Collaboration + Communication = Wiki

May 8, 2011 at 7:09 pm (Web 2.0, Wiki)

I edited Wikipedia the other day. It was easy. I simply found a page that interested me, switched to edit mode, and updated the information. Now millions of people around the world can view the updated and corrected information that I published. Or was it correct? Perhaps I changed some of the content to misrepresent the facts, altered history slightly or wrote some slanderous comments about someone or something.

The same qualities that make a Wikipedia an ideal reference source, (its openness and collaborative nature) can prove to be its downfall. There have been numerous instances of Wikipedia hoaxes; in one example an Irish student published a fictitious quote on the wiki entry for a recently deceased composer. This quote was picked up and subsequently appeared in several world newspapers (Grergely, 2009). If anything this serves as a cautionary tale regarding the use of open media such as Wikipedia.

Brian struggled to find his wiki entry

The word ‘wiki’ is believed to have come from the Hawaiian word for ‘quick’. Early wiki’s were primarily text based sites that allowed content to be edited by specified users. Wikipedia is the most widely known and used form of a wiki however there are numerous examples of wiki’s in use on the internet. A number of sites (google, wikispaces, and wikidot) offer free wiki creation so that interest groups or individuals can create their own. Also some company intranet sites allow the creation of wiki’s for internal use by staff.

So how can we use Wiki’s in education?

One definitive feature of a wiki is that it allows communication and collaborative in a digital environment . This provides the tools that allow students to create, edit and update information and in the process create knowledge. Although their social nature  is not immediately apparent, wikis  allow asynchronous collaboration between students, teachers, and the wider world.  It is this creation of knowledge in a social context that Van Harmelen (2008) points to being a central theme of social constructivism; a theory that fits into modern pedagogical practice.

Another feature of a wiki is its widespread use. By utilising a wider platform, like Wikipedia, the perceptions and interpretations (Muijs, Ainscow, Chapman, & West, 2011) formed within the group can also be tested against ‘real world’ conditions. While this may expose students to extreme views of society it also can act as a mirror to the group perceptions especially those that don’t conform to social norms while at the same time providing an opportunity to examine those norms.

Finally the digital nature of a wiki enables students to become more creative in their development of new knowledge. The ability to utilise and embed a variety of traditional and more modern technologies into a wiki allows the students to personalise their interactions with the subject. Teehan (2010) points to this personalisation as one of the stand out features of a wiki when used for students who don’t fit into the educational middle ground (either under or over achievers). A wiki establishes a free flowing platform on which these students and teachers can freely experiment, which may in turn help create, maintain and provoke the engagement that is missing from traditional methods.

In summary, Wikipedia is the biggest example of a wiki. Its widespread use by digital natives and immigrants alike has made it one of the most widely known and widely referenced sites. This familiarity, together with the collaborative and communicative nature of wiki’s in general, make them valuable tools in the educator’s toolbox. Although one of the first Web 2.0 applications to appear; a wikis ability to utilise, embed and interact with other Web 2.0 tools means that it may outlive some of the more recent application developments.

All that is required now is for teachers to work out how to use them… so why don’t you give it a go here,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitec_Institute_of_Technology#Study_areas.

References

Grergely, A. (2009). Irish student’s Jarre wiki hoax dupes journalists. Reuters. Retrieved from Reuters website: http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/05/07/us-wikipedia-hoax-idUSTRE5461ZJ20090507

Muijs, D., Ainscow, M., Chapman, C., & West, M. (2011). Collaboration and Networking in Education. London: Springer Dordrecht Heidelberg.

Teehan, K. (2010). Wikis: The educator’s power tool.  Santa Barbara: Linworth.

Van Harmelen, M. (2008). Design trajectories: four experiments in PLE implementation. Interactive Learning Environments, 16 (1),  35-46.

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2 Comments

  1. Kay said,

    Hi Mike,

    Nice post on the potential benefits of a wiki in education. There are a few parts that made me ask questions so I’ll put them here:

    You wrote:
    “…formed within the group can also be tested against ‘real world’ conditions. While this may expose students to extreme views of society it also can act as a mirror to the group perceptions especially those that don’t conform to social norms while at the same time providing an opportunity to examine those norms.”

    Can you give an example of this?

    You wrote:
    “…personalisation as one of the stand out features of a wiki when used for students
    who don’t fit into the educational middle ground (either under or over achievers).”

    What do you see as the implications for the under and overachievers in wiki use?

    You wrote:
    “…a wikis ability to utilise, embed and interact with other Web 2.0 tools means that it may outlive some of the more recent application developments.”

    I was wondering what the more recent applications are that you are refering to and why they will not last as long as a wiki.

    Overall I see you are well aware of the benefits. What are some of the barriers to implementation that you might see requring guidance from the teacher?

  2. Wiki’s in more depth « Social Learning Technologies said,

    […] at 12:53 pm (Web 2.0, Wiki, Wiki) This is post is in reply to Kay’s comments on my initial post Collaboration +Communication= Wiki. Kay had some pertant questions (in italics)  regarding wiki’s that I will attempt to answer […]

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