This is a part of a web log for a class I am taking on ‘Computers, Problem Solving, and Cooperative Learning’. This post is one in a series of reflections on Web 2.0 tools and how they can be used to engage students in critical thinking as ‘mindtools’. Other posts from this web log:
What exactly is a wiki? A quick Google search led me to this definition:
“a website or database developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add and edit content.”
Fun fact, the origin of the word ‘wiki’ stems from the Hawaiian phrase “wiki wiki” meaning “very quick”. This seems appropriate when looking at how quickly information can be published and/or edited by multiple people all at once. I’m unsure if this was the original reason for the name, but it is interesting nonetheless!
Some of the key features that I noticed when I was experimenting with our class wiki was that it was very open ended and allowed for easy contribution of all types of media. Pages helped to organize the wiki around different ideas, for example, we all contributed to the ‘Poverty in America’ with graphs, information, and data we found online. At the same time, Professor Budin used it to collect information and store it in one place such as all of our account names and blog addresses. This helped each of us collaborate and find each other on the various platforms.
Wikis vs. Blogs
One thing I wondered about was how was this different from a multi-user blog site? At the end of the day, I couldn’t see much difference except that a wiki might be easier to set up.
Whether collaborating on a wiki or a blog, it seems important to agree upon ways to organize information. For instance, on our page where we collected information about ‘Poverty in America’, we all contributed by simply adding what we found to the top of the page. If this were a project where a group of us were supposed to build or create content with a goal in mind, such as creating a site or page on Poverty in America, we would have to look through the information we found with a more critical eye and organize it in such a way that was more readable to the public. We could even create other pages to organize the information into categories, similar to how we each had different tabs when collaborating on Google Sheets.
Critical Thinking or Complete Chaos?
Let’s go back to Jonassen’s (1996 as cited in Jonassen et. al., 1998) definition of mindtools:
Mindtools are computer applications that, when used by learners to represent what they know, necessarily engage them in critical thinking about the content they are studying.
I think that using a wiki or a blog site as a mindtool would either have the most potential to push understanding of content because of how open-ended it is in terms of tools and possible layout and organization across the site. However, when used without clear objectives, I could see this tool being used as as simple dumping ground of collected information. Without proper investigation into the tools available within the site, students may not discover all of the possibilities or potential. Also, because it is so open in possibilities for organization, students need to think more critically about how they want to present information to a viewer so that it is easy to understand.
The Traveling Teddy site which I host has at least 80 active users every school year. In order for the site to be both user friendly I had to think carefully about how to section off information into pages. Further, I needed to think about organization of posts and how to label each post so that it could be sorted by each bear. I used categories as a solution for this and decided to show it in the sidebar so that. There are many other things that I added to the site to make it easier to use and navigate through as we ran the project and discovered issues in the first year. For example, I didn’t have a link that led to the log in page! Whoops!
At the end of the day, the beauty of a wiki or multi-user site is that there is never ending potential for creating, adding, editing, and improving the site.