The 'Unveiling' - #6c

I opted to go with PB Wiki primarily because I had some familiarity with it and with the time crunch, I wanted to have some beginnings of closure (an oxymoron indeed!). Given more time, I would also explore Stikipad and the following in more depth: Wetpaint, Writeboard, Mediawiki, and Seedwiki. The options for wiki software continue to grow and thus, it is important to keep ones eyes and ears open!

Since I’m not a nurse educator, I spoke with one of our nursing instructors who has been a supportive spectator in my wiki venture. We brainstormed some ideas and came up with a scenario on end of life issues that she will be teaching next semester. Again, in the interest of time, I developed a scenario that will likely need much tweaking before its official use, but I share with you now as a sort of culminating accomplishment of my wiki ‘expertise.’ This
wiki is password-protected (lwit is the password), but I invite you to explore the editing features if you want to add anything.

A big thanks to my group members, Josh, Julie, and Marie Y. for all of your comments! Though, I may not have responded directly to your feedback, I did treasure the thoughts and the ideas – most of which are incorporated in both postings and the development of the upcoming blog paper! In addition, I’ve learned so much about e-portfolios, telecentres, and professional development in all of your postings – what a wonderful educational experience!


Wiki Software Part 2 - #6b

To continue my thoughts on wiki software, Schwartz, et. al. (2003, p. 3-4), outline specific criteria for selecting a wiki for educational use, such as cost, complexity, control, clarity, common technical framework, and features. Though some of this technical information was beyond my scope, the authors’ list is a great framework from which to begin in-depth exploration. The obvious factors such as cost, user-friendliness (support, ‘sandbox’), password protection, archiving, WYSIWYG editing, hyperlink insertion and history tracking were all listed. In addition, such features as equation editor (if math-oriented), drawing whiteboard (diagram/drawing tools), polling, spell-check, and emoticons were also included. The authors found more similarities than differences in their comparisons. Since this article is dated (in Web 2.0 world), I decided to explore some of the potential wiki software myself.

The wiki matrix was my first stop - a nice comparison tool. Questions regarding features such as, history page, WYSIWYG, software v. hosted, domain, and corporate branding are part of the wiki matrix wizard, which yielded seven different wikis for my consideration. There is also the side-by-side compare available which allows a look at cost, hosting features (i.e., bandwidth, ads, storage), security/spam, support/technical and other special features (such as embedded video, image editing, statistics, feed aggregation and many more that I would not have thought about…). All seven met the basic features I was looking for, but I eliminated two since there would be a fee for more than five users and another one due to overall fewer features. I checked out the websites of the remaining:

  • Central Desktop – very comprehensive looking tool with many features well outside the basic wiki and probably more appropriate for business. Since it is much more than a wiki, it would not match my purposes for an educational wiki at this time. However, when more educational interfaces move into a web-based world, this type of social software has potential.
  • PB Wiki – currently pushing educators to try and provides education-related templates. I’ve had a little bit of experience with this software and have found it to be relatively easy to comprehend – like anything, one needs to try it!
  • Stikipad - this one looks promising as well, selling itself with various uses from planning a vacation to setting up a party to more serious work ventures. I like the personalization aspect, as well.
  • Wikispaces – free only to public and non-profit and is popular among many of the educational sites. At first glance, this one looks competitive, as well, however, I’m not sure that I would want to “invite” group members via e-mail (labor intensive), rather than just provide everyone with a password – perhaps there are settings to avoid that issue.

These last two postings have been important and practical tools for implementing a wiki. Consciously selecting a platform (despite possible similarities) for desired pedagogy and outcomes provides additional thought towards purpose of technology to support learning. I’m hoping to ‘unveil’ my LWIT wiki for practical nursing students in my concluding post!

Schwartz, L., Clark, S., Cossarin, M., & Rudolph, J. (November 2003). Educational wikis: features and selection criteria. Athabasca University Online Software Evaluation Report. Retrieved April 16, 2006 from http://cde.athabascau.ca/softeval/reports/R270311.pdf


Wiki Software - #6a

On the practical side, once one has decided that a wiki is an appropriate technology choice for the educational environment, the next decision: what is the available wiki software? and which one is best for my purposes? I found a couple of articles and a website relating to these topics.

Both articles review some of the basic information about wikis previously shared in other posts, but they also extract some new material related to wiki software and potential use. I will share one in this posting and conclude in the second posting later this week.

Mattison (2003) brings up the feature of RSS aggregation and syndication, which at the time was apparently rare, but now appears to be more common – but certainly a feature to look for when comparing software. He also points out the characteristics of search and navigation tools within the wiki, which would be especially important for a large database of information (i.e., Wikipedia), but I’m not sure that it is that crucial in a class project. Eventually, he compares and contrasts various wikis, including Twicki and Zwicki, thus the title of his article.

So what did he conclude? In his words, “You can lead just about anyone to a wiki, but no one who's not sufficiently bold or has had previous wiki experience will take that first tentative step at changing someone else's creation. So group dynamics in a wiki require a dedicated group to start and keep the wiki alive as long as it's needed. Group or community wikis are first and foremost about collaboration: That's the whole point of the radical (and still controversial), open editing solution devised by Ward Cunningham” (Mattison, 2003). His comments are well taken, and though there is no one great wiki software, the need to think deeply about the use (i.e., collaboration), the wiki experience, and the group dynamics will help determine the success of whatever wiki software used. This goes back to the idea of the purpose being more important than the technology, per say. I’m still convinced there is an appropriate use for wikis in the post secondary vocational tech center environment and I want to commit to the best software to make the process as easy for first-time users, as possible.

One more note: Mattison (2003) exemplifies an excellent contrast between blogs and wikis to consider, “Wikis are by default open to anyone within the domain served by the wiki, but can be secured against unauthenticated (uninvited) users. Blogs by default are secured against open collaboration, but can be managed for limited collaboration, usually via appended comments or a threaded discussion forum.”

Mattison, D. (April 2003). Quickiwiki, Swiki, Twiki, Zwiki and the Plone Wars Wiki as a PIM and collaborative content tool. Information Today, Inc. 11, (4). Retrieved April 16, 2006 from http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/apr03/mattison.shtml


More Wikis! - #5c

Though blogs have been showing up in the news media both as a topic of discussion and as an avenue for interaction, the wiki phenomenon has yet to make the same splash!  Just recently, however, I’m seeing them as the subject in educational articles.

At the University of California, San Diego, wikis became the focus of an article in the online student newspaper.  It seems some tech-saavy students decided to use a wiki as a “study group” to “compile [their] answers” in preparing (or was it ‘cramming’) for their final exam.  The article reviewed some of the same issues posted previously in this blog, to include:  ease of use, collaborative (including contributors v. “freeloaders”, and openness versus privacy control (i.e., password-protected).  In addition, the article indicated that due to the potential for inaccuracies in the content, the wiki has risks (just as face-to-face study groups) and that due to the “sharing” nature and possibility of academic dishonesty, code of conduct policies may need to be addressed.

The Education Week article describes wikis in use at various schools.  The issue of security and privacy is once again determined a bit of dilemma, but the password protection or “internal secure wireless network” are seen as appropriate solutions.  The one emphasis I really applauded is the need to expose students to this technology tool not only for developing and constructing content-specific knowledge, but also to discuss ethical principles for social software.  The importance of future connections is also key as the author pointed out the increasing use of wikis “in the business world for tasks such as tracking projects, brainstorming, and writing and editing documents online, negating the need for back-and-forth emails and meetings” (Borja, 2006).

The continuing publication of wiki usage in business and in schools is helpful to make them a recognized tool for collaboration, but also to discuss the appropriate uses – again trying to address the when, how and why questions.  I am further encouraged in developing the proposed wiki in my educational institution.  I plan to explore different wiki software and develop the framework for my wiki as next week’s goals.

Borja, R. R. (April 5, 2006). Educators experiment with student-written ‘wikis’: Malleable, open-ended web sites seen as aid to collaborative learning. Education Week. Retreived April 12, 2006 from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2006/04/05/30wiki.h25.html?querystring=wikis&levelId=1000

Kogan, V. (April 2006). New technology makes studying more wiki, less wicked. The Guardian Online (University of California, San Diego Official Student Newspaper).  Retrieved April 12, 2006 from http://www.ucsdguardian.org/cgi-bin/features?art=2006_04_03_01


Wiki Textbooks - #5b

Thinking back to the introduction of online newspapers, I remember my negative reactions to the prediction they would take-off in readership. No way would I give up my daily morning dose of turning newsprint to discover the world’s current events! Well, life played out differently for me – though I still hold on to my Sunday newspaper, I let my fingers navigate through the online version of the local paper (and oftentimes, the Miami Herald and the New York Times – which I would not be buying in print!) the remaining six days of the week.

So can wikitextbooks be a viable alternative to the current paper textbooks adopted and used in our schools today? Can we morph from a linear resource to a hyper-text collaboration? There are some in existence (and presumably in use) already – as exemplified by the South African curriculum (physics – media wiki), Wikijunior (Everything from Ancient Civilizations - Aztecs to Dinosaurs) and Wikiversity. No doubt the interactivity of wikis is a double-edged sword with interaction not only opening the doors for increased learning, but also allowing for the potential ‘wiki grafitti.’ However, the thought of being able to update content to reflect current information and knowledge, as well as the lower cost should invite further inquiry.

In the U.S., there is an emerging venture to use wikis for online textbooks in educational institutions. Education Bridges’ Wikitextbook Project is in the early stages of promoting wikitextbooks as online, free, accessible content which also involves the social construction of knowledge with students as active producers of knowledge (not passive recipients). In addition to “expert” links, there would be current information that would be fluid and collaborative. The obvious hurdles include: maintaining “authoritative” stance and preventing bad information; issues of social disparity and access; acceptance by teachers, parents, and School Boards. Their goals are laudable and I’m anxious to follow the development of this project, since they are truly looking beyond “putting text on the page” to “tying content to validated learning objectives”, among other issues.

Wiki Working Spectacular- Wiki Textbook Project Webcast #8. (March 15, 2006). Education Bridges. Retrieved April 11, 2006 from http://educationbridges.org/WikiTextbook8


The Media Equation - #5a

The authors of this book offer an intriguing concept that is counter-intuitive to what we normally think – i.e., media equals real life. I was fascinated by some of their examples and quite frankly, can agree to a certain extent. However, much of the tone is so “pop-psychology” and market-driven, that I’ve less faith in the conclusions. My other major concern with the premise of this book is the shaky research ground on which they based their experiments. Their laboratory situations for observation of this behavior seemed false, segmented and unrealistic for the conclusions drawn.

That said, there are some interesting observations made that many of us can relate to anecdotally. For example, I know I would react physiologically, if not psychologically, to a large image on the computer screen increasing in size and “moving” towards me. Almost like an optical illusion, it would appear that the image would jump right out of the screen. I would interpret that as an invasion of my personal space and thus be reacting as if it were ‘real life.’ Thus, could some of their observations be important information for software and web designers? Are we “not evolved to twentieth-century technology?” (Reeves & Naas, 1996, p. 12) or for that matter to twenty-first century technology?

Interestingly, since this book was written a decade ago, there has been a huge increase in ‘media’ tools of all sorts. The growing use and development of social software (i.e., blogs, wikis, podcasts, web 2.0, etc.) with its interactive and personalization components certainly help to promote the ubiquity-like connection of the media equation. Wikis, as a form of media, can be very reality-oriented. Wikis provide an avenue for collaborative communication which can be personalized and modified, though asynchronously. This media is “actively encouraging to use, share and edit each other’s content” (Carvin, 2006, PowerPoint slide 22) – conversational and social.

Carvin, A. (April 10, 2006). Podcast of my CISOA presentation. (link to PowerPoint) Andy Carvin’s waste of bandwidth. Retrieved April 10, 2006 from http://www.andycarvin.com/archives/2006/04/podcast_of_my_cisoa.html

Reeves, B. and Naas, C. (1996). The media equation: How people treat computers, television, and new media like real people and places.


Knowledge-Building Environments - #4c

Through a working paper, Gerry Stahl, develops his perspectives on knowledge-building collaborations via software environments.  His diagram of personal and social knowledge building develops the cyclical steps of creating knowledge through the interaction of individuals, other people and our culture.  I like this visual framework as it is a nice summary of some of the components of constructivism.  Additionally, it helps put into perspective the notion of ‘negotiation’ of differing ideas that transform to collaborative knowledge.  As well, it also highlights the importance of creating public ‘cultural artifacts’ for communicating the new information.

Stahl then outlines forms of computer support to assist in the various steps of knowledge-building.  He calls a variety of the characteristics potentially available in wikis, to include: creating notes, searching, sending e-mails when events occur (in the wiki format, one would use RSS feeds, rather than e-mails), historical tracking, asynchronous nature, visible process, and organizational structure.  Although there is no date on the publication of this working paper, I will guess that its contributions have been few, if any, since the late 1990s based on his published location and resume information.  So, would he evaluate wikis as an appropriate ‘software’ environment for collaborative knowledge-building?  I think there is great potential!

Stahl, G. (n.d.) Perspectives on collaborative knowledge-building environments: Toward a cognitive theory of computer support for learning. Retrieved April 2, 2006 from http://d3e.open.ac.uk/cscl99/Stahl/Stahl-paper.html


Knowledge-Building Communities - #4b

One of the more potent reasons to use wikis in an educational setting is as a collaborative knowledge base. Scardamalia and Bereiter (1994) undertake the concept of educational pedagogy and technology for “knowledge-building” discourse, which they framed as “computer-supported intentional learning environments (CSILE)” (p. 265). Right off the bat, the authors contend that much of technology used in the typical classroom is “reinventing the familiar” and that, though “inventive and sophisticated,” they challenge the amount or quality of understanding (p. 266). Their premise of CSILE is based on three components: purposeful learning, the emphasis on proficiency, and lastly (the focus of this article), “restructuring schools as knowledge-building communities” (p. 266).

The authors go beyond the classroom, looking at apprenticeships and research centers as models for the ‘knowledge-building community.’ Our post secondary vocational programs similarly attempt to apply the ‘hands on’ approach through clinical and practicum experiences as well as externships and co-op placements. These are merely connections though and don’t necessarily mirror the ‘knowledge-building’ prescribed by the authors. Some of the characteristics of ‘knowledge-building’ include:
  • The product represents some advancement over what is already known - and this is relatively speaking, so could be used in an individual’s gain of knowledge

  • Significant conversation and participation, i.e., a substantial commitment to communication

  • A respectful regard and recognition for all participants – for me, this is connected to the “public” nature of the contribution.

This article is dated and the impact of new technologies is significantly different to the author’s suggested alternative of a networked computer community using a shared database to share and build knowledge instead of a dysfunctional classroom environment. Despite that, I think they are definitely on to something and it relates directly to wikis: use of problems to challenge a depth of learning and transformational understanding; “decentralized, open knowledge building, with a focus on collective knowledge” (this is a very powerful facet in that it recognizes not only the negotiation in group discussion in seeking meaning, but it also allows for a new atmosphere of ‘lifelong learning’), and multiple perspectives in a broader sense because it is available to the entire community.

All of these foundational pieces I’ve recently blogged are focused on changing the way we do things in our educational institutions. But the opposite swing of the pendulum is not usually “the answer.” It does come down to when and where and how (as noted in a previous comment). From my readings, it is apparent that there are particular situations that wikis would be more valued than others. Originally, I thought it best to start with introducing wikis as a journaling mechanism as well as them as a resource of updated information and then to follow with the collaborative construction of knowledge through problem-based scenarios. I still think this a practical sequence, but wonder if I should just jump into the ‘knowledge-building’. Any other thoughts?

Scardamalia, M. and Bereiter, C. (1994). Computer support for knowledge-building communities. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3(3), pp. 265-283. Retrieved April 1, 2006 from http://web10.epnet.com.lp.hscl.ufl.edu (password-protected - UF library access).


The Fifth Dimension - #4a

My search for philosophical foundations landed me in the midst of The Fifth Dimension research and practice. The Fifth Dimension is a partnership of post secondary educational institutions and after-school programs to provide play and learning opportunities for children. Though this may seem an unlikely selection for my wiki topic, there are some connections!!

The Fifth Dimension is built upon Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) with origins based on the thinking of such philosophers as Kant, Schelling and Marx. The theoretical framework web page outlines a number of principles. The first is the idea that the practical nature of work (or play) provides humans the ability to form goals, values and outcomes – all of which impact additional progress (Theoretical framework, n.d.). Engagement, then, is a key component of the activity for both present and future success. This appears to be quite sensible, but upon further reading, it appears there is an underlying expectation of engaging all aspects of the human being – i.e., the mind and the body, the emotions and the ‘spirit.’

The second principle focuses on Vygotsky’s social constructivism and zone of proximal development, while the third is similarly related: “An individual engaged in activity is always in contact with a community and its system of social relations that mediate the activity” (Theoretical framework, n.d.). The community and social learning notions are critical in any kind of learning (face-to-face, online synchronous or asynchronous). Furthermore, these situations are representative of the “real” world and serve as a platform for communication, networking, and collaboration – all key components of educational programs.

Using tools not only provides leverage for performing a task, but also “mediate” activity – that is, interact with others, impact the environment, and even create new meaning. This concept in combination with the social activity, the practical application and the engagement factors works well for the Fifth Dimension goals. Further study by Nicolopoulou & Cole (1993) led the authors to conclude that “knowledge, its creation and transmission can be seen as a product of collective collaborative achievement which is influenced by cultural institutional environments” (as cited in Horenczyk, 1996). This powerful statement has the potential to transform the “business” of education – if only in the physical plant alone – if only others are listening…

Horenczyk, G. (1996). [Review of the book chapter Generation and transmission of shared knowledge in the culture of collaborative learning: The fifth dimension, its play-world, and its institutional contexts. In E. Forman, N. Minick, & C. Stone (Eds.), Contexts for learning (pp. 283-314). New York: Oxford]. Retrieved March 29, 2006 from http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/Mail/xmcamail.1996_01.dir/0080.html

Theoretical framework. (n.d.). The virtual 5th dimension clearinghouse and propagation center. Retrieved March 30, 2006 from http://www.education.miami.edu/blantonw/5dClhse/theoretical.html