Rhetoric and Composition/Teacher's Handbook/Teaching with Wikitexts

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Many teachers of writing from all over the world have viewed this wikitext and wondered if it would be appropriate for their classroom. There are obviously some big changes you'll have to make if you're accustomed to a traditional printed textbook. This chapter will address some of the more common questions teachers have when considering adopting this or any other wikitext into their syllabus.

Issues of Access[edit]

One of the biggest worries teachers have about online materials of any sort is that some of their students may lack the knowledge, equipment, or desire to access them. What good is a freely available textbook if students and teachers can't afford computers and internet connections?

The information found within the Rhetoric and Composition wikibook belongs to the public good. As an instructor, you may copy and disseminate the information found within this book.

  • If access is an issue for some, feel free to print copies of the information found within this book.
  • If knowledge of use is an issue, create an online information search. In this way, students become more familiar with the wiki design. Also, they will learn the techniques being taught within the book.
  • If desire is an issue, challenge the student to educate you, the instructor, on the information found within. Students may not want to use an online text due to a belief that their instructor does not know how to use the online text. By giving the student this directive, they may feel empowered by the assignment.

Issues of Accountability[edit]

One of the most commonly raised issues regarding wikitexts (or wikis in general) is accountability. Who, if anyone, is responsible for verifying the claims and information published on a wiki? This discussion is also at the center of any type of online research. Who are the major contributors and authors of this wikibook? How often is this book reviewed by the major authors? Do earlier versions of the wikibook still exist, in case information is changed?

The main body of this Rhetoric and Composition wikibook has been authored by University faculty and Graduate students (the majority of whom are specializing in rhetoric and composition), within the course curriculum of a Minnesota State University. This particular wikibook is frequently reviewed for content, and the information within the Rhetoric and Composition wikibook is regularly edited and monitored for changes to content.

These students and faculty, along with a family of online rhetoricians, work to maintain the credibility and accountability of the Rhetoric and Composition wikitext.

If you feel information has been modified or changed to state incorrect information, or you have asked students to print out pages from a wikibook and the printed version you have is different, you can view all the earlier forms of a page found within the book. At the top of each wikipage is a tab labelled History.

If you click on this tab, you will find a listing of every earlier version of the wikibook page. The date and author will also be listed. You even have the ability to view two versions of the page at the same time. In this way, you can verify the student's copy of the book.

Wikitexts vs. Printed Texts[edit]

Many teachers and students find reading text on a printed page easier and more comfortable than reading online. Yet, in today's era of internet access, students may find locating information via a computer or cell phone connection more appealing. If technology is available, students may opt for the web instead of the printed page.

You may be deciding which type of text is best suited for your classroom. If you are, please refer to the following sections to help with that decision:

Benefits of a Printed Text[edit]

Computer access may not be necessary for particular classrooms. Many classrooms also do not have adequate access to computers, and printed texts can be a more practical option. Students can purchase the same textbook edition as their instructor, ensuring that everyone has access to the same knowledge in a classroom. The style and format of printed texts present much more variety than those found on wikis, and an effective text may present an aesthetically pleasing layout.

Thousands of composition textbooks are available on the market, and a successful text will provide a sound theoretical approach to pedagogy, thorough chapters on writing topics, and tips for helpful writing strategies. Printed texts may also include excerpts from articles, novels, and other works of literature. A valuable printed textbook may also provide sample student essays. Teachers can readily select a printed text that follows a focused pattern desirable for their teaching style and goals.

Benefits of a Wikitext[edit]

The wikitext is an open resource and may be freely copied and distributed. As an instructor, you are allowed to disseminate the information found within the Rhetoric and Composition Wikitext. Much like any other wiki on the Internet, the wikitext is able to provide new information through an ongoing and openly edited process. Although pages are not subject to a formal peer review process, anyone and everyone with access to the wikitext may contribute and edit content.

Unlike a printed textbook, the wikitext is not limited to a page count. The wikitext provides a highly focused and synthesized approach to information activities for any classroom with a writing component. On the wikitext, only the information needed is provided, making for an excellent reference for students and teachers. All earlier versions of the book are accessible on the web.

Drawbacks of a Printed Text[edit]

In printed texts, the information contained may be outdated. If a lengthy text is used in a classroom, teachers must select which topics and activities are most important their teaching goals. Printed texts may not cover rules and topics about new technologies. Printed texts are also limited to a page count, and if revised, a new edition must be reprinted and redistributed. Most printed texts must be purchased, which can be a hardship for both students and teachers.

Drawbacks of a Wikitext[edit]

The information contained on a wikitext can be changed by anyone, regardless of their knowledge or credentials. Access to wikitexts may also pose an issue for some classrooms. Computer access is necessary, at least once, to locate information within the book.

Wikitexts may not provide the same thorough content and supplementary materials that quality printed textbooks offer. While the Rhetoric and Composition Wikitext provides handouts and sample lesson plans, Wikitexts usually cannot provide excerpts from other published textbook materials, such as letters, essays, poems. This wikitext provides a highly focused guide that can be referenced for essential information and activities.

Wikitexts vs. Other Online Texts[edit]

As you're probably well aware, the Rhetoric and Composition Wikitext is not the only solution for instructors looking for an online composition text. Several of the major commercial textbook publishers are now offering online or CD-ROM editions of their popular printed editions, as well as a plethora of companion websites and supplementary materials.

Electronic books (also referred to as e-books, ebooks, digital books, and e-editions) are now an option for many teachers and students. While many electronic books are the digital representation of a different edition in print, some are "born digital" and do not have a printed counterpart. Electronic textbooks often cost slightly less than versions of the same book in print.

As electronic textbooks are mainly accessed through the Internet, they have been resisted by some authors and composition specialists who see a threat in distributing written material that can be saved and disseminated without publisher approval. Teachers should avoid requiring electronic textbooks unless all students have access to the appropriate devices to read them (e-readers, tablets, or computers).