Tag Archives: wiki

Technology’s impact on student learning

I found an interesting article in the Chronicle today titled “Is Technology Making Your Students Stupid?“, a short interview with Nicholas Carr, a Colorado writer.  Overall, it’s an interesting read.  Carr has a psychology background, and comes at the topic from the school of thought that the brain is malleable and adaptable through life experiences, something often referred to as neuroplasticity.  Carr sites many observations regarding the use of technology in learning contexts, focusing primarily on studies and anecdotes that found things like multitasking and using laptops in classrooms hurts student learning.  One very interesting finding he mentions is the use of online archives for academic journals.  Carr points out that, in some instances, this is hurting academia, mostly research, as a whole.  The idea is that we, as researchers using online search to find journals, are increasingly led to the same citations based on popularity.

“…we become so dependent on search, and the results from searches are determined by popularity of one sort or another. And the risk of using search for online research is that everybody gets led in the same directions to a smaller number of citations which, as they become ever more popular, become the destination for more and more searches.”

The article touches briefly on social media, where Carr simply wants to make sure educators aren’t making assumptions that all social media is good for education.  This leads me to some numbers we’ve uncovered with our research into the use of blogs@PSU. We ran a cluster analysis on the the student blog data, which led to three distinct groups:

  • Infrequent users
  • Comment-dominant users
  • Entry-dominant users

When we begin to examine the GPA of these users, we see that infrequent users average a 3.21, comment-dominated users a 3.38, and entry-dominant users a 3.56.  Now, this isn’t saying that blogs lead to better GPAs; rather the reverse.  People with high GPAs tend to post more entries in the blog space.  We took a smaller sample from this data, examining students using the blogs that were admitted to PSU in Fall 07. We then examined when these students began blogging, placed each student into one of the above 3 groups, and examined their GPA curve over time.  We haven’t completed the analysis yet, but it does appear that entry-dominant users, from the time they start blogging, start to see positive gains to GPA. 

We’re working on a report now that details some of this information as well as data on the use of PSU’s wikispaces. Stay tuned for the release of the first draft towards the end of the summer.

The Undergraduate Education Technology Ecosystem @ PSU: Wikispaces

With a big project just wrapping up, I’m starting to explore how students here at PSU leverage our wide variety of technology platforms.  Luckily, Penn State has a wide variety of in-house platforms we leverage for undergraduate education.  The first platform I’m exploring is Wikispaces from Emerging Technologies (thanks to the folks at ET for the data!). 

The data below represents a very quick pass at the numbers.  I started by looking at all the students who used Wikispaces in Fall 2009 and made AT LEAST one edit to a page (n = 1095).

  • 52.4% are classified as adult learners.  This needs further exploration because the wikispaces entire data set (n = 3414) seems to show a great deal of institutional use of the space vs. student use.  My initial guess is that a lot of these students classified as adult learners are also PSU employees, and their use of wikispaces might be work related vs. education related.
  • 25.6 average number of edits per user.  This number doesn’t mean much until you break it down further.  Of the 1095 students, 420 students (38.3%) made only 1 edit and 783 students (71.5%) made less than 10 edits. Students with 10 or more edits made an average of 166.3 edits in Fall 2009.  I would consider this a potential dividing line for regular users vs. power users of wikispaces.
  • The College of IST represented the largest userbase at 201 unique users, followed by Liberal Arts (186), Engineering (92), Capital College (92), and the College of Education (75).  Two things jump out at me: IST is one of the smallest Colleges on campus but has the highest number of users. Not surprising given the context.  Capital College (Harrisburg) coming in at the number 4 spot is very interesting and merits deeper exploration.
  • In terms of Campus utilization, UP had 715 unique users, followed by World Campus (171), Harrisburg (97), New Kensington (41) and Altoona (11).
  • The gender split is nearly even, with  males representing 57.9% and females 42.1% of users.
  • The average GPA of users is 3.23 and average credits is 59.45.

Obviously much more exploration is necessary, but I thought I’d put these numbers up for people to get a snapshot of Wikispaces utilization by undergraduate students in Fall 2009.