I must say I was not aware of the power of Wikipedia until this week. I was very familiar with Wikipedia before, but not so familiar with it’s use for education. I found myself on a digital journey of rediscovering Wikipedia through Schweder and Wissick’s “The Power of Wikis” from the Journal of Special Education and the DMLcentral article on Wadewitz. Schweder and Wissick’s article was a nice, light read. It was a good transition into Losh’s article about Adrianne Wadewitz, How to Use Wikipedia as a Teaching Tool: Adrianne Wadewitz.
Schweder and Wissick break down educational wikis into four categories and provided some great examples of each (which I also listed a few that they mentioned):
- Conference Presentations – Free Webtools at a National Educational Computing Conference session about Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
- State Resources – The South Carolina Collaborative Assistive Technology Network
- Personal Web Sites – Joshua Zola
- Spreadsheet Templates – Special Education Zone
I liked this article because it was short, sweet, and to the point. It gave a brief description of each category, showcasing specific wikis, which provided to be great resources that I listed a few of them above. The category that caught my eye was organization and their shout-out to “techies”. Schweder and Wissick say that “as ‘techies,’ we are constantly bookmarking Web sites that we think might be useful to us now and in the future” and that “we also like to share information with others that we find.” It’s as if they were describing me. I am always bookmarking and saving websites – I even started a links page in this blog that I just renamed “My edtech Toolbox“. I just might have to create my own wiki to collect and share web sites and links!
What really got me going was the article about Adrianne Wadewitz. I was saddened to discover from her Wikipedian page that she passed away a few months ago. As tragic as this is, Wadewitz will always be remembered by her advocacy for adopting Wikipedia in education, fighting for feminism in Wikipedia, and from what I can gather, her amazing passion for education and life and her love of rock climbing. According to Losh, “[Wadewitz] helped write a helpful brochure from the Wikimedia Foundation on ‘How to Use Wikipedia as a Teaching Tool‘.” I also stumbled upon a video on my journey to rediscovering Wikipedia about “The Impact of Wikipedia” that features Wadewitz. I discovered a whole new world of Wikipedia. I never knew about Wiki awards, which very much resemble badging, and badging is a strong interest of mine. There are also userboxes that you can add to your Wikipedian page, that are used to give a sense of personality to a person. Check out Adrianne Wadewitz’s collection of userboxes on her page. I find all of this very interesting. Everything combined together could almost resemble a professional portfolio of accomplishments.
Back to Losh’s article on DMLcentral, I especially liked, and found most useful, Wadewitz’s examples of common mistakes that instructors make.
- When asked to identify the most common mistakes instructors make when assigning students to contribute to Wikipedia, Wadewitz argued that “the biggest one is not understanding that the encyclopedia is made up of editors.” While an “old-fashioned” reference work like Britannica can be approached naively as “just entries that you go to and read” without serious consequences, “the essence of Wikipedia is the community,” which means respecting “its efforts” and understanding how “a global group of editors” might “work collaboratively” and “to think about it ahead of time.”
- When asked to identify common mistakes made on the side of instructors, she pointed out that “not taking enough time to design an assignment” could be a fatal error committed by novices, particularly those who are excited by the potential for participatory learning. Diving right in and learning by trial and error “works for a lot of technology,” but “with Wikipedia you are engaging with a lot of people on the other end,” so you need to articulate feasible learning goals that respect existing community practices.
These are great takeaways from Wadewitz. I think these common mistakes illustrate just how knowledge building occurs in wikis — through collaboration over a network of global editors. And once an educator understands just how this happens, they will be able to create more well-rounded and engaging lessons for the students.
My only concern when it comes to group projects involving wikis is that only one person can edit a page at once. If that’s the case, how does the group communicate? Do they make a comment on the page and wait for a reply, which could come a few hours or days later? Do they use another Web 2.0 tool for communication purposes? I am not aware of any messaging service within wiki sites. What if more than one person wanted to make edits during the same time? I feel as if this would not be possible and therefore wikis would prove to be inefficient when real-time editing and group work is needed, and this is where Google Docs fills in the gap. Although Docs does not create a full-encompassing, web-hosted website, I guess tradeoffs come with everything. It even appears that the Google wiki does not allow simultaneous editing either.
As my blog post title hints, I have rediscovered Wikipedia. I was always aware of Wikipedia and used it on a regular basis for a quick reference or to look up information about a movie or an actor. But I have never considered its use for education. I must say what I have found is promising and I can’t wait to explore wikis and Wikipedia even further.