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


At 8:23 PM, Blogger Joshua O said...

I also enjoyed morning newsprint with a cup of coffee, Marie. Time constraints have dramatically changed the manner in which I take in information in the morning, however. Like you, I will skim several news websites, most of which I don't subscribe to their print versions.

Wikitextbooks are an interesting idea. Initial instructor portions could be non-interactive; containing directions, subject matter background information, etc. The collaborative learning process could then take place as learners interact and update the wikitext with their ideas and findings. This may be a good alternative or at least complement to some of the less exciting texts we have all encountered. Good idea, Marie.


At 1:18 AM, Blogger Julie Romey said...

My team teacher and I disagree about the whole morning paper issue. He is a die-hard about reading his paper every morning, while I get what I need from CNN and a couple of other sites. (I've never been big on the newspaper to begin with.) He has come a long ways though in that he will at least read the articles I send him from the newspaper and magazine sites - last year he would just delete them without even looking at them! :-)

As with any good idea, this thought of wikitextbooks has a lot of potential, but some serious stumbling blocks to overcome. I agree with the issues that you listed, and wanted to add one more: acceptance by students. I think we tend to assume that kids automatically like the computers better than anything else, but this is not the case. I have students who have a hard time reading on the screen, get frustrated by the computer, and just flat out "hate" the computers. I think there are still a large number of students who would be hesitant to go the way of online textbooks. However, our school doesn't have lockers and I know they would love not having to lug all those big heavy textbooks around in their backpacks!

I wonder how the major textbook publishers would feel about this? I can't imagine they like the thought. If this idea takes off I'm sure they will figure out some way to get their piece of the market.

This is definitely an interesting project to follow. I plan on keeping on eye on it too. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.


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