Thursday, April 28, 2011
Increasing collaboration in classroom wiki projects
Of course there are variations on this theme, and the degree of collaboration can be stepped up. The teacher need not assign the topics but simply create them and allow the students to select their favorite topic and get to work.
Another variation is to assign a topic so that each student has primary responsibility for one article, but then also assign responsibility to edit two or three other articles that classmates are creating. This gets into a higher degree of collaboration. And it brings up one of the differences between collaborative work and individual work. That is, individual contribution can be harder to identify in collaborative work. So assessment can be more difficult. However, collaborative work will be increasingly important after the student leaves school so it's important to learn the skills of collaboration.
Typically, when multiple people are editing the same wiki page, the goal is to arrive at a consensus document. That's what Wikipedia is all about: Lots of people contributing to the same pages and settling their differences.
But maybe you want to emphasize differences. For example, you could build a wiki for which each topic had two documents, a male and female point of view or a conservative and liberal point of view. Or you could open up your wiki to another classroom in a different community or halfway around the world and maintain two perspectives for each topic, the local perspective and the perspective of the students in the distant classroom.
The examples above use wikis for creating the overall collection of documents but, for the most part, students are responsible for their own pieces. That’s good for keeping track of credit for work done but it isn’t always the way wiki collaboration is done.
You can require more collaboration by assigning not just one individual but a team to each article on the wiki. The members of the team all edit the same page and the resulting article is a team product, not distinguishable by individuals. What might be lost in terms of tracking individual effort is offset by developing the skills of collaborative work within teams.
An even more extreme example is to have the entire class work on one article. Let’s say you’ve assigned the class to write an article comparing the use of technology by high school students in school versus in their personal lives. The point of the assignment would be to participate in a collaborative project as it leads to consensus with a group large enough to have many differences of opinion and many personal anecdotes to call on. Since this project is likely to have some students hang back from participating, it would be a good idea to introduce students to wikis and collaborative work with more individualized or small-team assignments like those described above before moving to a many-author assignment like this one.
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wikis, collaborative learning