aa555645-c9a3-46de-845d-d342aaa11d61.doc 1 Emerging Technologies: Wikis By: Erica M. Dean Whenever I feel that I want a little more information on a topic that I cannot find anywhere else, I turn to the Wikipedia website. There, I find an outline of my topic, complete with a history, current findings, and even trivia if applicable. What makes this site so popular? Couldn‟t I just use Microsoft Encarta instead or visit my local library of traditional research using a printed encyclopedia? Yes, I could do both of those things, however, the Wikipedia is just…quicker. The wiki (meaning quick in the Hawaiian language) is part of the social software movement. According to Waters (2007), “Wikipedia defines this as software that enables people to rendezvous, connect, or collaborate through computer-mediated communication. E-mail, instant messaging, and podcasts are typically included in the category”. When establishing a wiki site, the basics are a) edits can be made by any visitor, b) HTML language use, c) no spaces between wiki titles, and d) the content can go on for an infinite length of time, constantly changing and evolving. Its design lends itself well to brainstorming sessions and even contributions to a meeting‟s agenda for individuals to add their own concerns, later being used to capture notes and finally redistribute them to all those involved. Others are using wikis to gather content and suggestions for group work, organize links and information reflecting the needs or thoughts of various interest groups, and even assistance in finishing novels, scripts, and even songs from the Internet community at-large. An article by Engstrom and Jewett (2005) further supports this by referring to wikis as “collaborative environments by design…commonly used as personal information managers (PIMs), knowledge bases or knowledge systems”. Because there are so many wiki software programs available, the following is a checklist of sorts when attempting to select a wiki for the classroom (Schwartz, Clark, Cossarin, & Rudolph, 2004): 1. Cost 2. Complexity 3. Control 4. Clarity 5. Common Technical Framework 6. Features Having selected a wiki, how would one use a wiki in the K12 classroom setting? Beldarrain (2006) suggests the following: “Teaching models that integrate technologies such as blogs orwikis may afford more learner control, and thus may be more effective at delivering instructional strategies that support knowledge construction. Today‟s learners demand more control of the learning experience when they need it; how they need it. This puts added pressure on distance educators to change outdated practice that no longer serve the needs of highly mobile students…proactive implementation of emerging technologies is dependent on comfort level, monetary resources, and visionary leadership.” aa555645-c9a3-46de-845d-d342aaa11d61.doc 2 Like with the business world, wikis can be used with students for writing and research projects. Stahmer (2006) gives the following example of K12 wiki use: “With a simple wiki, students from one class, multiple classes, or even multiple schools can post their writing samples for comment. The wiki structure makes it possible for several students to work on an assignment concurrently. Most wiki software packages track changes to a page so students and their teachers can see when and by whom the writing was edited”. For teachers, a wiki can serve as a professional development tool that reduces the standard “big binder” that is distributed during workshops and meetings. Waters (2007) states that “use of the wiki add-on has made collecting and utilizing input from teachers not merely more convenient, but more inclusive…the more teachers feel that they have some say in what the final product will be, the more likely they are to use them”. Wiki usage seems to be a win-win situation for all those involved, but are there drawbacks? In terms of editing content on a wiki, a report by Schwartz,Clark,Cossarin,& Rudolph (2004) states that “unlike threaded discussions where the writer is identified, it is usually impossible to identify the contributions to a wiki. This makes apportioning credit difficult and the authority of the content hard to establish.” Lamb‟s article (2004) had support for this claim, mentioning that the “standard objection to wikis is nearly universal: if anybody can edit my text, then anybody can ruin my text.” Another issue of wikis in the K-12 classroom deals with the problems that can arise during instructional use. Engstrom and Jewett‟s (2005) collaborative project that incorporated wikis reflected on teachers and their feelings towards wikis, such as the “concern that students in other classrooms weren‟t responding to their students‟ edits (postings)”. Furthermore: “Moving instruction into the chaotic wiki medium presents challenges on a number of fronts. Tracking work created in wiki spaces can become a logistical nightmare, and course management can spin out of control quickly if pages are allowed to spawn without some set of protocols to regulate or index them” (Lamb 2004). While the above are would-be concerns for persons considering, many wiki supporters will say that the positives far outweigh the negatives. For instance, there is a type of regulation, or checks and balances system in place when it comes to the editing of wiki content: “Think of an open wiki space as a home that leaves its front door unlocked but doesn‟t get robbed because the neighbors are all out on their front steps gossiping, keeping a friendly eye on the street, and never missing a thing. This ethic is at the heart of “Soft Security”, which relies on the community, rather than technology, to enforce order” (Lamb, 2004). Additionally, Engstrom and Jewett (2006) mention that most wikis are embedded with edit trails “referred to as a version control system that creates a complete log of every change made to every wiki page…if a student inadvertently deletes the content on a wiki page, that content is saved as an edited version along with a user identifier, date and time stamp. Within aa555645-c9a3-46de-845d-d342aaa11d61.doc 3 this same article, teachers were concerned about fair wiki interaction between students in other classrooms. Teachers decided that modeling wiki protocol before use was the key, due to the fact that „kids are used to instant messaging and want quick responses…in the future, we need to respond to the groups so more gets shared, not just posted”. So many times a person can interact with a concept, unaware of what is taking place behind the scenes. Such was the case with the wiki before I decided to investigate further. As I read the various articles, I could feel the gears shifting in my mind, trying to determine if I could somehow present the wiki concept to my colleagues, first at the school were I teach, and then perhaps to the entire Detroit Public School system. The article written by Waters (2007) even inspired me to consider a wiki project for the 2007-2008 school year where teachers could interact and help each other with best practices: “On one level, this is all about facilitating deeper collaboration on curriculum issues…but it‟s also about efficiencies. No one wants to pull teachers our of the classrooms for development meetings. Now we‟re getting much more input from teachers, because they can offer it anywhere, anytime. And we are getting better buy-in, because everyone is on the same page”. Aside from actual wiki use by the students, I am imagining all of the teachers at my school collaborating and working together for the never-ending cause of student achievement. So many times, there may be two or three teachers who are truly going above and beyond the norm: excellent classroom management, consistently positive test scores, super bulletin boards, and more. However, for whatever reasons, such teachers may or may not be willing to share the secrets of their success with others. Perhaps teachers would be willing to share if provided a non-threatening environment where best practices can be discussed-much like a wiki site that was truly moderated: “It‟s undeniably true that determined vandals can make real pests of themselves. But an open environment also encourages participation and a strong sense of common purpose, so the proportion of fixers to breakers tends to be high and a wiki will generally have little difficulty remaining stable-assuming that people see value in its existence and have a genuine interest in keeping things tidy” (Lamb, 2004). As an example of an emerging technology, the wiki is a great study in web-based interaction. With our thirst for quick knowledge, thoughts, and opinions that differ from our own, it would appear that the wiki will continue to evolve into something bigger and better than it is now. Will video wikis become the next emerging technology? Only time will tell, as I quietly wonder what wikis, blogs, and other forms of social software will look like as we approach the year 2010. aa555645-c9a3-46de-845d-d342aaa11d61.doc 4 References Beldarrain, Y. (2006) Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2), 139-153. Engstrom,M.E. & Jewett, D. (2005). Collaborative Learning the wiki way. Tech Trends 49(6),12-16. Lamb, B. (2004). Wide open spaces: Wikis ready or not. EDUCAUSE Review, 39(5), 36-48. Schwartz,L., Clark,S.,Cossarin,M. and Rudolph,J. (2004) Educational Wikis: Features and Selection criteria. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 5(1) [Online] Available: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/163/692 Stahmer, T. (2006). Think outside the blog. Technology and Learning,26(6),1-2. Waters,J. (2007). Online collaboration: Curriculum unbound! T.H.E. Journal, 34(3),40-48.