More than any of the other web 2.0 tools I have explored, wikis have shown how well my past educational experiences have engrained certain beliefs and assumptions...especially when it comes to learning.
The first wake-up call was the fact that I had no prior meaningful experience with wikis. Unlike other tools I can't claim "I am old...I didn't know". My claim is "I am old...I chose not to know because I don't care".
Before you click away let me explain. Back in the 80's and 90's reliable, important and valuable came from very limited sources. These sources were textbooks, dictionaries, and giant encyclopedias. What did these all have in common? Some brilliant unknown adults who possessed real knowledge, passed this knowledge onto those who learn. Those who learn generate content but this content was to be marked, to get attention, to express angst...and to get the attention of the hot girl three desks over (old school notes...classic). In university the same basic rules applied. In my undergrad degree I was never asked to generate, comment on, or contribute to academically respected materials.
So...when wikis came along I instinctively scoffed. Wikis have no credibility or use other than glorified note passing. Before this semester I had only seen Wikipedia about five times. I directed my students away from these sites as no socially created could be reputable.
Experiencing the value in other web 2.0 tools during this class, such as blogs, social bookmarking, video sharing, and podasts, so I decided to give wikis a real shot.
Screencasts of Learning Process.
Wiki Learning 1
Wiki Learning 2
I really struggled with this section as I focused mainly on professional implications.
1) I am being forced to redefine how I view information. I was very comfortable in a world where there were experts that I went to in order to learn. Socially created knowledge forces me to relook at this and ask are other forms of knowledge/experiences valuable? How and when do I utilize socially constructed sites in my masters courses? Are sites such as wikipedia as or even more credible due to the number of peers that review the content?
2) As a father, how much do I push my son and his school to utilize wikis and related tools? According to Richarson (2009) and Wesley fryer in his "Get Wiki with it" podcast (http://feeds.feedburner.com/speedofcreativity/podcasts), these tools are critical to my son's motivation and success. My son loves learning but not school. If all I get home are worksheets and written notes, how can I approach the school to say that my son needs more engaging materials such as wikis. I want to be able to see his work instantly instead of waiting until report card time.
3) Can wikis improve my social life? By joining various communities and generating my own wikis, will this help meet my social needs. I love being around people. If my friends and I were going to coordinate a trip we would call each other or utilize facebook. If we were to design a larger project we would likely utilize email or social collaboration tools such as Sharepoint (www.sharepoint.com) as we are more familiar with them. I have to say that I didn't enjoy having to join various communities in order to have editing rights. I understand the reasoning but these security measures made wikis just like any other site for me. Unless I have an invested interest or know the creator of the wiki I will likely still tour the web myself in a 1.0 fashion rather than seeking to meet and network with strangers.
4) As a hobbyest...I have to admit that having the power to actually participate online instead of just absorving excites me. For instance, I love astronomy. Checking out Nasa is awesome but creating, chatting, and designing web content with other enthusiasts (http://macsingularity.org/astrowiki/tiki-index.php) creates new possibilites. If I do want to participate in creating interesting sites I will likely have to learn some HTML. While wiki sites are easy to use, the most enthralling wikis include complex formatting, interactive elements, etc. (http://webtools4u2use.wikispaces.com/)
5) As an individual in the Google world...I can help create my online identity. In the podcast "Get Wiki With It" (http://feeds.feedburner.com/speedofcreativity/podcasts), Fryer stresses the importance of creating your online identity instead of letting Google and other people do it for me. Being able to write to the web using a variety of tools using wikis and blogs will allow me to do that. As mentioned before, I would likely use blogging and other tools over wikis on a personal basis.
1) Kids will be kids - The power of wikis is in their ability to encourage participation, self as well as communal monitoring, and various technological skills. "In using wikis, students are not only learning how to publish content; they are also learning how to develop and use all sorts of collaboarative skills, negotiating with others to agree on correctness, meaning, relevence and more. In essence, students begin to teach each other" (Richardson, 2009, p. 61). Despite these benefits, students may still attempt to post inappropriate comments or to disrupt communal work. This inherent risk means educators must select tools that incorporate "back up plans" such as reversion tools that can restore the wiki to an unblemished state (http://wiki.wetpaint.com/page/Wiki+Risks; Schwartz, 2004)
2) Keep your wikis active - As long as wikis are actively used and edited, the chances of glaring errors, formatting issues, incorrect information, and/or inappropriate content shrinks. Teachers that make sure their wikis don't sit dormant and that students/colleagues constantly access them allow the wiki to be a safer and more credible place for students to access content (http://wiki.wetpaint.com/page/Wiki+Risks; Wesley Fryer's "Get Wiki With It podcast")
3) Educators may have to redefine how they do business - As mentioned earlier, I had a set pattern on learning that I wasn't fully conscious of. I viewed and experienced learning as interacting with objective absolutes as presented by people/resources who accurately portrayed these truths. Opening the door to a more social model of content generation will undoubtedly shake this foundation:
when the pre-service teachers from the Wikibooks class were engaged in the process of developing and editing the Wikibooks by choosing their topics, finding information, using their judgment for citations, designing the questions, and reviewing and rating their peers’ writing, they became less certain about knowledge in that they were experiencing the construction of knowledge. Such Web-based knowledge construction and learning process has shaped these pre-service teachers’ more constructivist epistemological beliefs in terms of certainty of knowledge; namely, a view of knowledge as tentative and evolving rather than fixed and unchanging. (Ren, Baker, & Zhang, 2009, p. 441)
The above quote came from a study around wiki constructed textbooks. How post modern can you get. I need to look into this more. Could our students actually provide direct input into the materials they use? Wow!
4) Access to technology - If we are to keep our wikis current and if we want students to be part of the process then the old model of having specified computer classes needs to disappear. If web 2.0 tools such as blogs, and especially wikis, are going to be utilized then students and staff need access to computers, hassle free and high speed internet...consistently during the school day. This may mean that one computer per child will have to become a reality rather than an item on our wishlist. How frustrating would it be to have highly collaborative and engaging aspects to learning in your school that students would have to wait in line to use. A great example of student generated content.
5) Trust - The last point I will mention is the fact that parents, students, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders will have to trust the process. Schools will have to do a lot of ground work to make sure that students are educated, guidelines are practiced and in place, parents are consulted and informed, teachers are properly trained, and that appropriate software/online tools are selected. The risks of collaborative learning on the world wide web are here to stay and impossible to avoid all together. The more time we have our students online, the greater chance they will run into sticky situations. If everyone is prepared, however, even these glitches can be opportunities for learning instead of the broken straws that threaten the use of technology in schools.
I would usually go into specific examples of how wikis can be used but the above issues need to be addressed before the tools are turned loose.
Ren, Z., Baker, P., & Zhang, S. (2009) Effects of student-written wiki-based textbooks on pre-service teachers' epistemological beliefs. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 40(4), 429-449.
Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Schwartz, L. (2004) Educational wikis: features and selection criteria. The international Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 5(1).