Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wiki's and What Have I Learned

Photo courtesy of CC
This course is beginning to come to an end, but that does not mean my learning of Web 2.0 tools will. Rather, I feel like I have just gotten started with each of the tools and each of the possibilities and how the tools can be used for education. 

Wiki's were a tool that I felt were not going to be of interest to me. I had joined several wiki's but hadn't returned to them or contributed to any. I know the very first wiki I contributed to was the math cohort for my master's course. I was the first to say hello and introduce myself. I think I did this because I knew I had to get use to the tool and learn it. The other wiki I'd joined was the Twitter Daily5chat. Again, I joined and never did very much. I didn't return to it even though I knew members of my PLN were posting information which I might find useful. Basically, all I had done on a wiki was join, never contributed, just looked around a bit and used it as a place to find information. To be honest, I've never used Wikipedia either. I'd often heard how a lot of the information can be changed and sometimes it can be unreliable. I stayed away out of fear. I still haven't embraced Wikipedia but it's not off the table of perhaps taking a look at in the future. 

All of that changed when I decided to investigate and learn how to use a wiki. I created my own, a place where I share some information on presentations I do, math work I've done and some games I've created for a program I use in spelling called Words Their Way. The other investigation I took on was to contribute to the Daily5 wiki. I had to start someplace and this was as good of a place to start since it was with people whom I felt comfortable with and trusted. Here is a list of what I've learned about wikis and how they can be used in education. 

What have I learned about wiki's?
1. You shouldn't be afraid of them. They don't bite! I have a lot of experience with blogs and blogging, I'm not an expert but I'm willing to learn. Contributing to the Daily5 wiki was easy. You can see my post here for what that was like. Due to my willingness to learn and experience with other Web 2.0 tools such as blogging; it wasn't that difficult to figure out how to add content, files, text (edit text, etc) to the wiki.

2. Wikis are a collaborative tool where authors have the opportunity to write thoughtfully, clearly and critically. Authors of a wiki have the opportunity to create a piece of writing in collaboration with each other. Wiki's allow the authors an opportunity to create quality pieces of writing. What I didn't realize and understand about the purpose of wiki's, that Berger & Trexler taught me, was that a wiki is about "authoring content, rather than just downloading existing content on the Web" (p. 96).
Guth (2007) also writes about this same understanding,
When contributing to a wiki project, students are not just writing for the teacher, as is the case in traditional classroom environments, but for and with their peers. As such, they
promote collective authoring which inherently entails peer review.
Authoring others work is an area I still feel uncomfortable doing because if others have taken the time to write in a thoughtful and critical way, who am I to change, modify or edit anything they have written.

3. Wikis are a tool for collaboration, they can be engaging and exciting and if used for this purpose, they can provide an opportunity to hone your writing skills to be critical and reflective about what you write on other wikis. I do not necessarily agree that they have to be used for this purpose, or at least not when you first develop a wiki. I am using mine for sharing of resources and not necessarily ideas or opinions. Do I want others to add there perspectives or other games, of course I do? But for right now, I am good with it being a site to share and post information for others to collect. It is after all  a beginning process, I am hoping to evolve the wiki into something more reflective where others can add their critical writing and thoughts.

4. A wiki has RSS feeds built in, so you can stay up to date with any changes members might make. I'm learning to really like RSS feeds and find them to be very handy. It saves you time when checking for any changes to the wiki or wikis you subscribe to and other sites as well. 

5. I believe my students could learn to use a wiki to write creatively and thoughtfully. Very similar to the Manyvoices project (p. 83) in William Kist's book The Socially Networked Classroom. Except it would be done on a wiki. Students would make critical decisions as to what should stay, be added or edited from the story.  Practice would be needed in how to edit and think critically and thoughtfully about what they wanted to add to the piece of writing but I believe it could be possible. My class will be discovering this next week or the first week of December. 

6. I don't believe you always need to use a Web 2.0 tool for the original purpose it was intended for. I find that's the wonderful thing about Web 2.0 tools, there are endless possibilities on how you can use a Web 2.0 tool.

This is not a complete list of all that I have learned about wiki's but I do believe they are some of the more important aspects of this Web 2.0 tool that I did not expect to like. I am glad I chose this tool because it allowed me to open my mind about sharing resources, now I just need to be brave and add my thoughts to someone else's wiki. Wish me luck.


Berger, P., & Trexler, S. (2010). Choosing web 2.0 tools for learning and teaching in a digital world. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Guth, S. (2007). Wikis in education: is public better?. WikiSym ’07. doi: 10.1145/1296951.1296958

Kist, W., (2010), The socially networked classroom teaching in the new media age. Thousand Oaks. CA: Corwin.

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