Pedagogical Praxis & Wikis - #3c

Pedagogical praxis? The phrase has a nice alliterative ring to it…The basis of pedagogical praxis is “to analytically separate the effects of layers of context and to reintegrate them in a more complex model of the learning process – one that incorporates the emerging social, economic, and technological forces and their implications for cognition and citizenship” (Shaffer, 2004, p. 1402).

This premise is based on the notion of reflexive practice, i.e., “learn to think in action and learn to do so through…professional experiences” (Schon as cited in Shaffer, 2004, p. 1402). Furthermore, Shaffer (2004) incorporates Lave & Wenger’s work in communities of practices and the “different ways of knowing, of deciding what is worth knowing, and of adding to the collective body of knowledge and understanding” (p. 1404).

The combination of pedagogical praxis, reflective action, and communities of practice fit nicely into my own philosophical pocket. Application of the tripod to vocational postsecondary educational environments also has potential. The health field is one that is constantly changing with new and multifaceted information. As well, it is a profession that extensively depends on a well-prepared team of experts. Training practical nurses involves a blend of traditional content in various sciences (with a strong emphasis on skills in basic mathematics, vocabulary, reading and writing skills) and a strong component of the hands-on clinical experience. Reflective practice is in evidence at the hospital setting where students have an opportunity for engagement with medical professionals. Those practitioner circles offer much more knowledge than the classroom, the textbook and even the simulated lab setting.

Finally, I ponder that alliteration, pedagogical praxis, for its connections of new technologies with learning. Discovering technologies that can help students engage in the practices of reflection and community appear to have significant value. Shaffer (2004) found that students demonstrated distinct progression in viewing complex problems, saw technology as more ubiquitous, and internalized new ways of thinking. Given the appropriate setting and structure, would wikis be one of those technologies? I think wikis can be a platform for reflective learning and with the opportunity for input by a variety of medical professionals, the construction of knowledge increases for students. I plan to continue my own wiki knowledge with additional learning framework articles and a look at wiki-books for the next couple of weeks.

Shaffer, D. W. (2004). Pedagogical praxis: The professions as models for postindustrial education. Teachers College Record, 106, 7, pp. 1401-1421. Retrieved March 31, 2006 from http://coweb.wcer.wisc.edu/cv/papers/TCRpedprax.pdf


Wikis and Connectivism - #3b

George Siemens’ thinking on “connectivism” is not only a fascinating mosaic of what we often discuss in the reform circles, but also an confluence with present and futuristic technologies. This half-hour presentation provides a focal point for us to really think about learning – are our classrooms really learning environments? What is the learning climate? What are the implications for change?

Akin to Friedman’s A World is Flat, Siemens (2006) outlines the accelerated changes in our society and how they are playing a role in all of our lives, including education. Specifically, the increased complexity and distribution factors lead to more individual-centered, but connected spaces – a network or jig-saw puzzle for which everyone has a contributing role. He goes on to say that “connections, not content, are the source of value” and that as educators, we not only need to integrate into the network, but also initiate, create and foster those “pipeline” connections (Siemens, 2006, slide 13).

The attention given to individual learners within a community of active participants is definitely a reason for using a wiki with adult vocational students. With a focus on health science students, the need for involved team work is vital and yet our society has begun appreciate and promote individual differences. These learning competencies reflect the work environment and wikis give an opportunity for experiencing them just as naturally in the learning environment.

There are many other relational points made in this presentation as I continue to ponder wikis as a learning tool. Siemens’(2006) emphasis on diversity and the need for multiple perspectives and on “learners as content creators” sit well with my understanding of the wiki concept. It certainly piggy-backs on the social constructivist perception of learning. His discussion of “know-where” being more important than “know-what” and “know how” speaks to the “capacity to access the knowledge that we need being more valuable than the knowledge that we currently possess” (Siemens, 2006, slide 16). Using wikis and other web-based tools minimizes the out of date information evident in the medical arenas.

Siemens, G. (2006). Connectivism: Rethinking learning. Presentation at Illinois Online Conference February 15, 2006. Retrieved March 26, 2006 from


Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge and Wikis - #3a

Dr. Ferdig referred to technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK) in a couple of comments, so I searched for his recently available online article in the British Journal of Educational Technology for a possible connection to wikis. Though no small feat to find this article (and I’m not sure that I cited correctly?), I discovered it to have some meaning for me in my growing expertise on wikis. The good sensical premise of the writing is that an effective technological “innovation” in education takes into account “good pedagogy…good people…[and] good performance” (Ferdig, 2006). Embedded in this account is the idea that educational technology needs to be content-driven and that technology choice may differ from one discipline to another.

Ferdig’s (2006) review of literature highlights the pedagogical framework of social constructivism:

  • real-world applications for motivational engagement while maintaining a viable learning challenge (career education in post-secondary institutions revolves around the “hands-on and reality” core since the design of this curriculum is to prepare students for the world of work – the challenge is to keep the difficulty at an appropriate level);

  • a sense of “ownership” and power over learning (wikis fit well with this concept since the issue of control is a central one);

  • social collaborative opportunities (wikis invite and expect contributions from the community which, in turn, allow for interactive scaffolding);

  • creation of documents which demonstrate a new construction of knowledge (the wiki definitely imbues a process of building new understanding with its participatory and often, problem-solving model);

  • focal point on “publication, reflection, and feedback” (wikis capitalize on this feature with their online distribution via the world wide web and the opportunity for others to comment on their contributions. In addition the “anytime, anyplace, anywhere” power of the wikis Internet capability allow learners to take time for reflection before posting).

The importance of people in the assessment of educational technologies cannot be undermined. Ferdig (2006) indicates the importance of many levels of dialogue (I like this concept as it truly underlies the real value of wikis if teachers permit student control); the significance of authentic, non-judgmental conversations (even with the wiki, this can be superficial, but it is critical that all share the same conditions in the community); the supple nature of individuals in dealing with situations (the wiki is indeed an organic tool, allowing for various levels of control and publication exposure, as well as focusing on the whole as well as the parts); and the equality and holistic involvement of participation (i.e., setting the stage for maximum contributions on a equivalent stage, which can be representative of a wiki project). The importance of the teacher role as facilitator of the wiki cannot be undermined nor underestimated.

Lastly, the issue of performance is addressed. After all, what good is the technological tool if it doesn’t impact performance in some manner? Ferdig (2006) delineates three important criteria:

  • using the technology in a relevant and applicable way (wikis are not appropriate for every academic lesson – it is critical to use technology as pertinent to the essential goal of the lesson);

  • relating technology specifically to learner goals and benchmarks, as indicated by the content (wikis can to be structured to relate directly to standards, as appropriate – however, this learning tool may be difficult to measure actual gains in knowledge);

  • recognizing and measuring the increase in social and emotional, as well as cognitive learning (this is a tough area – wiki or not – but interestingly, the reference to “evidence that humans enter into social relationships with technology” paves the way for wiki use in future research).

One final observation (I know this post is getting long) – Ferdig (2006) cites Shulman (1986), “preparing teachers, some focused on pedagogical knowledge (teaching how to teach) while others focused their attention on content knowledge (teaching about the subject matter…He argued that teacher educators should focus on both…” I strongly agree and find additional dimensions, then, in working with teachers of post secondary adult vocational students, as most of the teachers come directly from the career field, focused on their specialization content, and are not trained educators. That realization means additional focus on training teachers of the use of wikis in my school.

Wikis appear to fit well within the lens of social constructivist theoretical foundations and the additional perspectives of TPCK. The tri-modal structure of pedagogy, people and performance gives credence to the potential of wikis in a learning environment, assuming they are carefully crafted to solicit the positive aspects of all three influences.

Ferdig, R.E. (in press). Assessing technologies for teaching and learning: Understanding the importance of technological pedagogical content knowledge. British Journal of Educational Technology. Retrieved March 19, 2006 from


Pedagogies of Wikis - #2c

At an EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative meeting, Jude Higdon from the University of Southern California proposed the following pedagogies based on their pilot projects:

  • Student journaling – similar to blogging, students “engage in meta-cognitive reflection” (p.2). Using a wiki, however, a collaborative approach allows for social reflection.
  • Personal portfolios – wikis can serve as an organizational framework for demonstrating accomplishments. The benefit of a wiki over a webpage or blog once again focuses on the collaboration factor; however, that certainly intrudes on the “personal” nature of the portfolio.
  • Collaborative knowledge base – this is the traditional and original use of wikis. The value is not only the social collaboration, but also the construction and production of knowledge. The infrastructure of a wiki is ideal for students to share information, query for further understanding, argue and debate concepts, and synthesize their learning.
  • Research coordination and collaboration – a specific way to tap into the collaborative knowledge base previously mentioned. The ability to provide various levels of access (read only or read/write) allows for others to see the process without disturbing the content.
  • Curricular and cross-disciplinary coordination – this centrality is primarily aimed at faculty in planning for interdisciplinary learning.
  • Conference and colloquia web site/coordination – again the framework provides an organizational focus, as well as a resource of informational wealth.
  • Syndicating/aggregating web resources – this feature of Web 2.0 and the social-networking platforms is available for wikis, which is critical for our new anytime/anywhere learning environment.
  • Inter-term management – useful for long-term projects that span over semesters or years.

The participatory nature of wikis sets the stage for developmental and transformational learning. At this point, I envision using a wiki at my school in three steps. A wiki for postsecondary vocational adult students could be used for journaling purposes primarily to check for understanding of concepts (i.e., after difficult units of instruction) and reflection (i.e., clinical or coop experiences) and secondarily to improve writing skills. Many of our students have not succeeded in the traditional disciplines, but improve their skills throughout their vocational coursework with the “hands-on” approach. The application of reading and writing not only through their content preference, but also via the kinesthetic and real-world technological tool is considerably more desirable. Using wikis in this way would also be an introduction to the public nature of sharing their writing skills and their ideas. The adults at our school range in age from 17 to 60+ with an equal diversity span of technology skills, but the majority have not experienced social software.

A second step would be to use existing wikis (i.e., Wiki Liver) and/or build new depositories as content resources and to add content to the existing structure. Most of our courses are riddled with new vocabulary and processes/concepts needed to effectively apply their knowledge in a career field.

In order to really capture the social and collaborative strength of a wiki however, we need to move into projects that would be structured by the instructor to engage students in building their own knowledge base. There are a variety of challenges in doing this third step, to include assessment and control of the instructor, but without moving to this dimension, we “undermine the effectiveness of the tool” (Lamb, 2004, p. 45). I would encourage the use of higher-level thinking skills in developing scenarios or problem-based learning, which would model the teamwork and reality of their chosen vocations.

Wikis are a relatively new concept and there is not much research in the field, but I hope to explore topics related to social constructivism for extrapolation to wikis in next week’s postings.

Higdon, J. (2006). Pedagogies of Wikis. Presented at EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative meetings. Retrieved March 18, 2006 from

Lamb, B. (2004). Wide open spaces: Wikis, ready or not. EDUCAUSE Review (39, 5) pp. 36 – 48. Retrieved March 16, 2006 from


Wikis' Educational Uses - #2b

Having reviewed the basic traits of wikis, I find it important to find examples of their use in education. Schwartz, et. al.’s article on educational wikis was repetitive (and somewhat outdated in that some wikis content changes can be pulled in as RSS feeds, just as blogs) in defining wikis, but the section on educational uses provided a starting point for reviewing blogs used in schools. The authors focused on wikis used at universities and found that most were used for non-curricular issues, i.e., activities/events and project management. This again may be due to the publication date of two years ago, since wikis are relatively new tools. The authors do highlight some of the educational features of wiki usage: creating interactive activities, using as a tool for course information and resources, monitoring of discussions, building “communities of practice” and a way to problem-solve.

I determined the need to seek out some specific examples of wikis used in schools for educational purposes. I’ve listed a number of them here. They represent quite a variety in terms of content, audience, and level.

Westwood High School – this wiki is used frequently by computer science students in Vicki Davis’ classes. Projects, discussions, announcements, exams, and content construction (check out the Excel project) are all evident at this wiki site. It seems apparent that the teacher provides a lot of structure and guidance in using this wiki and getting students involved in contributing.

Pre Calculus – I certainly didn’t expect to find a math wiki out there, but why not? This wiki is designed for students (and guests!) to develop a “collaborative notebook” with actual problems and skill questions (see Geometric Sequences).

Mrs. Huff’s English classes – this wiki includes an opportunity for book discussion (see Awakenings in Honors American Lit) and a cool resource page on writing a research paper. The changes page indicates just a few by students recently, but there appears to be potential for real sharing.

Studying Societies at JHK – there is a lot of content at this wiki (though it doesn’t appear to be very creative – looks like a lot of “copy and paste” and no resources!!) – it appears to be for middle school age students, but I’m not sure whether the students actually contributed or not.

Harvard Cyberlaw – Used for discussions, note-taking, critique, as well as links for other websites, the level of sophistication is more evident. Of course, the level is post-graduate and the topic is relevant, as well.

The next two are not used by particular schools, but thought they offered some additional insight as portals for learning.

High school collaborative online writing is a Wikicity for use by schools. This wiki has the aim of promoting collaborative writing and providing a test area where students can do that. Teachers are invited to set up school projects within the wiki. There are no set criteria for the content.

Wiki Liver – I kept this one on the list, as one of the postsecondary adult programs I work with includes all of the health science (i.e., LPN, CNA, Medical Assisting) courses and thought it might be a starting point to demonstrate a specific usage of wikis. It also demonstrates that wikis, though read/write oriented are not limited to words, but can incorporate visuals, as well.

It has been helpful to see how others are using wikis for educational purposes. I don’t think the collaborative potential has been tapped in some of these examples, but I also recognize the novelty of wikis. The practical applications get the juices flowing as to how wikis can be used in my own school, but there’s still much to research. I want to get back to the educational foundations and underpinnings, the pedagogy of wikis – next post!

Schwartz, L., Clark, S., Cossarin, M., & Rudolph, J. (April, 2004). Educational wikis: Features and selection criteria. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (5, 1) Retrieved March 18, 2006 from


Ready or Not - Wikis #2a

Brian Lamb provides an excellent overview and discussion of the principles of wikis in this article, Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not. As the title indicates, the highlight of this discussion is about the openness of wikis. That characteristic is actually seen on a continuum with the true open editing of WikiWikiWeb and Wikipedia at one end and the more restricted password-only wikis in many businesses and classrooms (see Studying Societies at JHK as an example). As Lamb points out, “The structure of wikis is shaped from within – not imposed from above” (p. 40). This concept helps keep the perspective of its use in education, i.e., for some situations (especially as a new wiki user), the community might be limited. Therefore, the openness trait has some individual control.

He assaults the fear of wikis’ openness with a description of the ethical “soft security” systems of community oversight and the technological tools of “hard security” utilities. Unfortunately, wikis are not totally immune to sabotage, despite the security. Just as when you secure your computer with anti-virus software, spam-filtering and firewall utilities, and spyware software, it doesn’t prevent the possibility of hacker attack and infiltration – but it does minimize that risk. This reality is critical, especially in educating students (as well as teachers, administrators, and even school board members) about the pros and cons of using wikis. The real question is do you stop using (or don’t start using) the technology because it has some vulnerability? Do the benefits outweigh the detractions? I for one cannot argue that point.

Additionally, a common objection to wikis is the lack of style and beauty! Though they do have a look of commonality and serve more function, than design, I would guess that there is a bit more diversity in wikis’ form since the article’s authorship. Based on available templates and “skins,” wikis can take on a personal look to meet that aesthetic quality. Even with the focus on reading and writing, visual literacy can be addressed with the inclusion of photographs, graphics, diagrams and colored fonts. Thus, an introduction of wikis to a new audience would benefit from a stylish and good- looking wiki model, as “any pleasure derivable from the appearance or functioning of the tool increases positive affect, broadening the creativity and increasing the tolerance for minor difficulties and blockages” (Norman, 2002, p. 42).

Another interesting facet of this article is the change from individual to collective writing and how that impacts ownership, plagiarism, and copyright. Interestingly, last semester I found myself citing from blogs and wikis frequently and realized there was no specific protocol in APA Manual! Though the concerns of intellectual property rights are probably far more relevant to those in universities, the awareness and discussion is important – if for no other reason than to explore the alternatives and to challenge blinded mindsets. The nature of wiki content as “ego-less, time-less, and never finished” (Lamb, 2004, p. 38) muddies the waters of ethics in the information age.

There’s more in this article on pedagogical challenges which I will combine with another article on pedagogies later this week…due to this long posting!

Lamb, B. (2004). Wide open spaces: Wikis, ready or not. EDUCAUSE Review (39, 5) pp. 36 – 48. Retrieved March 16, 2006 from

Norman, D. A. (2002). Emotion and design: Attractive things work better. Interactions Magazine, ix (4), 36-42. Retrieved March 19, 2006 from


Wiki at work - #1c

This post is based on a screencast (about 8 minutes long) that demonstrates the editing of a Wikipedia page, in this case an article on a heavy metal band. It is interesting to see the interactions and the development of mechanical, contextual and even the cultural input. As well, there is an example of vandalism at work (and erased).

Since the open editing feature of a wiki is both a positive attribute for the collaborative process and a potential negative impact on the product of content, this screencast was valuable for understanding the wiki in action. The construction of knowledge was evident, as well as the infrastructure of this web-based tool. Strictly from a writer’s perspective, it also displayed what would likely be the profuse drafts an author goes through to get the final product – though in the case of wikis, there is no finality. That characteristic of change and ever-developing content is a reflection of our world, our lives and learning itself.

Vandalism, spam and monitoring of wikis is still an issue. One could assume that a wiki used for classroom instruction would not be viewed often and thus not a victim of destruction, but that may not be the case. So how to control that potential? I continue to find myself drawn to the notion of wikis, but don’t feel I have my “arms wrapped around” the entire concept yet…

Having identified some of the basic traits of the wiki, I’ll next explore wiki examples in education and basic theoretical underpinnings for the use of wikis in learning.

Udell, J. (January 22, 2005). InfoWorld. Retrieved March 14, 2006 from


Thinking of privacy issues

Not directly related to my wiki topic…

I finally took a minute to look at Facebook, though I didn’t create a profile for myself…Both of my neighbor’s kids are home from UF for Spring Break so I looked them up – whoa! My first thought was of voyeurism (me) and exhibitionism (them). I’ve known them (or thought I did) for almost 15 years, but I was definitely surprised at their self-declared profiles, much less some of the pictures and conversation. Yes, there was the partying, profanity, and sexual innuendos (but as old as I am, I still remember my first college days…) – but I was more amazed at the openness. Since it is a public platform, I thought about the lack of privacy – do they realize that anyone can view their profiles – do they care?

This is an example of how one’s private life becomes public in a big way…Social engineering makes athlete choke. Again, I’m not sure that all of the consequences/factors of social software and Web 2.0 are known, but it appears that most anything private can become public, which in turn can influence one’s present and future. As with most anything, there are pros and cons – but it is considerably different! And definitely an area to engage our students in learning about both the choices and the consequences.


Wiki characteristics and history...#1b

These topics are discussed in two separate, but connected, pages of Wards Wiki, also known as WikiWikiWeb!

Wikis are very much a contemporary tool, but to my surprise they have been used for more than a decade. The first one was born on March 25, 1995 as a supplement to Portland Pattern Repositiory, a computer programming group (most of us in education were just getting access to the Internet and e-mail around that time period – that in and of itself is hard to believe!). Led by Ward Cunningham, the web site was so named to stand for “quick” editing in their computer project.

Now he says, “Wiki has turned out to be much more than I imagined! That is not to say I didn’t imagine a lot.” (Wiki Design Principles, 2006). He then specifies characteristics of wikis to include:
  • Organic: both the content and the structure are open to development

  • Universal: uses the same organizational and editing tools as a writer would use, so very little learning needed to contribute

  • Observable: the editing can be observed and monitored by any viewer

  • Trust: As Cunningham states, “this is at the core of wiki…Everyone controls and checks the content.”

  • Sharing: a collective repository of information and ideas

In addition to the recognition that this web-based collaborative tool has been around longer than I’d imagined, I was surprised to see that it is still active! Both pages cited below were changed yesterday – the endurance of such a project is truly extraordinary! As well, I’m still intrigued by the concept of trust – the belief that the visitor will only edit with “good intentions” and that recognizing that doesn’t always happen, there will be a monitoring. I’m beginning to build a solid base of the background of wikis…Getting the breadth, and now want to get some depth on some of these principles.

Wiki Design Principles. (March 13, 2006). WikiWikiWeb. Retrieved March 14, 2006 from http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiDesignPrinciples

Wiki History. (March 13, 2006). WikiWikiWeb. Retrieved March 14, 2006 from http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiHistory


What is a wiki? #1a

In order to begin my expertise on wikis for postsecondary vocational (PSV) students, I need to determine the definition and characteristics of a wiki.  Exploring any new concept requires (at least for me) a basic understanding and a foundation from which to base additional questions and paths of discovery.   Why not turn to wikipedia as a starting point?!

Wikipedia’s inclusion of wiki is a great example of a wiki itself, with its abundance of related hyperlinks (which provide additional resources) both within and external to the Wikipedia site.  Much of the article is a bit more technical than application in orientation, but there is the basic meaning:  “a type of website that allows users to add and edit content easily” in a collaborative manner.   One can even change the content of this wiki page – according to my retrieval, the wiki page was modified today, 3/13/06 at 10:49 and clicking on the ‘History’ tab, a user (Musical Linguist) made a minor edit.

So, who monitors wikipedia or any other wiki for accuracy of content?  How did these wikis get started in education?  With such openness and potential for vandalism, how do you control (or do you?) the content editing?  How would this type of collaboration help students learn?  Why would a wiki work for PSV students – would the concept work better with some programs or with some teachers?

I look forward to pursuing the answers to these questions (and undoubtedly additional ones) over the next six of weeks.  For this week, I’ll continue to explore the characteristics, examples and foundations of the meaning of wiki – moving toward their use in an educational context.

Wiki. (March 13, 2006). Wikipedia.  Retrieved March 13, 2006 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki


Wireless to Wikis...

Given the couple of days I’ve had to explore Wireless Technologies, I realize the challenges in developing that interest for the purpose of this class.  My explorations took me into the world of m-learning or mobile learning, which is just on the cusp of emergence in the United States…interestingly, one can learn Chinese via cell phone and there is a school in South Africa that will begin a pilot of mobile learning for 11th graders with an HIV/AIDs project.  

Thus, with the limited time frame and the difficulty of narrowing my topic, my emphasis will be directed to using wikis with vocational students (and though the focus will not be on the wireless/mobile technology, I will use that as a framework in developing my interest).  Wikis are both collaborative in nature and constructive in content, which is consistent with much of my beliefs about learning.  I’ll plan to find digital connections to define them and tie them to theoretical foundations as well as practical applications – with the focus on vocational students in a wireless/mobile environment.  



A new one for me – “mashup”! This term showed up on many ed tech blogger posts this week so thought I would share.

Vicki Davis’ Coolcatteacher blog is a great starting point and you’ll find many additional links for further exploration (you may also want to add her to your RSS feed).

For me, the integrational components coupled with the ‘digital natives’ now in our school setting begs the questions – “Can’t we do more to systemically change our educational institutions? And if so, how?”

Wireless Technologies: Impact on Postsecondary Career Tech Center

EME 5404 – Blog Introduction

In The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman describes the last flattener as “the steroids [digital, mobile, personal, virtual] because they are amplifying and turbocharging all the other flatteners” (p. 161). Wireless technologies are accelerating our lives in work, school and home. For example, using personal digital assistants (PDAs) with wireless Internet access and digital photography capacity, teachers can impact visual literacy and research collaboration in classrooms with the use of WebQuests, blogging, and videopodcasting. Problem-based learning scenarios and online simulations can become more realistic as virtual environments are explored digitally and as applications.

As a little background, our postsecondary career tech center is adding a career-focused high school to the campus next year with 150 9th graders, and an additional 150 freshmen every year for a maximum size of 600. All teachers (both high school and postsecondary career tech) have their own laptops with built-in wireless capacity. The high school freshmen will also have their own laptops and there will be others available for checkout for the postsecondary career tech students. The campus is scheduled to go wireless with at least one building next year. Since this technology will be readily available, I would like to focus on its application. I will specifically target applications for postsecondary career technology programs, but will not limit the research, since there is undoubtedly a relatively small amount. I will, however, attempt to transfer any general or other educational information directly to adult postsecondary career areas.

My weekly blog/paper, then, is to explore the applications and connections of wireless technologies as they might apply to student learning in postsecondary vocational certificate classes.