Mar 21 2010

Wikis in the online classroom

Published by at 4:13 pm under Uncategorized

This week we had a chance to explore wikis in our course.  Although I have used wikis in my own classroom for large projects and I have collaborated on course design using a wiki, I had never really used one for group discussion.  Wikis, to me, are a place to add knowledge in a collaborative space.  Usually information is posted, then edited by other students to make it more in-depth, accurate, easy to read, what have you.  I’ve also used them where one student did and posted research, while the other wove the information into visual and textual presentations.  We have not explored the addition of visuals in this wiki as we did in a previous course I took.

The discussion is not as easy in this wiki format.  The wiki I use for my classes allows a thread to begin and others reply, more in the fashion that we see in the WebCT discussion questions.  We seemed to have felt the need to label our contributions with our names.  That did make it simpler to understand who was responding to what post.

One of the advantages to this wiki discussion format, in that all the information is placed on one page, so it would be easy to follow a thread based on the information, rather than following the author or the date.  It’s a bit like having a lots of snippets of text on a table and being able to rearrange them in some logical order.  With hyperlinks, many of us are starting to follow themes from one document to another rather than reading in a linear fashion.  It is how literature will appear as we continue to convert written text to a digitalized version.

I found it notable that we have not used the wiki for what it does best – allowing editing and additions to communal knowledge.  I sense that my colleagues have not dared to edit work, possibly because people have signed their every entry.  Perhaps it would be best if no signatures were permitted to encourage people to collaborate more freely.

As I write this, I am overcome with an urge to go organize the wiki entries by themes.  Perhaps I will attempt that next and hope others will see it as a true collaboration, not a censure or need to control the direction of the project.

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