a) What are the benefits of using wikis as learning tools ?
Schwartz et al. (2004) highlighted several benefits of using wikis in the educational arena:
- Cost: most of wikis are open sources;
- Complexity: wiki writing is easy to learn, and technical support is available online;
- Control: access can be restricted;
- Clarity: wiki content and evolution is easy to consult;
- Portability: wikis can be accessed from any browser;
- A common set of editing features: WYSIWYG editing image insertion, etc.
Recent literature underlined many other advantages of using wikis for pedagogical uses:
- Promoting reflective learning: Wikis can increase students’ reflective learning, by offering them a context for comparing and contrasting information from diverse sources, thus stimulating reflection, knowledge sharing and critical thinking. Indeed, by participating in a wiki based activity, students are able to perceive multiple interpretations of the same topic, as well as the natural complexity of interrelations within the realms of knowledge.
- Involving learners in their own knowledge construction: Wikis can involve students in their own coconstruction of knowledge. Furthermore, they promote peer and self-assessment, which is considered one of the keys to self-regulated learning.
- Improving co-writing processes: Wikis facilitates distributed collaborative writing processes, in which students can master co-writing techniques, which are increasingly being required in the world of work.
b) What are the obstacles of using a wiki in teaching settings ?
In the context of an exploratory study conducted in the WikiSkills project with teachers and trainers from different European countries, some difficulties were identified for implementing feasible and relevant wikibased learning scenarios.
- Technical obstacles
- Some educators mentioned that they do not have the necessary computer skills so to adequately use wiki functionalities for their teaching practices. Furthermore, some educational institutions lack the necessary equipment to successfully conduct wiki-based learning activities, as Internet connections are sometimes weak, and the number of computers available for students is low.
- Pedagogical obstacles
- Generally, teachers and trainers are not comfortable with giving students the responsibility to publish content online. Furthermore, the diversity of students’ profiles can make effective collaboration difficult. In addition, some teachers mentioned that they have high curricular objectives, which do not allow for activities which involve time consuming planning. Finally, the use of wiki environment should ensure adapted evaluation methodologies, in order to be effectively integrated in their teaching activities.
- Community aspects
- Some educators fear that communities of practice among teachers do not last in time, and that contributions are not equal, which would make it difficult to maintain an effective collaboration and ensure successful learning scenarios. In addition, the resistance to change of some institutions and educators may be a barrier to the integration of wiki approaches within the educational communities.
c) What are the typical success factors for teaching with wikis ?
This section brings out success factors for the relevant use of wiki environments in educational settings. These success factors emerged from previous previous studies conducted with the WikiSkills project in six EU countries.
The success factors have been distributed among four different categories, which correspond to the steps necessary for using wikis in educational settings.
Preparing the wiki environment
- Make clear what and who you want to teach: define your teaching objectives, learning content, and the specific characteristics of the editing community.
- Make sure that students have sufficient ICT skills: make sure that they will focus on the learning subject, rather than on technical issues.
- Make ICT resources available: ensure the availability of computers and internet access for each participant.
- Consider accessibility issues: the wiki environment should be usable by students with special educational needs, as well as provide interfaces that can be adapted according to users' characteristics: font size, use of keyboard, mouse or adaptive external devices, etc.
Setting up the wiki
- Define essential rules: provide a minimum set of rules necessary for an efficient use of the wiki environment, although limiting the number of rules.
- Define a clear organizational structure: provide a minimum structure for organizing the wiki environment, while keeping it flexible and open.
- Define and import initial content: start filling in the wiki environment in order to avoid, from participants, fear of empty spaces or being the one to start.
- Choose the adapted wiki platform: identify which wiki software is best adapted to your educational objectives and your students. Decision should be made according to the special features of each platform, the technical environment required, the software license, the prior familiarity required to use the interface, the training availability, students' level of skills, languages available, etc.
- Prefer platform with page locking system and help links: this will avoid having students editing the same page simultaneously.
- Prefer platforms with statistics tools: this will enable to follow up participants' progress and to extract useful information about the project's spread.
Gardening the wiki
- Be flexible with rules: keep the rules open and encourage students to participate in their definition. This will foster their sense of ownership.
- Open the wiki environment to a global audience: when relevant, diffuse the project to external audiences, so students become aware that their work can be seen by others.
- Track portfolios of edits and updates tied to individual users: this will allow you seeing the amount of time spent online and provide qualitative / quantitative data on students’ contribution to the wiki.
Teaching with the wiki
- Introduce students to the wiki functionalities: start by showing your students what they can do and how in the wiki environment.
- Show existing success wiki projects: demonstrate to students the possible benefits from using wikis, in order to motivate them and show them the large range of opportunities they can offer.
- Introduce students to the wiki culture: familiarise students with the social implications of working in wiki environments. As an example, introduce them to collective ownership issues: make clear that they stay authors of their own contributions, that their texts may undergo revisions and are likely to be modified by others even after publication.
- Introduce students to legal issues: introduce students to copyright laws that forbid copying and pasting content from other external sources, giving credit for others’ work, copyright laws for collective works, legal responsibilities of host provider and editors.
- Find a balance between guidance and autonomy: act as a moderator, rather than a supervisor, by encouraging and tracking the participation of students, as well as facilitating communication among them. Provide students with a clear organizational structure for the wiki, while giving them autonomy with regard to its scope and content.
- Foster a "BeBold" attitude: encourage students to try, fail, try again and finally succeed.
- Foster students’ collaboration: provide students with opportunities to collaborate outside of the wiki environment.
- Assume good faith from participants: promote an atmosphere of trust and assume good faith from students. Mistakes may be done non voluntarily and are reversible on a wiki.
- Foster the use of multimedia formats: images and video can, in some cases, illustrate a topic better than only text does. Their use can also make the environment more dynamic, and promote students’ digital literacy.
- Encourage the use of internal and external hyperlinks: enable students to get used to the culture of linking contents, from inside and outside of the wiki site.
- Consider using wiki-based evaluation methodologies: use available functionalities which permit you to obtain qualitative / quantitative data on students’ contribution to the wiki.
- Diffuse your wiki: disseminate your project through social networks and personal digital communication tools as mailing-lists, feeds, communities, etc.
- Develop opportunities for collaboration among students from different institutions: consider setting up wiki-based scenarios involving the participation of other educational centres.
- Create a supportive community of practice: communities among teachers and / or students provide opportunities for continuous collaboration and meaningful learning.
d) What are typical good practices ?
- Wikipedia, and other multilingual Wikimedia projects, can be used to do translation practices. By translating e.g. an article from one Wikipedia edition to another, the students will most likely have to engage in online discussions not only about appropriate terminology in a certain field, but also about the tonality and form of their translation.
- The feedback from the community, and the impact if their work, can add motivation to the task.
- Target groups: All
- Using a collaborative platform, such as a wiki or a multi-user blog, for creative writing exercises, opens up entirely new possibilities for co-writing. When working with younger children, the possibility to view and comment the works of each other might be just enough. Later on, the students can start finishing each other's texts, or even begin writing together from scratch.
- The immediate feedback from other students is both demanding and rewarding. Co-writing, and thereby giving up the whole concept of “my text” might be even more challenging, while at the same time offering a unique possibility to train collaborative skills.
- Target groups: Primarily “Comenius”
- Whenever working with photography, graphic design, music, video, or some other media, the media repository Wikimedia Commons is a great place to receive feedback and attention. Any media uploaded will have to be original, out of copyright, or available with a Creative Commons Share-Alike license.
- Proceed to add you uploaded media to Wikipedia, or other public projects, to get even more engagement from the community.
- Target groups: “Comenius” and “Erasmus”. “Leonardo” and “Grundtvig” depending on field of interest
- A local wiki, or a private wiki at a wiki farm, can be used as a project management tool for student during a shorter or longer group assignment. Ideally, towards the end of the projects, the trainer and the trainees can initiate a transition, converting what was at first internal brainstorming pages into a finalized showcase of the students work. This way, the wiki will work as both a project-internal platform and a display window, and students will be trained in iteration as a project management technique.
- Target groups: All
e) Would you have a comprehensive list of needs for a successful wiki pedagogical application ?
We could list a collection of needs to keep an eye upon
- Need for awareness among management, teachers
- Support from the management needs to be real, i.e. teachers need to be given the time for implementing new tools not be expected to provide immediate results
- There are employment contracts that might conflict with using open licenses.
- The teacher needs to learn how to master the wiki software and platforms through tutorials
- Teaching methodologies that wikis can support; it is important to make carefully the decision of choosing a wiki-based teaching approach, by being aware of what is / is not possible to do with a wiki.
- In-depth study of different practical examples of wiki-based scenarios, and the way they were applied in the classroom step-by-step.
- The teacher needs to provide continuous guidance, support and assessment
- Classroom management training. Teachers need to know how to organize roles among students, how to define the role of the teacher, how to teach students about wikis, how to use the history functionality, how to evaluate students, etc.
- Learn how to deal with intellectual property issues of texts and graphical resources.
- Learn how to teach students to work with wikis under safe, ethical and responsible behaviours.
- Have the possibility to think and debate about the relevant ways to use wikis
- Learn about the possibilities of participating in already exciting projects (eg Eduwiki, vikidia for 8-13 years old, Viquiescoles, Viquilletre, Eduwikilab, etc.)
- Receive help to learn how to work in a team among different teachers and schools in an effective manner
- Need proper meeting places (in real life or online).
- Need gamification, tools to reward those who help build in the commons
f) How to evaluate my students ?
Many evaluations are initially designed to provide individual measurable values: typically, for each student, number of edits made over the training session, number of articles created, page created about the student etc.
This turns about being difficult for a fair estimation of skills learned. Evaluation may rather be done in small groups of 2-3 students working together rather than individually. Evaluation may also be done with selfevaluation of the student or with evaluation of one group by the other groups based on a questionnaire. Criterias of notation should be planned in advance.
g) How to set up for success in scenarios editing Wikipedia ?
The advantages of using such scenarios is the immediate reward for the students who may experiences his editing the wiki as an improvement of the encyclopedia rather than a short-lived edit on a temporary wiki dedicated to training activities. However, one of the difficulties associated with such scenarios is the complexity of the editorial rules developed over time on Wikipedia in particular making it basically essential that the trainer be himself pretty knowledgeable in the way Wikipedia operates.
Fortunately, several brochures have been developed by the Wikimedia community to help teachers conduct their training. See for example:
A good idea if you wish to use scenarios involving editing Wikipedia is to join the community of educators also doing so to share good practices with them. A good starting point is to join the relevant mailing list (open for all, publicly accessible archives): https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/education
You better keep on eye on http://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/Education as well.
Short description of Wikipedia
- Name of the project : Wikipedia
- Brief description of the goal of the project : Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia
- Languages available : 270+
- Licenses : CC BY SA 3.0 /GFDL
- Reference organisation : Wikimedia Foundation
- Technology based / developers : MediaWiki
- Description and history : Founded in 2001, Wikipedia is a freely licence encyclopedia which seeks to give access to knowledge to all human being on that planet. As of early 2012, over 20 millions articles in over 270 languages. That's THE wiki reference.
- Links: http://www.wikipedia.org
- Special features matching with wiki-skills project proposal / possibles educational uses : Open for participation to all. Suitable for teenager and adult participation. Broad topics.
Alternatively, it may be just as an exciting experience with less side effects to rather set up the training experiment on one of the other Wikimedia projects.
h) How to set up for success in scenarios editing other Wikimedia projects ?
The training experiment may be set up on one of the other Wikimedia projects rather than on Wikipedia itself. Amongst the best projects to do so : Wikibooks, wiktionary, Wikimedia Commons and the latest born, Wikivoyage.
Short description of Wikibooks
- Name of the project : Wikibooks
- Brief description of the goal of the project : Wikibooks is an open-content textbooks collection
- Languages available : 50+
- Licenses : CC BY SA 3.0 and/or GFDL
- Reference organisation : Wikimedia Foundation
- Technology based / developers : MediaWiki
- Description and history : Created in 2003. While some books are original, others began as text copied over from other sources of free content textbooks found on the Internet. Some books have been co-authored by students and teachers (for example: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Social_and_Cultural_Foundations_of_American_Education
- Links: http://www.wikibooks.org/
- Special features matching with wiki-skills project proposal / possibles educational uses : Open for participation to all. Suitable for teenager and adult participation. Broad topics. Opportunity for groupbased collaboration on a given book
Short description of Wikivoyage
- Name of the project : Wikivoyage
- Brief description of the goal of the project : Wikivoyage is a project to create a free, complete, up-todate, and reliable worldwide travel guide.
- Languages available : 7
- Licenses : cc by sa 3.0
- Reference organisation : Technology based / developers : mediawiki
- Description and history : Wikivoyage is a Wikimedia Foundation project created in 2012. As of December 2012, it is still in beta mode. This project was inspired by the project Wikitravel, created in 2003 by Evan Prodromou and Michele Ann Jenkins and (as of 2012) owned by Internet Brands (a for profit company). Wikivoyage is the example of a “fork” (the content and part of the community of Wikitravel has migrated to a new project managed by another organization).
- Links: http://www.wikivoyage.org/
- Special features matching with wiki-skills project proposal / possibles educational uses : very wikipedia-like project with a very specific focus. It is open to editing to the public and its content may be freely reused. Though the English based version is the most developed, it also exists in other languages. It provides an interesting wiki for beginners as most people would have something to write in the area covered by this wiki.
Other interesting projects to consider for a use of a training scenario involve Wiktionary, the free dictionary : http://www.wiktionary.org/ or Wikimedia Commons, the online database of free media : https://commons.wikimedia.org.