a 21st century transaction

Teacher-Do this wiki.
Student
– Do I have to?

Who would wiki? I mean, if they didn’t have to?

The answer I and other “wiki-vangelist” teacherswant to give is that that people will wiki because the wiki is the best tool for the job. As naturally and frequently as they now pick up a pen or paintbrush to carry out communicative purposes, students will log in to a wiki and begin collaborating.

But that’s not reality–yet.

My experience so far is that students are not “organically” drawn to the wiki to serve their own authentic purposes. It’s not yet a part of the toolkit.

And why should wikis be? Would today’s student want to wiki on his own, feel impelled to put his work in this place and in this way, anymore than I felt drawn to the typing class or library’s typing room when I had a poem I really wanted to express, once upon a time.

A study published this month from Austria describes the frustrating lack of wiki-integration into students’ work, the persistent oddity of this tool. The study shows that, despite the built-in advantages of wikis for collaborative learning, and despite the “active participation, collaboration, and …rapidly growing content” of wiki-fied classes, wikis are still foreign to these digital natives.

In fact, the study’s authors looked at the extent to which students would wiki if it were neither enforced nor “directly rewarded similar to the principles of Wikipedia.”

…. Amazingly, the results show that, in total, none of the N = 287 students created new articles or edited existing ones during a whole semester.

Worse, the way I’m assigning wiki work might actually go against the spirit of free inquiry and exchange that wikis are meant to perpetuate. Won’t students come to associate the wiki with drudgery, as today they do books, notebooks, calculators and protractors?

Telling students to wiki: does that not defeat the open-source ethos of the wiki? This paper

strongly argues that this contradicts the original intentions of wikis and… weakens the psycho-pedagogical impact [of wiki-based collaboration].

Weakens the psycho-pedagogical impact. Yikes! Don’t want to do that.

I guess the best solution might be to give tasks to students that are so engaging that students find intrinsic, personal purpose in wiki-ing, right? How well are you doing with your students?

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