Discussion #2: Chapters 7 & 8 Discussion: Wiki’s and Wikibooks

– Overview –

Chapter 7 dealt with wikis and their ability to enhance collaboration among learners. The chapter began with a brief rationale for the use of learner collaboration within education and then commenced to explain what a wiki is.  The author described how a wiki might be utilized and what roles each of the stake holders could take in the project. A great deal of the chapter focused on suggestive ideas and best practices. The author gave suggestions about some of the polices that should be considered when creating a wiki, possible evalution methods and pitfalls, “software” considerations, and other issues.

Chapter 8 refined the idea of using wikis in education by considering nearly a total “reformation” of text, teaching, and collaborative ideas. The author described a “wikibook” as the potential replacement for physical books and (to an extent) traditional classroom instruction. The chapter relied heavily upon free, constructivist educational processes and passion driven learning.  The authors felt heavily that eventually wikibooks would disrupt traditional classroom environments and paradigms to a great extent. They detailed the technology of the wikibook and some criticisims of the current (2008) educational system. They then stepped into 3 examples of wikibooks in action.  They laid out some criticisms and conflicts that could be potential pitfalls when integrating such a technology in a learning environment.

-Strengths and Weaknesses-

As always, I have to point out a major weakness anytime one writes text about technology. This information is dated. That weakness, however, is a strength for the argument for technologies such as the wikibook. A wikibook would be very cost effective to maintain and keep up-to-date.

I’m jumping ahead of myself though. Chapter 7 dealt with using wikis in the classroom to aid in collaboration. This was pretty specifically pointed to higher educational audiences and gave some specific advice on grading, policies, and other information. This is very good information but could limit the reader to thinking inside of the box presented. I apprecitated the efforts of the author to lay out this information, but I would’ve liked to see more resources specifically targeted to different and maybe even opposing ideas and for different target audiences.

Chapter 8 and I have some points where we agree totally, but there also some points that I am very leery of. I agree that there are major uses for wikis in education and other places. I totally agree to the usefulness of collaborative learning experiences and collaborative information sources. I do not think that they should attempt to replace time tested methods.

Please understand that I am a huge advocate of the use of technology in education and believe it should be used responsibily and as a tool that supplements and enhances the learner’s experiences. I adamently stand against technology being solely relied upon for education, digital content completely replacing printed books, and a total shift to constructivist learning. I think, as with everything, balance is of the utmost importance. I have read too many sci-fi novels (which are becoming reality in so many ways) where printed books go away and so does free thought. Instructors should play a key role in education (How much and to what capacity is yet to be seen, but they should be there). Books should have a place and so should digital materials.

I agree whole heartedly that the education system needs to be shaken up and agree (to a point) with the authors, but I think that their proposals fall short of the needed changes and rely to heavily upon the next big thing to fix the problems. Groups are great! Collaborative learning is great! Apprenticeships are great!  I am just convinced that the system as it is doesn’t just need a new technology to fix it. I think that the system as a whole is flawed.

This video illustrates some of the points I made (and by the way, I felt this way a long time before watching this):

I’m getting a bit off topic, so back I go. I greatly appreciated the efforts of the authors in creating and attempting these wikibooks (especially WELT). These types of projects can have great implications as supplemental material and group efforts in a class and learning environment.

-How could teachers use these chapters? –

These chapters could be great resources for teachers who have a basic understanding of wikis, how they function, and how users contribute to them. These teachers could gather ideas from these chapters and use them within a pool of other resources so that their ideas of wikis could be well rounded, balanced, and relevant to their specific learning environment.

-Future: Game Changer or Fad? –

I really see wikis as being a kind of unsung hero for the distribution of information. This chapter has been published for 3 years and since then many things have changed and many things have not. I’ve seen a huge trend of wikis replace informational websites and software manuals probably because they’re so easy to keep updated. I haven’t seen a great deal of open, collaborative educational opportunities though. People tend to want to be the masters of their own content or at least feel certain that the information which is associated with their name is correct. A true wiki (as pointed out in chapter 8 ) wouldn’t have an author’s name attached to it and this would require a massive paradigm shift. Authors and editors are still very present  today even with many of the “open” learning materials and environments that I’ve seen. I do not think that wikis will be the force to change this paradigm, but I don’t see them as going away either. I think they will probably become something else more robust or they will continue to support as the backbone of digital information as it changes so rapidly.

-What did you learn?-

Anytime I read articles like this I understand a bit more about the thought of academics and their views of wikis, collaborative learning, and how it all works together. I’ve never been much of an “academic” per se. It is interesting to notice how the authors understand wikis and their uses as opposed to other ways that I’m used to (help files, information databases, encyclopedias, etc.). I was glad to understand a little more about how wikis could be used in learning experiences.

I’m always left with questions and I am currently re-evaluating what I “know” and think based upon these chapters ( especially 8 ). I would like to know how far their projects have come in the past 3 years. I would also like to know if they’ve had any other successful attempts at some of their examples. I would also like to know if they still hold to the belief that wikis will be the disruptive technology that they thought then.

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About Michael T.

I'm a student in the Instructional Technology and Design Ph.D. program at Southern Miss. I'm also working as a multimedia developer at the Learning Enhancement Center on campus at Southern Miss. I'm married and have a 3 year old daughter. I enjoy all kinds of technology, but especially graphic design, interactive web (flash), and high quality multimedia (audio and video) technologies.

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