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General thoughts.

These two chapters were thoughtful and riddled with research. Specifically, I appreciated the brief discussion on the research related to group activities. Quite often we pursue methods based on experience or pragmatism, but it is always healthy to employ methods that are researched-based approaches. In this, we give credence to our cause and find solid ground upon which to stand, even if challenged by students, colleagues, or supervisors.

These chapters discussed the deep learning that is often associated with group work. I must admit that I had never thought about group work in this way. I have tried to accomplish many goals through group work (e.g., interdependence or collaboration). However, I have never considered that the “wrestling” that takes place in the dynamics of group work can actually produce a higher quality product and deeper levels of thought than individual work.

How could teachers/educators use wikis/wikibooks?

“We have entered a participatory learning culture wherein the emphasis is on engaging learners in building, tinkering, remixing, and sharing” (p. 131).

If this is so, then wikis and wikibooks offer a great deal of potential in teaching and learning. I shared the frustration of others in our class while reading Chapter 8 in that I wanted to “see” a wikibook, so I went and reviewed the authors’ wikibooks. After reviewing these examples and reading a few chapters from their wikibooks, I have a deeper understanding of what they are describing. If you have not been to see their sites, then here are the url addresses:

WELT-http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Web_2.0_and_Emerging_Learning_Technolo…

POLT-http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/The_Practice_of_Learning_Theories

Better Example-http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Learning_Theories

Best Example- (In my opinion) http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Main_Page

After viewing these sites, it is easy to see that the authors are merely describing a large, glorified wiki site. There are both positives and negatives associated with wikibooks. I will only address two questions below, and I will focus on the idea of wikibooks rather than wikis. I am admittedly going off the main path here.

In what context does a wikibook make sense?

I like the idea of the wikibook project, and I think it has enormous potential in education. However, a wikibook project would not work in every class because some classes are more suited to this than others. For example, this would probably not work in welding or choir, but it might work very well in music appreciation or English composition.

Likewise, for collegiate classes, I think this project is best suited for hybrid-type courses, yet it would work in any structure. Many students taking traditional classes are enrolled in traditional classes precisely because they are not ready for advanced computer technology, which is why they do not take online classes. Conversely, explaining this project to online students with little experience in online coursework could cause a great deal of frustration for teachers and students. This reality is exacerbated by the fact that the online teacher has no face-to-face time with the students. Keep in mind; this would be a perfect fit for technology classes because students are usually tech-savvy upon entering the class. But this may not be the case for a general section of World Civilization.

The use of a wiki site, as opposed to a wikibook, lends itself too much greater flexibility.

Is this the best wikibook we can produce?

My other contention is in the final product. Admittedly, my artistic tendencies are surfacing in this concern. Here is the fact: Our students, and we ourselves, are becoming used to a high quality product with minimal effort. Quite often this leads to mediocrity of content, but that is a different subject altogether.

Let’s take music concerts for example. Concerts 20 plus years ago sounded dramatically different than recordings. This was because the technology did not exist to reproduce what was done in a recording studio while in a live venue. Presently, music technology has advanced to the point that it sounds as good, if not better, in a live setting than on the recording (automatic voice tuning and all). All this while the level of musicianship has generally gone down.

Similarly, students are accustomed to engaging with visual media that is stimulating and invites interaction. So what does that have to do with wikibooks? In my opinion, for wikibooks to really take off, the final product must be much more sleek and inviting. (I am basing my opinion on the wikibooks presented by the authors’ of the chapter) I would work much more diligently on a product that I could be proud of both aesthetically and in regard to substance. However, the interface to manipulate the wikibook should remain just as simple as it currenlty is.

I do understand that the ends justify the means in this case. I also understand that the point is not to produce a production-grade textbook. So the purpose of the wikibook is certainly a key issue. If the point is solely student learning, then certainly the exemplified wikibooks work. But why not kick it up a notch? Why eat on a paper plate when you could be using fine China? (You don’t have to wash the dishes for one)

As Web 2.0 technologies continue to develop and invade all aspects of the web, these possibilities will soon come to fruition. In fact, our class wiki sites seem to be much more aesthetically pleasing than the wikibooks presented by the authors. Thank you Dr. Yuen for directing us to a free and powerful wiki-producing site.

Final thoughts.

These two chapters were excellent. I feel armed to defend group work with solid research. Also, these chapters have evoked a great deal of reflection on how I might incorporate wikis/wikibooks in courses. These are exciting and promising Web 2.0 tools that will probably see more adoption in coming years.

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