Investigations of Wikis for Collaboration and Knowledge Building: Part 1

Investigations of Wikis for Collaboration and Knowledge Building: Part 1

Chair: Sara L. Dexter, University of Virginia

Here I am about to listen to another session, realizing that it’s mostly K12. Since I’ve just come from the K12 arena, it feels familiar. But I’m also curious if anyone is doing engaging things with wikis on the higher ed level also.

There are a couple other roundtable and poster sessions coming up on wikis that I hope to get to or find the paper for in the online repository:

  • The 4E (Establish, Extend, Elaborate, and Edit) Wiki Model: Facilitating Writing Development and Conceptual Understandings in a Technologically Relevant Way Jenifer Salter Thornton, The University of Texas – San Antonio
  • Effects of Structure in Wiki Templates on Holistic and Analytic Students’ Learning Outcomes and Knowledge Construction Patterns Ying Xie, Idaho State University
  • Leveraging Wiki Technology Support for Threaded Discussion to Facilitate Online Collaborative Knowledge Construction Andri Ioannou, Cyprus University of Technology; Agni Stylianou-Georgiou, University of Nicosia
  • Wikis as Collaborative Learning Tools in Higher Education: From Content Analyses of Wiki Behaviors to Instructional Practices Chun-Yi Lin, Indiana University – Bloomington; Hyunkyung Lee, Yonsei University

I am glad to see the emphasis on imposing some type of scaffolding or structure on the wiki to teach and encourage the desired collaborative behavior. Using a technology tool without some instructional goal, scaffolding, and planning usually results in disaster or at least less-than-desired learning outcomes.

Justin Reich from the Distributed Collaborative Learning Communities Project

Paper: Are Great Classroom Wikis Born or Made? Using Continuous-Time Data to Model Online Community Development
Presenter: Justin Fire Reich, Harvard University
Paper CoAuthors:
Richard J. Murnane, Harvard University; John B. Willett, Harvard University

Background, Research Questions, and Theoretical Frameworks

The data they are looking at are publicly accessible wikis with real-time data easily included.

Research questions include: What is good? How to measure wiki quality? How do wiki quality trajectories correlate with school level SES?

Interesting concept: “Quality would be a time varying quality over time.” The quality isn’t a single point but a trajectory.

Educational Researcher: The State of Wiki Usage in US Schools

The wikis studied range in median life from 6 days (low income schools) to 33 days (median-high income schools).

Theoretical debates in wikis and collaboration in IJCSCL  – Glassman and Kang (2011) – meaningful collaboration vs. Dohn (2009) – just posting in the same place.

If you put files in the same place, is that collaboration?

This is interesting because it comes back to – what is collaboration? What do we mean when we say collaboration? Makes me think of Mark Elliot’s work on Wikipedia and other massive collaboration. He differentiates between coordination, cooperation,and collaboration.

Data collection interesting details: They looked at 179,851 publicly viewable education related wikis on PBworks between 2005 and 2008. Wow!! BIG DATA research. Took a 1% research sample. 255 of the wikis they could identify what school and were able to correlate that to the SES data on that school.

Wiki Quality Instrument

The Wiki Quality Instrument has 24 dichotomous items (is it present) within five categories: information consumption, participation, expert thinking, complex communication/collaboration, new media literacy. The trained researches looked to see if that item exists or not on the wiki.

They looked for those 24 things on the wiki across time – 7 days into it; 14 days into it; etc. all the way up to 400 days. What a lot of work!!

What is Collaboration? Are Wikis Born or Made?

He shared several graphs and statistical details to show how they looked at the data to see if the wikis are born or made – and it seems their quality stays the same for most wikis. If they do grow in quality, it tends to be at the beginning  of the life of the wiki. In addition, the vast majority of wikis aren’t collaborative – they are teachers posting materials or students doing individual pages. Would that be coordination in Elliot’s taxonomy?

How They Start Predicts How They End

It’s incredibly important to impact the genesis of wiki projects – because how they start out tends to be how they interact the rest of the time. Also that how people first experience an online learning community is how they will continue to think that is what you do in that online learning community. This worries me quite a bit… I’m thinking of faculty who start using an LMS such as Moodle to put their syllabus online. Then they want to teach online, and think that all that means is to put “stuff” online vs. designing engaging interactive learning opportunities. This deserves more reflection and planning!

Justin’s second paper:

Just Posting in the Same Place? A Taxonomy of Collaborative Behaviors in U.S. K-12 Wikis Justin Fire Reich, Harvard University; Richard J. Murnane, Harvard University; John B. Willett, Harvard University

This study looked at one piece of the quality indicators:

  • information consumption
  • participation
  • expert thinking
  • complex communication/collaboration
  • new media literacy

This second paper looked closer at complex communication:

Complex Communication – Seven Kinds of Communication on Wikis

  • Concatenation –
  • Copyediting
  • Co-construction
  • Commenting
  • Discussion
  • Scheduling
  • Planning

90% of the wikis they looked at didn’t have an interaction where the students were working on the same page. Does working on the same page mean collaboration?

Ownership of Text

Students have incredibly strong individual ownership of text, which makes it very difficult for them to write collaboratively where the text is truly a combination of everyone. Hmm. Makes me think of a paper we’re working on for a conference next week – where it is currently in the stage where everyone wrote their section; but soon it needs to be massaged to be coherent across everyone.

High Level Collaboration

High level complex communication happens when ALL the other types of communication are happening. Interesting.

Informal co-creation projects also have these same graphs – 2% of projects have more than 10 developers. Clay Shirkey has similar graphs for contributions to Wikipedia and other mass collaboration projects. Is it really just standard human behavior that 20% of the people do 80% of the work?

Scaffolding and Assessment

Work is needed on how to develop strategies for scaffolding online student collaboration.

If a wiki rubric is looking for x number of paragraphs, x number of links, and x images; then the teacher is evaluating students’ ability to follow directions; not the high level 21st century learning skills the teachers might say is why they are using the wiki in the first place. Pretty strong message on thinking through assessment.

In the Q&A, an interesting discussion of what collaboration is and what quality is. Justin thinks that it’s really that two students have text on the same page. Someone questioned that though – could collaboration and quality be much broader than that? He agrees that their instrument misses much context. Another person added that another indicator might be how linking happens. Makes me think of Silvia Tolisano’s recent writing on hyperlinked writing. This may be another piece of wiki quality as well. A practitioner in the room asked, given all this, what is the point of using wikis in my classroom? Flat Classroom came up several times. Justin gave the example of southern all white students who are strongly anti-racist because of their participation in Flat Classroom. That is very powerful learning.

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