Daily Archives: June 15, 2013

Collaborative and Creative Learning on Wikis

I’ve been looking forward to this week’s coverage of wikis because I’ve enjoyed the collaborative projects that I’ve completed for other classes, and I wanted to understand the technology a little better.  Especially after the interview assignment last week, I feel like wikis could be an interesting way to creatively engage with emerging web technologies with learners and other educators.  The examples given in Schweder and Wissick’s column as well as the Wikipedia Projects and User Page examples opened by eyes to the many ways that educators can use this popular web technology.  Additionally, Vicki Davis’s two wikis this week were very helpful, and I thought her step by step instructions on how to create and edit in a wiki were brilliant and to the point.  People are often stymied by the idea of editing content, especially things that other user’s have added, and so such clear directions would be very helpful to get the process moving forward with clear expectations.  Her Flat Classroom project with Julie Lindsay seems like an interesting opportunity to expand learning beyond the classroom, and I think using a wiki to collaborate with students on the other side of the world is a clever way to promote global citizenship as well as critical thinking about new technologies.  McCrea’s article introducing Davis’s ideas and projects in her school captures the way that technology can be contagious, and wikis are a great example of that trend.  Valerie Burton, the other featured teacher, made a convincing argument for using wikis as an assessment method for students’ individual and collaborative assignments.  I am a big proponent of “not reinventing the wheel” when it comes to lesson planning and generating new practice activities, and so using wikis to store and organize materials makes a lot of sense to me.  Students and teachers alike could easily access any information literacy materials I created, freeing up my time for more individualized reference needs.

One of the biggest issues about wikis in education is the validity and reliability of the user-generated information, but I think Wikipedia’s “What Wikipedia Is Not” page goes a long way to address some of the concerns leveled against their site.  The page clearly shows that the foundation behind the site as well as the site’s user editors take their information sharing seriously and that they have policies in place to protect the level of scholarship available through their services.  The site is set up to be basically self-policing except in extreme cases where the foundation’s actual employees have to intervene.  People who are regular Wikipedia contributors tend to be very twitchy about the reputation of the site, and I think that helps to ensure that problem users are identified (and sometimes Internet shamed) fairly quickly.  When discussing Wikipedia with students, I always used the example of “What if you wrote in your biography assignment that someone was dead but he actually wasn’t?”, so reading the policies on Biographies of Living Persons, speculation, and scandal mongering were especially interesting to me.  I might just start sharing the Wikipedia policy pages with students in the future; they need to understand the process better and not just take the information presented on faith alone.  Wikipedia is so large and well-known that it is usually what comes to mind when someone mentions wikis, but smaller classroom wikis are becoming more popular.  In these cases, the educator often acts as more of a moderator, but students are still held responsible for the information.  I think it can be a valuable way to teach personal accountability as well as responsibility to the learning community.  I am looking forward to using wikis in my library service model in the future, and I think that my student and faculty patrons will benefit from having to think a little more critically about user-generated information sources.

Wiki’s used for learning

Wiki’s have been around for years and when they first came out they did a couple of things really well. As mentioned in “The Power of Wiki’s” article, Wiki’s allow for collaboration, sharing, organization, and instruction. They’ve also simplified what used to be pretty complicated technology into something with a low barrier to entry. What this allowed for was those who used to be intimidated by heavy software tools could now jump right in and get started without much overhead or training.
In terms of knowledge building, I see wiki’s as the “gateway drug” of collaborative technology. They are a great way to introduce the benefits of sharing on the web.

  •    What type of knowledge building activities do you see going on in these different sites?

Because Wiki’s provide an asynchronous learning environment, there are a plethora of knowledge building activities that can happen at any given point. I love the idea that Wiki’s can facilitate conversation between students in other classes both locally and globally. This type of experience wasn’t even dreamed of just a few years ago. I also really like the archival features of a Wiki and the fact that information can be stored and re-purposed as needed. There is so much learning that can happen just from understanding the path that others have taken in the past and building on what they’ve learned.

I thought it was really interesting to see Wiki’s being used for things like professional development and curriculum planning. What a great idea to invite the community to share in the curriculum planning for the students. I’m sure that the parents feel more involved with their children’s education and in turn, the teachers are able to crowd-source some of their work to others. Unlike blogs, where the author is one uneditable voice, Wiki’s provide an opportunity to hear from many perspectives and that can be priceless.

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

I think that the quality of the knowledge being built on both small and large Wiki’s is pretty comparable in a lot of respects. With larger Wiki’s, you have the power of numbers. More people are exposed to the information posted and therefore there is more opportunity for someone to pick up on any mistakes or misinformation. The downside is that it may be harder to discern which voice to listen to since people can post to public Wiki’s anonymously.

Smaller Wiki’s are typically maintained by a handful of invested individuals that care about the information being posted. It is in there own best interest to keep the information accurate and up-to-date. The downside to this method is that when you have one standout voice on a Wiki it can start to sound much like that of a blog and lose the benefit of others perspectives.

Week 6: Wiki-wiki

The CoolCat Teacher’s blog was a nice resource.  I liked that she outlined how the students should be editing the wiki. It’s one thing to ask them to post and respond, but another to give an example of what it feels like for a student to ask a question and not get a response.  This is a nice example to give the students to remind them to make edits and correct spelling.   She also does a good job of reiterating how essential it is to document sources and create hyperlinks.  Because this page could be potentially viewed by people around the world, it needs to be a good source of information – something the students can be proud of!

As an avid Wikispace user myself, I like the outline of the time in class. It was also interested to see how the wikis are being used. I, too, use them collaboratively in my classroom but each student groups is working together.  When we finish, the wiki is a finished product, and therefore, complete.  It was interesting to see wikis that are in constant change and edit, like Wikipedia.

On a side note, one way that my students and I get around the “you can only have one person edit a page at a time” rule on wikis is to use GoogleDocs.  You can make them public and google-searchable however, it allows for everyone to edit at the same time – and you can go back to an earlier edit if something you wanted get deleted!

  • What type of knowledge building activities do you see going on in these different sites?
  • How do you see the quality of knowledge building being monitored in large public wikis and the smaller wikis?

In the two different classroom site with Friedman’s The World Is Flat, students were working collaboratively with students from around the globe.  This is a great idea, not only to get the point of view of others, but to understand and learn from a different culture too. Plus, it makes editing the wiki simple, as only one user can edit the page at a time!

On larger sites, like the Chem group on Wikispedia, the quality of knowledge is being monitored much more carefully.  Instead of 15 students from Bangladesh making considerations about what needed to be changed, you have people – young and old – from around the world doing just that.  It allows for a great population of knowledge to make the edits and decisions on what is important.