The more I use wikis, the more excited I get about this whole notion of social media in education.  I think of social media as spaces like Facebook and MySpace.  But Bryan Alexander points out that social media goes beyond that to include blogging, of which I’m a big fan, and wikis.

I love wikis because they encapsulate what 21st-century learning is all about:  collaborative knowledge-building.  They allow students to collaborate on a single document, or they can be used to create an encyclopedia where the students themselves are the experts in the topic.  I’m using wikis in my own MET class to create a document:  developing strategies for getting students to use social media to learn, and exploring the challenges of social media in the classroom.  This is a collaborative effort where everyone in my class contributes.

At first I wondered why we couldn’t just create the document in google docs.  That’s a great space for collaborative work where you can work in programs such as word and powerpoint, and you never have to download drafts and everyone can see each other’s contributions.

For my MET course, however, a wiki suits the task perfectly.  Each of us has space to make our contributions.  Beside each posting there is an “edit” link where we can go in an edit.  However, the real draw for me was the separate discussion tab that took us away from the the original postings and allowed us to discuss each other’s contribution without messing up the original.  In google docs all discussions must take place on the document itself, and that can get incredibly cluttered.

If I were to find one challenge with the wiki it would be that once in the discussion space, you no longer have access to the original postings on the main page, so you have to go back and forth between the two tabs.   When I made my postings, only a few of my classmates had posted theirs, so it wasn’t too challenging for me to remember who said what.  In a large class, that could be a real problem  In discussion forums very often when you click “reply” you can see the post that you’re replying to, and that’s helpful as you’re writing your response.

I can see myself using wikis in my Survey course.  I can use it as a space for students to explore topics in music history and write a wiki article on their chosen topic.  I could also ask them to analyze a complicated piece of music, such as a movement of a symphony or a bit of chamber music in sonata form.  That would be a tough assignment to give to my undergraduate students to work on individually, but it would be a wonderful opportunity for the class as a whole to analyze the work then synthesize the movement, to make meaning of something so complex.  That is what knowledge construction is all about.

References

Alexander, B. (2006).  Web 2.0:  A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning?  Educause Review, 33-43.

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