saudixpat’s Weblog

October 31, 2008

Wikis

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 6:05 am

Wikis have been big in the news over the past several years with the growth of Web 2.0. In fact, Wikipedia is one of the most visited sites on the internet, According to Alexa, the  Web Information Company, Wiipedia is the eighth most visited site in the world (ninth in Canada and twenty-fourth in Saudi Arabia). Google or its local varient is the number one site globally.

But wikis go far beyond wikipedia. For instance, Nokia runs a wiki forum for its developers and the global computer company SAP has a wiki for their developers also. If large corporations are involved in the wiki community, what about schools and libraries?

According to Edweek the use of wikis is expanding in education. Teachers from California to Georgia are utilizing wikis as a learning tool in the classroom. There are pitfalls, however. A 2005 study in England found that students often took ownership of specific pages rather than collaborate to strengthen the wiki as a whole. This led to a small “wiki war” in which students put forth their proprietory claims.

At the same time, wikis can be enormously empowering. Global projects such as the Flat Classroom Project, mentioned in Will Richardson’s book, “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms” is one example. I have the good fortune this year to be part of the Flat Classroom Project 2008 with nine of my students. Students are collaborating on wikis and video artifacts which will be embedded in their wiki pages. My students are involved with students around the globe, communicating, clarifying, and collaborating.

The video below gives a good overview of using wikis in education.

It is this collaboration aspect which is really appealing to students. The common saying, “All of us are smarter than one of us” is especially true on a wiki, where each student’s strong points can be maximised and support is given by others to proof and edit any possible errors. As my students have learned, there can be wiki wars, but at the same time they try to moderate responses to get meaningful dialogue going. On any wiki, it is useful to persuse the Discussion tab topics. They will provide an overview of how the wiki members are interacting.

This brings up the question, “What use are wikis in education?” A very good article by Stewart Mader gives an overview of wikis and a set of great links to wikis and wiki use in education. One that really rang a bell with me was a link to Heavy Metal Umlaut, a wiki on heavy metal. The page shows the evolution of the wiki over time. The same would likely hold true for a more academic wiki. One of the problems, however, as detailed in CampusTechnology.com is that not all teachers (or librarians!) are ready for the “freewheeling uncontrolled wiki environment”.

What does this mean for the future? Collaboration as a learning method will become more of a focus in education as teachers who have grown up with the new social technology enter the field. Students will have the chance, as this happens, to become truly “global” learners, working with others from around the world. Teachers will be expected to utilize this technology in their curriculum. I can see this beginning to happen at our school here in Saudi. Wikis are, as Thomas Friedman would claim, another flattener that brings everybody closer together.

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2 Comments »

  1. Thanks, Bruce. You highlight an interesting point at the end of your post–wikis are all about collaboration and students are very much used to using this kind of tool in their own lives for collaborating and communicating with their friends. But how do we get teachers to buy into this ‘flat classroom’ idea…teachers aren’t always known for collaborating (as teacher-librarians can attest to), so how do we make these collaborative tools more appealing and less intimidating to encourage classroom teachers and teacher-librarians to collaborate more openly between themselves and with their students?

    Comment by Joanne de Groot — November 5, 2008 @ 11:59 pm | Reply

  2. At our school we are preparing a presentation by four of us “technophiles” to the rest of the staff. The future is moving towards staff training in IT – and the trick is to sway teachers to try one thing at a time – not to overload them. If our presentation gets five more teachers looking at technology and using it, then it will have been successful.

    Comment by sibertiger — November 7, 2008 @ 7:00 pm | Reply


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