10.1 Putting knowledge into practice

Learning and Teaching Committee report

By Keith Aquilina 09 January 2011

Executive summary

The use of web 2.0 tools in education has been on the rise in recent years. Teachers in this institution have been using such tools of which wikis. The issue we will explore in this document is how an institution-wide policy should be adopted for the use of such an online technology as it can be useful for and used within the delivery of our courses.

Background

A wiki is a web application that allows anyone visiting the website to edit the content found in it(Fountain, 2005). Wikis elicit collaborative writing; the strength of a wiki, as a collaborative authoring tool, can facilitate the learning of course concepts and students’ appreciation of the distributed nature of the RE process.

Current practice

A Project Locker (2006) whitepaper identifies three main categories of wiki-usage as;

  • project management
  • collaboration
  • knowledge management

Such categories show that wikis may be useful in a HE institution. Minocha and Thomas (2007) stress that “as a result of several contributors adding material to a wiki, the wiki can grow and evolve, and therefore can address pedagogical objectives such as student involvement, group activity, peer and tutor review, knowledge- sharing, and knowledge creation”. An example of this was observed by Sheehy (2009) where the use of a wiki in K – 12 provided for knowledge sharing amongst teachers.

Ferris and Wilder (2006) outline various uses of wikis in an educational setting. These include;

  • Collaborative writing, or the use of wikis to support writing instruction, is perhaps the most common use of wikis (Collaborative Software Lab 2000; Lamb 2004, 2005).
  • Another common collaborative use of wikis is for problem-solving in small or large groups (Collaborative Software Lab 2000)
  • Other common uses of wikis for collaborative work include the creation and sharing of information sources (such as the easy creation of simple Web sites), case libraries (such as project “halls of fame”), and student assignment submission (with the advantage of peer ratings).
  • Educators can use wikis to provide customized project-spaces or electronic portfolio (e-portfolio) spaces for their students. Student could use their individual wiki pages as an online building area for the project or paper on which they are working.

Thus wikis offer a flexible platform for asynchronous collaboration to create requirements specifications iteratively, document and share knowledge, and manage communications (e.g. Decker et al. 2007)

Recommendation

Following points are important when deciding whether to adopt wikis or not;

  • Web 2.0 of which wikis have multiple beneficial applications for this institution and stakeholders
  • Wikis provide means through which the collective knowledge of students and teacher may be organized and shared
  • This institutions needs to develop its own policy regarding wikis. Such a policy may drive the adoption and best use of this digital tool.

Issues

In their study, Minocha and Thomas (2007) observe how course designers seek to persuade students to view wikis positively through a number of introductory activities. Conveying these activities before the actual collaboration activity, enabled students to get to know one another, and familiarize themselves with the wiki environment. This shows that such an ‘educational intervention’ serves to bring about an alignment in students’ perception which in turn may positively influence learning (Richardson, 2005). Minocha and Thomas (2007) also necessitated student self management, so as not to increase the tutor workload.

Practitioners need to work closely with other stakeholders like software developers; “a bigger challenge for us to convince the software developers that these seemingly trivial aspects of the tool are crucial to the students’ learning experiences” (Minocha and Thomas 2007, p. 205).

Further reading

Set of resources for exploring further the use of wikis in an education context;

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