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Posts Tagged ‘wikibooks’

Wikis are powerful tools to promote collaboration. For one of our class assignments, Dr. Yuen asked students to form into small groups and create a wiki. After each group formed, we agreed upon a topic and began working. The topic chosen by my group was called Doghouse Solutions, and the wiki was designed to help guys get out of trouble with their wife or girlfriend (i.e., get out of the doghouse.

In the past, I have not enjoyed group assignments as much as individual assignments for a number of reasons. The greatest concerns were flexibility of time, dependence on others, or sacrifice of ideas to reach a consensus. However, after reading a couple of articles on wikis, I entered this project with new insight on group assignments. The work of Warren Houghton (as cited by Alden, 2010) maintained that group activities cultivate deep learning. He explained that the obligation to develop a single collaborative answer required a great deal of multifaceted interaction and exploration. Individuals in a group do not tend to simply accept unsupported information. Instead, new ideas are developed and distilled through discussion.

The process of creating a wiki was fun and informative. Each member of the group worked collaboratively on each page. One member would add the page, and each individual would add and tweak content. These additions included graphics, videos, text and links. Wikis allow for a large variety of media, so a wiki site has the potential of being very dynamic and interactive.

Another superior feature of wikis is the ability to track changes. A wiki site will keep a recorded history of every time a new version of a page is created. This allows website managers to revert to previous versions if necessary. Also, the teacher of the class has the ability to see exactly how much work each individual has done. Group projects usually have the potential for some students to do less work, while leaders carry the majority of the load. However, in a wiki scenario, each student will earn a grade this is based upon the amount of work he or she contributed to the wiki, which can be seen by the instructor and all group members.

As our group project developed, each member contributed a different viewpoint, and we helped to sharpen each other’s ideas. This effort was not limited to content or text. For example, some group members included multimedia elements, and other group members suggested graphics and videos that would be even better than the originals. In this instance, one member had the idea of adding the video or graphic and another member improved upon this idea. Similarly, gender perspective was important to our site because it was aimed at helping men get out of trouble with women. Women helped balance the absurd ideas of men, and men helped to clarify what men would be best at accomplishing.

There are a myriad of possibilities for incorporating wikis in the classroom. This format is ideal for group assignments, especially in online and hybrid settings. An entire class could actually coordinate to create a larger work, such as a wikibook. Wikis help to facilitate group work in a way that encourages idea development and sparks conversation, including those individuals that may not contribute as much in a traditional setting.

Alden, J. (2010). Use of Wikis to Support Collaboration among Online Students.  In H.

H. Yang & S. C. Yuen (Eds.) Collective intelligence and e-learning 2.0: Implications of web-based communities and networking (pp. 110-132). New York: IGI Global.

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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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