Michelle Navarre Cleary ; Polly Hoover
Suzanne Sanders-Betzold ; Peggy St. John
Working with Wikis in Writing-Intensive Classes
Improving Academic Writing Skills
Student Response to Wikis
Building Collaborative Learning Communities
Technology Transfer and Teacher Learning
“. . . wikis are an ideally designed, open-source space that takes advantage of the messy, dynamic nature of writing” (Garza, Loudermilk, Hern, 2007, emphasis added).
". . . wiki software presents an ideal platform for generating reading and writing assignments that encourage language awareness in the literary domain" (Farabaugh 41, 2007, emphasis added).
"Perhaps an upcoming generation, finding subjectivity in blogs, developing rational-critical debating skills in online bulletin boards, and building a critical public sphere with the help of wikis will help ‘remediate culture’ and restore true democracy to the public (Bolter, 2001, p. 208)" (Barton, 2005, p. 188, emphasis added).
Most teachers, having too little time and too much experience with the next-new-thing, tend to turn a deaf ear to the fanfare heralding new technologies such as wikis. They are unlikely to try wikis, blogs and other Web 2.0 innovations without concrete evidence of their pedagogic value. Much that has been published to date on wiki use in college classes either explains what wikis are or speculates on what they might accomplish. Few studies, notably those of Farabaugh (2007), Carr, Morrison, Cox and Deacon (2007) and James (2007), analyze how wikis have and have not worked when actually used in college classes. To this end, we report on a study conducted over two quarters, with three classes and two teaching teams in a program that serves nontraditional students. We studied our use of wikis as a learning tool (helping students develop academic writing skills) and as a teaching tool (allowing us to distribute information, promote collaboration and build a sense of class community). We also evaluated one teaching team's ability to develop their use of the wiki and disseminate what they learned to another teaching team.
We found that, although the wikis were a compelling tool for teaching writing and although students improved their confidence in and ability to write, we could not attribute either of these effects directly to our use of wikis. Instead, wikis facilitated the methods of teaching writing we already practiced, such as multiple drafts, self and peer review, and writing for audiences other than the teacher. We did find wikis most useful as a tool for student collaboration and were delighted by the community building effects of this collaboration. Interestingly, our most compelling findings were not about student, but about teacher, learning. Through collaboration and iteration, we were able to significantly increase and improve the effectiveness of our use of wikis.
Sample Student Work:
- Sample Group Research Paper Page
- How to Transition to Life After College -- A Conduct Manual
- Good Friend Handbook -- A Conduct Manual
Our Individual Responses to Working with Wikis: