Monday, November 17, 2008

921-Session 11

Past Participants' comments and insights.
This Summer's Participant comments:

Also, someone from class asked for more information on how to get the 'double-click on any word and then get its definition' feature, so if you are interested you may visit here for more information.

I thought a lot about how to address this session and decided to stray from the usual presentation format and teach this session entirely from the blog. I believe that it is always easier to 'show' instead of 'tell,' so the bulk of this session will be spent watching videos that will help clarify the nuances and details that make a wiki such a powerful tool--as well as address the topics laid out in the syllabus: new literacies, wiki benefits, and wiki drawbacks.

Now, just be aware that there is some redundancy in these clips, so feel free to fast-forward through parts that you have already seen.

Let's start with a clip from one of the many companies that offer free wikis for you to use. This one is from They claim that making a wiki on their site is as easy as making a peanut butter sandwich. Please keep notes while watching these.

I hope you liked that one. This next video focuses upon how collaboration really works. It is a good transition from our last session on Collective Intelligence.

So naturally, these 'beg the question' about ease of use. Is it really as easy as making a peanut butter sandwich? Well let's take a look at an explanation.

And this one shows you how wikis can help educators educate.

And lastly, we'll address the underlying issue all educators have about using Web 2.0 tools in education----SECURITY.

Now, in the 21st century, it doesn't take long before the major technology giants latch onto any and all good ideas from the small start-ups. So Google has jumped on the 'wiki bandwagon' and created their own variation. They call it 'Google Documents' and the details can be accessed from the link below. Please visit this site and take the online tour. While you are there jot down your ideas and thoughts to aid you in your post-session comments.

You'll immediately notice the similarities between wikis and this new Google tool. Those teachers from the Math and Science areas will find the spreadsheet component particularly interesting.

Google Documents & Spreadsheets

Now, before your head spins off from all the possibilities, I want you to take a break. When you come back we'll take a look at this 4-part online video course, created by the University of Wisconson-Milwaukee. It addresses some of the benefits and drawbacks of wikis. The great thing about it is that it is self-pacing and asynchronous just like this course. Again, I would like to remind you to take notes as you progress through these tutorials, so that you may post quality comments and insights when you have completed everything this week. If you feel part 1 is redundant then please skip forward to 2, 3, & 4.

University of Wisconson-Milwaukee

I hope you enjoyed the variety in this session's presentation and I would like to end this week's posting with a reminder that Deliverable 3 should be posted under Session 12's blog posting, as well as on the wiki.

Thank you and as always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.



KAS Librarian said...

A wiki is “a portal for learning,” according to Michael Kaelin. What a great phrase. It was inspirational to see teachers at from a variety of disciplines use wikis to help their students learn. I think the emphasis on how using a wiki does not take excessive technical knowledge and one does not have to worry about uploading are two of the most attractive features of the wiki, but of course this could be said of blogs as well.

However, collaboration is at the heart of the wiki, as seen in the film. Michael Kaelin pointed out how students can continue to work together from home with the wiki made me think of my own collaborative projects required for school. Where was this tool when I was in college?

Kyle Brumbaugh’s emphasis on digital citizenship encouraged me, recognizing the importance of copyright laws, but I did wonder how much emphasis he put on it when he mentioned that there was “varying degrees” in regards to copyright and other issues.

I have used a wiki for book reviews before, but I am encouraged to try it again when I collaborate with students and classroom teachers.

As for Google Docs, by the time I got the fourth page of description I signed up. This is a perfect way to have friends and colleagues edit materials no matter where they are in the world. Once again, where was this when I was in school? I wonder what will be coming next?

As I watched the Wikipedia slides, it forced me to consider my own librarian view of the tool. I have told students it is a good starting point for research but that they cannot cite it as a source. It can give a good overview and often has great links to follow. I consider it a pathfinder of sorts and I have told students the goal is to be able to write papers that could be added to Wikipedia on their own.

However, I am visiting a web designer friend and she considers the Wikipedia the “biggest piece of bull—ever.” Her husband uses it all the time, but is not allowed to cite it in an argument. Guess it is the same for me really, additional verification needed. But who is to say if the additional verification is any better?

Back to website evaluation.

I signed up to edit Wikipedia and was surprised to see they recommend people not use their real names and make sure their usernames cannot be traced, due to harassment editors sometimes receive. I didn’t even have to leave an e-mail address. I am sorry to say that made me doubt Wikipedia more than anything else—contribute but don’t tell us who you are…If Wikipedia is supposed to be the neutral source that they say (Wikipedia:About) why wouldn’t the author be known, at least to some extent? Is harassing Wikipedia editors a form of cyberbullying?

KAS Librarian said...

Virgil Griffith, Hacker/Thinker/creator of WikiScanner, a program that traces edits of Wikipedia pages to show bias or interest in public information, is featured in this week's New York Times magazine.Internet Man of Mystery From this article I went to his home page and discovered a talk he gave titled Wikipedia: You Will Never Find a More Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy.

Also in the magazine is an article about people trying to win one million dollars by improving Netflix's recommendation program. There is a discussion board where contestants share ideas--collective intelligence.

dgcap said...

Session 11 Comments

After session 10 and now this session, I'm definitely convinced that wiki's are the way to go when collaborating with friends, colleagues, or students.

Most of my enlightenment came from watching John Hubbard's wikipedia "one sided" conference. I will admit that like KAS I had my reservations about using an open source like Wikipedia. Using the site as a cited source I also have to disagree with. There is a great deal of information there, but it is not always reliable. Hubbard compared Wikipedia to Bratanica, saying that error wise the two information tools were very close. I personally don't consider 162 errors to be close to 123 errors, but the fact that Bratanica had errors was a shock to me. I was always under the belief that the "old" printed encyclopedias were accurate and could be trusted.
On that note, I was also surprised to see that even .gov and .edu sites were not always reliable. I'll be using both of those examples as counter examples to any attempts on discrediting the trustworthiness of wiki's (even wikipedia).
Getting back to wikipedia, I was surprised to see that the site received as much vandalism as it does. I knew beforehand that the information collected was posted by just anyone, and that (though our lessons about wiki's) that changes were tracked in the history. I didn't know that the site had bots that went though to check changes and look for vandalism. Knowing this now, I'll definitely show this important information to students. They need to know that the things they read on the web are not always "safe." They need to see how wikipedia can be vandalized, how information posted by "anonymous" uses may not be truthful and how everything they do online is tracked by their ip address. I'll also have to share what KAS found out, about how when you sign up for Wikipedia, they don't even ask for email address.
I don't see Wikipedia going anywhere though, even if Hubbard says they are getting over the "hump." I see more people using Wikipedia as time goes on, simply b/c of the ease of use and availability. Old encyclopedias used to be expensive and not everyone had a set (or they'd have to make a trip to the library. Nowadays, most people have the internet at home, and therefore, they can easily access this free tool. Add to that the ability to post your own knowledge about whatever you want (tv shows, town history, celebrities) and seeing your "seed" grow.
As for Google Documents, I was impressed with the ability to post documents and spreadsheets. I'll have to share this service with my principal, since she is looking for a way to collect student data as a whole school. How great would this be to keep data on students from year to year?
My mind is still spinning though with all the possibilities with wiki's. I look forward to introducing to my principal and colleagues, the ease of use, and the positive attributes that wiki's can bring to our school.
I wonder what's going to come next in terms of wikipedia-like tools. How can we take web 2.0 to the next level? What ever that is though, I'm sure it will still suffer the same user attacks (vandalism, differences of opinions, etc) that Wikipedia is having to deal with.

PDLibrarian said...

It was good to have the review of wikis by the various people in the pbwiki videos (both staff and users, as far as I could tell). But I most enjoyed John Hubbard's wiki lectures, partly, I think because these were quite thought-provoking, and he has a great and conversational speaking style that I found enjoyable listening. I think his point is fair, that most sources, whether print or academic or "expert" need to be viewed with a dose of skepticism, and that all mediums are capable of mistakes and misinformation. I do discuss Wikipedia with my fifth grade students as part of a discussion and lesson about citing sources. I advise them that Wikipedia is a great place to start, and mostly accurate, but that they must for sure look for another source to verify the information they find there. I encourage them to view it as a starting point in a search for information.

One of the things I like about Wikipedia is the scope, and the way that it includes pop culture references as well as more scholarly types of information. For the time being, andway, I think that I land on the side of likeing Wikipedia, as long as one understands the limitations and potential for error there.

I was also very interested in the person that was trying to start his own fork of Wikipedia, called "Citizendium". Like John Hubbard, I have to wonder about the efficiency of trying to start this "splinter effort". Reminds me of charter schools! Makes me wish everyone would just focus on making one thing great, and solving the problems, instead of starting a whole separate effort.
Here's my question: on Wikipedia, they have a bronze star that indicates "Featured COntent"- this representing a high standard met. But, it looks to me like you can still edit this page. If it is true that they can lock individual entries that have been tampered with, why can't/don't they lock certain sections or entries that are sell done and verified, outlining that section, but then allowing people to add information and comments outside of the outlined area. IN this way, couldn't they be more reliable, protecting large portions of the information that they consider well-done and credible from any tampering, though still allowing people to add things, but the reader would be able to tell which part was "locked and verified" and which part should be read with more caution??

Also, I like the idea that came up in an earlier session that we are asking students to be evaluators of information much more than in the past, and that, I think, is a very good thing.

J Wilson said...

Comments Session #11
The videos about wikis were a visual summarization of much of the material we have been reading about in previous weeks. I don’t think there was much new learning in them, as Dave mentioned there was some redundancy. However, for a presentation or introduction, they offer an engaging tool to grab the attention of an audience. Dave has broken them up by general topic:
• What is a wiki?
• Collaboration really works
• Ease of use
• Helping educators
• Security

Some of the comments in the videos that struck me were:
“A wiki is a portal for learning” by Michael Kaelin.
Kathleen Ferenz talked about how “Reflection is at the heart to learning” and wikis offer this opportunity as well as the ability for others give you feedback. She later said that wikis are a huge “shift in the way we think”.
Kyle Brumbaugh used phrases such as digital citizenship, value judgments, copyright, etc and how teaching using wikis offers opportunities to discuss these issues with your students.
Jennifer Bamesberger mentioned she was interested in security. She wants students to learn about the pitfalls of wikis, such as vandalism, in the safe environment of school. Other comments revolved around setting up individual screen names for the students and showing them that following the edit history shows you how you can determine who made the changes.

Although I have tried Google Docs, I have found it is a hard sell because teachers are not ready to learn and use another new thing and thus are hesitant to collaborate using it. Managing it seems a little tricky at first too. However, it would very useful to share files with other people, particularly if they are not in our school and don’t have access to our shared drives at school. Our class websites are password protected for students, staff and parents, so if you do want to share a posted file with someone, posting it on Google Docs would a good supplement to our website. Another use of Google Docs would be in conjunction with a blog. Since a blog is really for the organizer to post articles and the group to make comments, Google Docs would be a good spot if the group wanted to share files also. This allows some interaction on the blog.

The wiki presentations from the University of Wisconson-Milwaukee really explained all about Wikipedia. I would direct any educator to those if they wanted to learn more about Wikipedia and its pros and cons. The explanations were in depth but easy to understand. Even if you were looking for more control over your wiki and inclined to do a little programming, there was a section about wiki authoring too. I like the user friendly and free Wikispaces and pbwiki so I think I will be sticking with them for now!

jfayne said...

I enjoyed the UWM videos. They helped me to understand wikis with its in-depth look at Wikipedia. I was just talking to a teacher the other day who said Wikipedia is useless as a research tool because anyone is able to change it. This video helped me to see that any change you make might be changed almost immediately by someone else.
I also thought the Google Docs article was interesting. I especially liked the example of the Red Sox fan who used the Google Docs spreadsheet to keep track of who was buying his season tickets. Everyone was able to see what tickets were available at any time. Another great use of Google Docs is that your writing can be accessed from any computer without using any disks or drives. I remember carrying disks around with assignments on them or e-mailing myself what I had written to be able to access it on a computer in a different location. Using Google Docs would allow your writing to be edited by other people using their own computers. You can decide if you like the changes or not.
I learned a great deal in this session as all the rest. I really enjoy reading what other people write in their comments.

T Weinberg said...

Session 11 comments:
The videos in this session were extremely worthwhile and added new useful "factoids" to my knowledge about wikis and Wikipedia in particular. The first video from PbWikis included a comment about when to use a wiki - it stated that a wiki is for combined knowledge that is expected to change. This criteria resonated with me, and I will use it when suggesting the use of wikis to classroom teachers. The PbWiki videos had some useful ideas about how wikis encourage collaboration, both on the actual content as well as how to add "bells and whistles" to the wiki. I noticed this effect when my students used a Nutmeg books wiki- once one student figured out how to change the icon that identified their comments, they all wanted to learn how, and within 5 minutes almost every student in the lab had a customized icon!

The PbWIki video about security contained a comment that teachers need to be able to trust the class to do the right thing when you're not looking. This is an overriding goal in middle school, and definitely is a concern with blogs and wikis. You can set up a wiki to enable you to track down mischief-makers, but I agree with the speakers that there should be ground rules and we should teach students to be responsible users of web 2.0 tools rather than just offering consequences for inappropriate use, such as the ever-tempting Wikipedia vandalism.

KASLibrarian had mentioned using a wiki for book reviews, I also hope to be able to start a forum for students to post reviews of new additions to our library. I was surprised to read about KAS's experience signing up to edit Wikipedia. I wondered why I usually saw screen names instead of real names in the edit history, but I didn't realize that this practice was encouraged. I usually show students that page to demonstrate how we can't verify the credibility of the author. I have concerns about the usefulness of Wikipedia, but John Hubbard's thoughtful UWM tutorials provided an excellent overview of its strengths and weaknesses. Part 3 provided several useful examples of how the domains .edu and .gov can't always be relied upon for 100% accurate information, so it would be preferable to teach students to be critical thinkers rather than telling them what sites to use or which to avoid using, as PDLibrarian also noted. I liked Hubbard's phrasing to think of Wikipedia as "One more tool in your repertoire as a researcher". Similarly to DGCap, I found the tutorials to be ripe with examples to use with my students. I learned many new ways to find out more information about Wikipedia, in particular comparing article sizes to note the bias toward pop culture, and by checking the edits to look for controversial areas.

One question that I still haven't resolved is which wiki software to use. Most of my experiences have been with Wikispaces, both for collaboration with teachers and for student projects. One drawback has been the inability to work on the same page simultaneously. I tried out the Wikimatrix mentioned in Part 4 of the wiki tutorials to compare several tools, but I didn't get a definitive answer about this. I would like to experiment with several other teachers with PB Wiki and Google docs to see if they are more conducive to a large group making simultaneous updates.

pstevens said...

I socked away a lot of “sound bites” about wikis from Session 11. Like others, I found Michael Kaelin’s comment that “Wikis are portals for learning” to be pretty insightful. I started using wikis a year ago and find that they may not meet all of the needs for a teacher, but they are an excellent host for student work, to share completed work, and to comment on either page work or discussion threads (like one would use a blog).
One thing I like about wikis is feeling like I’ve been allowed to enter a former no-man’s-land; I never knew HTML or any other digital language. I appreciated Lizzy Ha’s candor with her comment: “Who knows html?” Both Amit Kumar and Kathleen Firenz commented about having no need for a technology background in order to use wikis. I do not need to know how to make the engine run in my car in order to drive it. It sure helps to know if I get stranded somewhere, but I do not have to have a certification from General Motors to drive to work or across country. A teacher and his students could use a wiki for one simple purpose, or they could use a wiki to plan a trip across the continent and throughout time.
I became immersed in the Wikipedia information. KAS asked if harassing editors is cyberbullying; that’s what I would call it. People often will attack someone who does not agree with their perspective, and the Internet can be a soapbox for angry activists.

I did reconsider my thinking that I go to Wikipedia first to get information; actually, I Google everything first. I know I have many more erudite resources, but I like Google. Once I get to the search results, I look through the options, evaluate the sites, and usually consider Wikipedia as an excellent resource for a general overview. I am impressed with many articles for their specific details, too. I did read through the NYTimes article that Katherine shared about WikiScanner. I am pretty sure I have had students like Virgil Griffith in my classes, and although it is not my thing to spend my time “…finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in systems of all kinds,” I do appreciate what is revealed with his WikiScanner.

Another collaborative tool I use more often is Google docs. Students and teachers collaborate in real time on Google docs and then publish or share on a wikispace. These are two great tools in the tool box. It helps us to “[b]e polite, be nice, and work together.” Good advice.

Anonymous said...

Pam Hurt

Session 11

I found information in this session very helpful. I feel fairly comfortable with using blogs, but I haven’t yet really “gotten into” wikis. The videos in this session were so detailed and example-filled that I’m really interested in using this technology as a way to encourage real collaboration, to develop thoughtful writers, and to energize discussions in my classroom.

The series of PBWikis, while repeating some of the information we’d previously reviewed, were very helpful in grounding my background. From the start, it was good to be reminded that wiki is derived from the Hawaiian “quick” , emphasizing the ability for a group of individuals to collaborate easily – definitely an open door (a portal) for learning that will appeal to students and also enhance partnerships within a district (including administration, staff, parents), departments, and grade level communities.

While we all have a grasp of how collaboration works, the PBWiki video, “How Does Collaboration Work?” took this concept to a whole new level. This video reiterates conclusively the impact of wikis on student learning. From my experience with blogging, I can see that most students do seem to try to express themselves with more care since they’re writing not just for me (or, during in-class peer editing, for a few of their peers); they realize they’re writing, also, for everyone who visits the blog or wiki. Wiki responses provide the opportunity for teachers to stress that in writing, in contrast with speaking, that it’s hard to “take back” what they’ve said. When a peer responds to a fellow student’s posting, the originator is held responsible for what he’s said; thus, the importance of “saying what you mean and meaning what you say” is immediately underscored.

A further benefit of wikis, and, I think, an expansion of blogging, is the inherent ability wikis provide for respondents to interact FULLY. This editing possibility, enabling students to boost and integrate personal commentary within a previous post, visualizes and truly demonstrates the community aspect of online discussion. In fact, anyone who visits and edits a wiki post is actually assimilated INTO that post…adding information to extend and intensify exploration of an idea or concept. Approached with the right perspective, online responses through wikis make each participant a commentator…
making everyone – not just the teacher – responsible for giving feedback to verify the truth, depth, and value of postings.

The final two PBWiki videos emphasize the value, ease, and accessibility of wikis. For the teacher, huge advantages accrue with wiki-learning as the paper load diminishes, the forgotten homework problems vanish, and the formatting issues lessen. Certainly, if we regard wikis as “online conversation,” students and instructor are able to further in-class discussions in a meaningful way – as a community rather than as 20 individuals who worked together in a classroom who return to isolation at home to review and reflect on previous commentary void of input from their learning cohort.

Concern about the safety / security is, of course, an issue with any online venture. However, commentary in “Is PBWiki Secure?”, the necessity of teachers having developed a sensitive classroom environment and discussing the responsibilities of “digital citizenship,” along with password protection, mandated user names (students’ own), time stamps, and teachers’ ability to trace the history of posting on wikis certainly will help, I think, to maintain a safe online environment.

From the University of Wisconsin, the 4 videos emphasize and expand much of the PBWiki commentary. I was interested in the history of Wikipedia – had no idea about the development of this nonprofit, non-copyrighted effort. The commentary about “Online Disinhibition Effect” suggests yet another REASON to use Wikis in education – offering quiet students a chance to engage in conversation that they might pass up in a classroom. I was somewhat surprised, though, that one can post to Wikipedia anonymously and that KASlibrarian discovered, while registering with Wikipedia, that he was advised to avoid using his own name! I would not think that an online community which offers visitors the ability to grow and learn by furthering collaboration would include such a recommendation. Naturally, with such “anonymity,” it’s not surprising that political and other controversial figures and topics are often vandalized at Wikipedia, or that “inappropriate” information is displayed. With such realities, it is not surprising that teachers and librarians are divided on using Wikipedia as a common research site. I know that my students DO turn to this spot, seeing it as user friendly: quick, simple to access and interpret. From this course, I have developed a bit more “tolerance” than I originally had for Wikipedia, and a LOT more incentive to use Wikis in my classes!

(An aside – when we posted to Wikipedia for Dave, I tagged on to some of the given commentary about OF MICE AND MEN. I was totally aghast at the character list which identified Curley’s wife in a link as Pamela, since I know she is classified throughout the novel only as “Curley’s wife,” suggesting her insignificance. Only after I checked the link / history did I discover that the first name of an actress who portrayed this character in an early film was Pamela_____. This experience solidified the opportunity teachers have to check history / links to help maintain security and authenticity of posts on wikis.)

I’ve concluded that wikis offer great potential for organized and true collaboration – more than blogs. The concept that wikis enable us to “share knowledge rather than take it with us” is certainly an incentive to utilize this technology (as well as connecting to other media). Teachers must be watchful, obviously, if they allow open editing. With a good teacher-student rapport, guidelines, and clear expectations, however, educators have an invaluable tool in Wikis!

Briefly about Google docs – this is a source I need to investigate further. I’ve used it while helping to edit a college student’s essay and to collaborate on a grant with teachers in my district; our CFF coach has also introduced me to using Google Docs for survey data. While I see its value, I need more time to learn and explore!