Friday, 26 October 2007

Using wikis to promote colloborative learning - Seminar

I’m reporting back from a seminar presented by Steve Wheeler (University of Plymouth) – ‘Using Wikis to promote collaborative learning’ at Leicester University. This was a two hour seminar and I feel after going is intended for those who are ‘new’ to the coined concept Web 2.0 - I think were stuck with the term as it’s a way of defining how we can and are engaging with the internet as participants as opposed to merely being passive recipients of information (in Web 1.0!). In his introduction we had the brief about ‘new technology’ (ipods and the social collaborative tools available); and an attendee noted that these technologies are not really that new, people have been sharing photos, videos and views on the web, what is ‘new’ is that today these technologies are more accessible to us. The question for us (involved in higher education) and I’m sure will be evident soon in our ‘projects’ – Do these new technologies create new opportunities in education? Is this a passing trend? Or is there genuine potential to improve the quality of the educational experience and learning outcomes? These are not easy questions to answer, to the first I can say ‘yes’ on the grounds that these technologies enable us to ‘reach’ a much wider audience and allow us to deploy a range of tools in doing so to enhance the learning experience - I do think there is genuine potential in that these ‘new tools or social platforms’ (as well as our existing ones!) are only as valuable if used in a practical manner targeted toward specific goals/pedagogy. If they're used without rhyme or reason, their value - educational or otherwise - is null.

I found the following description of ‘web 2.0’ useful in what these new technologies encapsulate “we are the web, we teach the machine, we render the internet as a living organism. Rather than searching for information by a pre-determined algorithm, we give meaning and order to the multitude of websites by arranging and organizing it in a way that better suits us and can better serve us. That is web 2.0. By that rational the website and service mash-ups for example are web 2.0 because we found new and better ways to organize the information and platforms, in a way that makes more (human) sense” (Source ‘Shay’ – a contributor to the debate of web 2.0 “ .
[Back to wikis in the educational context]. Steve reported on his experience with using wikis with his students (we were informed that we will be given the link to his presentation which I will add once they have put it up!). Steve’s wiki findings:

‘The good’
· Encouraged critical awareness
· Encouraged more accurate referencing and ‘focus’ of study (i.e. instead of making say a premature judgment in a class environment, more time was given to reflect on views and preparing (for some) on their own comments).
· Deliberating complex ideas

The ‘not so good’
· Assessment of individual work in a collaborative wiki
· Some students do not ‘like’ editing contents of friends, and do not warm so much to idea that ‘others’ can change their work
· Motivating students for continued engagement, someone mentioned the term ‘assessment’!

Steve views wikis as ‘ephemeral’ – the possibility of having the wiki archived as a repository for other students ‘may not have the same impact (heat!) for the ‘learner’. My hot/cold analogy - the more involvement (warm) you have rather than simply passive receiver (cold) the more likely it is to be meaningful and therefore retained. On the otherhand if the passive receiver (cold) does something with the information - the more of value it will be to them. To get the benefits of an aerobic excercise video - you have to particpate , simply watching from your couch won't reap the same rewards.

What is the difference between the wiki and the discussion board?

A Discussion board: read by everybody (within context), written by everybody, only own contributions can be edited.
A Wiki: read by everybody (within context), written by everybody, edited by everybody.

The seminar was going to cover Second Life - 3D wiki! but we ran out of time!

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