Wikis and learning

What type of knowledge building activities do I see going on in these different wiki sites?

Wikis make future reference easy. Prior-years’ work remains, archived rather than deleted. This aspect offers advantages in the classroom. Imagine that each year a former student acts as a TA for current students. This student embodies the collective wisdom from the year before, and they can conveniently call on his experiences. Wikis offer this kind of knowledge building. From a teacher’s perspective, this resource is great! It allows the teacher to bring students up to speed faster. Davis agrees: “There’s much less of a learning curve for students… who can see how others have handled specific assignments and projects and then come up with their own ideas.” Besides, students tend to learn well from their peers, who put together the information on the wiki.

Knowledge building with wikis occurs in other ways, too. Davis used them to bridge cultural gaps. Connecting with students from around the globe, wikis empower students to collaborate with peers with different cultural backgrounds and worldviews. Sharing, similar to the way conference speakers distributed materials at the professional conference (Schweder & Wissick, p. 58), is another powerful use of a wiki. It helps organize and share bookmarks quickly and easily, as in the user interface requires little to no IT experience. Just as breezy is updating these resources. Classroom teachers would organize in a similar fashion: store materials in one place as well as any enriching resources such as applets. Thirdly, through editing, students’ grammar and writing skills improve when using a wiki. Editing the electronic encyclopedia affords them the opportunity to fix their peer’s grammatical errors, which are germane to their generation and thus are highly relevant to their stage of learning.

No matter the usage, wikis accomplish one of my favorite goals of technology: individualized instruction that gives a voice to the shier students in my classes. In general, anyone from anywhere can contribute, even community members (Schweder & Wissick, p. 57). Bringing their expertise and real-world views into the classroom makes wikis even more appealing for educational use.

How do I see the quality of knowledge building being monitored in large public wikis and the smaller wikis?

Wiki juggernauts like comprise a team of dedicated volunteers who monitor the site. No voting occurs to settle disputed information; consensus through discussion determines validity. Smaller or more localized wikis – such as those used in classrooms, for particular projects among school districts, and so forth – operate under the same principles (five pillars) while a smaller number of individuals manage the site.

Wiki Caveat & Lesson-Worthy Ideas

“One challenge Davis has run into when using wikis involves simultaneous editing and the fact that the tools aren’t made to accommodate multiple users all at once. ‘This isn’t the technology you want to be using if you have 20 students trying to edit one page,’ said Davis, who suggested Google Docs for that type of work.”

“The online collaboration tool recently served as a catalyst between Burton’s students, and a classroom in Germany. ‘My kids posted information about themselves, and the German students did the same,’ said Burton. ‘Then, they used the collaborative nature of the wiki to comment and give feedback on each other’s pages’” (Wiki-Centeric Learning).

Conducting a professional development sessions is no different than planning a learning experience in any other kind of classroom. Schweder & Wissick (2009) recommend using a wiki while teachers participate in professional development (p. 58). Capturing the information from the session – whether that includes teaching tips, useful website links, PowerPoint presentations – teachers can catalog their experiences while learning the technology. Integrated it into their learning experiences sounds like a promising way to acclimate teachers to the technology and pacify their trepidations in using it in their classrooms with their students.

4 thoughts on “Wikis and learning

  1. Hannah Inzko

    I too really like the fact that Wiki’s, when shared with the outside community, brings their expertise and real-world views into the classroom. Students can really benefit from the outside perspectives and learn, on a base level, how to interact with people outside of their classroom.
    The ease of use with Wiki’s is another benefit that I was glad to see you mention. I like to call it the “gateway drug” of technology because once you get started using it you want to see what else is out there and do more.

  2. Justin Montgomery Post author

    @smn16 Excellent IALLT article! I’m very interested how wikis help develop foreign language skills; this article and your post provided me with the knowledge and confidence to present this Web 2.0 tool to the foreign language department.

  3. mlc400

    I thought it was interesting that you pointed out the fact that wikis are not good tools to use if 20 people are editing at the same time. I know that wikis are designed for multiple users to be editing and collaborating but I wonder what the frequency is of unidentified edits due to too many users on at the same time? I guess if we were creating a project that involved a lot of users at one time, the ideal tool may be GoogleDocs (depending on the project) because of the editing and retrieval of edits being made. Thank you for pointing out that challenge when using wikis in the classroom.

  4. Shelby Nelson

    “Thirdly, through editing, students’ grammar and writing skills improve when using a wiki.” I am glad that you listed this as one of the knowledge building activities associated with wikis. I found this study that was done titled, Do Wikis Affect Grammatical Aspects of Second Language Writing? Many wouldn’t think of using a Web 2.0 tool (such as a wiki) as a way to teach grammar in a class where you are new to that language.

    This study (done by the International Association for Language Learning Technology) looks into the use of wikis in a first-year German as a Second Language course. The focus was to analyze the students grammar usage and also includes a survey asking these students about their experience using the wiki (attitude, anxiety, if they felt it helped their writing, etc.) Results showed the class using wikis benefited in their writing assignments regarding complex syntax (word order) but encountered problems with the same structures in a test.

    A few highlights from the paper discussing the survey…
    “Most of the students felt comfortable participating in a shared online writing task although this was their first experience with this type of assignment in a second language class. Most students thought that it did help their writing, they acknowledged that writing is indeed a process, they were motivated and they appreciated the collaboration with a partner, the potential of revising their texts, the assistance of the tracking/tracing function, and the convenience of working from home.”

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