Using Wikis for Learning


Our University-hosed wiki is about to be retired. This page, developed in Sept-Oct 2005 seemed worth keeping. I’ve ported it here changing links to preserve the navigation.

NOTE: Some links may not work because this item is quite old.

Andy Carvin and Jimmy Wales have started a public conversation (ca Sept 2005) to see what educators have to say about Wikipedia. They asked questions that focus on Wikipedia in the classroom:

“For example, is Wikipedia something you’d want your students using in the classroom? Do you consider it an appropriate teaching tool?”

These questions suggest a perspective that misses what Carvin suggested in an earlier post on this topic (see the example 5th grade class mid-way down). The broader, better question I think Carvin and Wales mean to ask is, “How can Wikipedia be used to meet education goals like critical thinking, research, and collaborative knowledge generation?” This question gets away from factual accuracy of Wikipedia and toward transforming educational instituions — and even defining how a Wiki-versity would be created.

Carvin’s prompt seems to be focused on K-12 education, Washington State University is able to provide perspective for Wikipedia in Higher Education, which we think may inform the K-12 conversation.

This is an introduction to a multi-voice response by staff in the Washington State University Center for Teaching Learning, and Technology. Some of what we have to say is not being implemented in/with Wikipedia, perhaps can’t be, or shouldn’t be. Some is not in the classroom, but outside. The responses below might suggest how Wikipedia could/should change, or confirm that there is another role for wikis in parallel to Wikipedia.

Discussion about using wikis for learning continues as a recent post on the POD listserve was asking for a good presenter about using wiki’s in the classroom. Our response was to point to this work and to say “if you like what you see, contact us.” One other response suggested Timothy W. Spannaus at Wayne State University who conducted a workshop on wiki use in the classroom at the Lilly National Conference at Miami University, Oxford, OH in 2005.

Students Contribute to Wikipedia

In Students_Contribute_to_Wikipedia we describe a scaffolded course design where students learn about a topic through a reflective process of preparing to make entries to Wikipedia. The process involves using Wikipedia as a text and analyzing its deficiencies, then doing other research to locate resources that would address those issues, and finally developing new articles, editions to existing articles, or bibliographies to enhance existing articles and posting them into Wikipedia.

[For another, more contemporary example, see the Murder, Madness, Mayhem project conducted by a course at UBC.]

Wiki as a Portfolio

Wiki_as_a_Portfolio describes another aspect of the course design above, illustrating how the “My Contributions” feature of Wikipedia can be viewed as a repository of artifacts that a student can use to compose a portfolio of their learning process. It describes how User pages in WSU’s MediaWiki serve as the place to develop reflections on specific “difs” the user is making, and on “difs” that others make to the user’s contributions.

The Shared Language-Jargon Dilemma

Shared Language-Jargon Dilemma addresses the issue of learners entering a community of discourse. Building off EEKim’s post on the Essence of Wiki. In this article, Steve Spaeth develops some more thinking on the Janus-like relationship between jargon and shared language. The process of novices entering a community of discourse can be view as one of moving from jargon to shared language.

Stubbing out as a Teaching Tool

Todd Vanek shows an application of Spaeth’s thinking in Stubbing_out_as_a_Teaching_Tool, where stubbing out pages is a strategy to focus students’ wiki contributions, and at the same time attend to the jargon/shared language issue.

Using Wiki to Develop Communities

Using Wiki to Develop Communities within a university context. In addition to the Wikipedia-supported mechanisms for discovering people with shared interests, WSU is exploring the use of Templates in this wiki to facilitate groups announcing themselves and their intersts, and for users to advertise their membership in groups. Seen in the context of DesRosier’s work, this begins to suggest how students learn about topics outside of the silos of courses.

4 Responses

  1. Half these links don’t work–at least none of the ones that I tried, e.g. the ones to the Carvin/Wales conversation and to “Students Contribute to Wikipedia.” Can you fix this? Thanks.

    • The Andy Carvin links are circa 2005 and link rot seems to have gotten them. If some intrepid explorer can discovered where the content moved and post it here, it would be appreciated.

  2. [...] Key elements which make wiki useful for e-portfolios include the “My Contributions” feature, which lets a user easily locate the work they have done, the “diff” listings, which let the user document the change(s) that he/she made in the pre-existing page (and the changes that were made afterwards), and the User page, which offers a place to create a reflection about the diffs. Locate other articles from Washington State University related to this topic here. [...]

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