking forward to the reactions of other peers. Thus, it has been reported that in secondary schools “web publication gives students a real audience to write to and, when optimized, a collaborative environment where they can give and receive feedback” (Bartlett-Bragg, 2003).

On the other hand, the teacher can evaluate the final result from the perspective of a master learner who has followed the full process, so that he or she can evaluate not only the material produced, but the learning process.


REFERENCES

Learning Theory

  • Dede, Chris (2008). A Seismic Shift in Epistemology. http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/seismic-shift-epistemology
    An article about the deep change that learning needs.
  • Davidson, Cathy N. and Goldberg, David T. (2009). The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age.
    A report from the McArthur Foundation. Can be downloaded at http://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/free_download/9780262513593_Future_of_Learning.pdf
  • Siemens, G. (2004) Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
    The main points of Connectivism Theory.
  • Reigeluth, C. M., & Carr-Chellman, A. A. (2009). Understanding Instructional Theory. Instructional-design theories and models, vol. III: Building a common Knowledge Base.
    A reference manual. The third of a series about Instructional Design and learning theories behind, like constructivism.
  • Bielaczyc, K., & Collins, A. (1999). Learning communities in classrooms: A reconceptualization of educational practice. Instructional design theories and models, vol. II.
  • Wei, X., & Jianping, Z. (2011, September). Functional design of the virtual learning community based on the connectivism learning theory. In Electrical and Control Engineering (ICECE), 2011 International Conference on (pp. 6599-6602). IEEE.
    A brief and deep analysis of Learning Communities characteristics supported by the connectivism theory.

Theory related to wikis and other Web 2.0 tools

  • Horizon Reports – http://www.nmc.org/horizon-project/horizon-reports
    Great series of reports about learning technology evolution.
  • Bartlett-Bragg, A. (2003). Blogging to learn.
    Discusses the benefits that web publishing may have for learning.
  • Cress, U., & Kimmerle, J. (2008). A systemic and cognitive view on collaborative knowledge building with wikis. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 3(2), 105-122.
    A great article describing the learning processes related to knowledge construction with wikis.
  • O’Bannon, B. and Britt, V. (2012) Creating/Developing/Using a Wiki Study Guide: Effects on Student Achievement. JRTE | Vol. 44, No. 4, pp. 293–312.
    A study about the use of wikis at university.
  • Lamb, B. (2004). Wide open spaces: Wikis, ready or not. EDUCAUSE review, 39, 36-49. http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/wide-open-spaces-wikis-ready-or-not.
    An analysis of wiki possibilities in educational context as well as main objections.

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