Tuesday, October 4, 2011

72_Reflections from a failed Wiki Attempt

Using Wiki technology to support student engagement: Lessons from the trenches.
Cole, M. Computers and Education 52 (2009) 141-146

A few worth mentioning thoughts coming from this article, connect to a lot of readings already met earlier in this blog, about features and potentials of specific online interactive tools and how these affect the outcomes we hope to achieve by using them in our classes.

The article shows awareness of the fact that the higher education (and in a way - adult education for the purposes of our blog) landscape is changing, much to the effects of technologies as other factors also may contribute to the evolution that is occurring. We encounter the idea of the paradigm shift (pedagogical) as well as the notion that online technologies may naturally be predisposed to support learner-centered environments. What we discover along these considerations is also the fact that there is not much innate in anyone given tool, until we (instructors and designers) consciously make use of the tool affordances in the most optimal way.

Ultimately the article was brought about by the need to share a failed attempt at using wikis to support a learning environment, and while the context of the research is important, a few transferable learning opportunities emerge as highlighted below:

  • interactive technologies have transformed users into producers (there is a really great line of thought about this by an author and leader in this area by the name of Clay Shirky - Ted Talks are really his thing!)
  • interactive technologies are levelling the playing field and making it more democratic for learners and instructors alike - however this does not mean we are necessarily ready for the opportunity yet.
  • the article refers to Tonkin (2005) and the classification of wikis under four categories (single-user, lab-book, collaborative writing and creating knowledge repositories)
  • Key and recurring theories of learning continue to emerge, such as social constructivism, cooperative learning
Given the failed attempt of the author around the use of the wiki, some important reflections were shared that are worth considering, around the ideas of online learning, and specifically for the ESL world.

Building something new does not mean people will use it.
Agreed. Not everyone is an early adopters, and there is value in laggards and their procrastination or scepticism around the use of new technologies. Certainly building without supporting will lead to failure or really hard ways to reach success.

Pedagogical planning and planning around established processes will affect the impact and use of new technologies.
If instructors do not build spaces for practice and give value to the use of new tools, the incentives to use these tools will be limited and often disappointing.

Redesigning and planning around the use of new tools is a must. 
the modifications around the use of new tools are often substantial and cannot be a simple uploading exercise.

Technology is better used to support needed or frequently occurring behaviours, rather than imposing new approaches altogether.
This has probably something to do with the idea of adoption, the idea of pedagogical sound planning and also emotional and personal views around adoption of innovation.

Do not use the technology because learners said or showed interested in the fun element of personal use of technology. 
The fine line between the use of a tool for entertainment purposes and for learning goals is one that can often be crossed in the wrong direction.

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