The use of Wiki technology for Collaborative Knowledge Creation

© Annette Devilee
Masters of Learning Science and Technology, University of Sydney

Friday 17th November, 2006

I propose a small scale intervention study [1] on the use of a specific Information and Communication Technology (ICT).   I will explore how ICT can be used to train practicing teachers about a particular pedagogical theory and practice. I intend to conduct a professional development course for a small group of secondary school teachers on the use of Wiki technology [2] for collaborative Knowledge Creation [3].

These teachers will build an information repository about pedagogical theories and teaching practices based on social constructivism and Knowledge Creation (KC) and at the same time actively participating in the process of KC.  Through their participation in this joint enterprise, I suggest that the Wiki-site can become the “hub” for a teachers’ community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991).

The general aim of this study is to develop an effective professional development course to train teachers to use ICT in such a way that the ICT resource isembedded in their teaching practice. (Cole et al., 2003a, page 33).

There is a growing body of evidence relating to the positive impact of ICT on learner attainment and other outcomes, but we need to develop further our understanding of effective ICT pedagogies and how they can be supported. (Becta Review, 2005, P 32)

Research has repeatedly and consistently shown that teaching practices need to change if technology is to be integrated into the classroom in ways that enhance learning experiences (Cole et al., 2003).   The classroom ethos and the pedagogical approach adopted by the teacher determine how successful the use of ICT is.   “… culture trumps medium.  If a culture is incompatible with a medium, the medium will fail.  (Rick & Guzdial, 2006, p. 24).

The success of KC depends on the provision of a classroom climate that encourages mutual trust and respect, tolerance for each others’ ideas so they feel safe to say what they believe, and the cultural shift towards seeing KC as the primary aim rather than task completion or product construction.  (Hewitt, 2004)  Providing this climate is a significant shift in pedagogy and teaching style for most teachers.

For these reasons it is essential to start with the training of teachers if KC is ever to become an accepted and practiced teaching method that teachers can add to their repertoire.  My intention is to conduct follow up studies of the same teachers implementing KC in their classrooms.

The affordances provided by Wikis makes them an ideal tool for collaborative writing.  The collaborative process of building communal Wiki resources reflects the dynamic, ‘always improvable’ nature of knowledge which can help to “prepare learners for successful participation in the new practices of creating knowledge.” (Lankshear et al., 2002, p.24, cited in Bruns et al., 2005)  A Wiki enables activities that will involve learners in the construction of personal and collective knowledge (Boulos et al., 2006). The Wiki becomes the joint work space for collaborative KC.  Wikis enable learners to write their shared understanding of new concepts and provide archival storage for products of group work, thereby supporting knowledge building (Koschmann & O’Malley, 1994).  Wikis can be used as a form of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) when it is used as a mediational tool within a collaborative method of instruction (Koshmann, 1996).  CoWeb [4] has been chosen as the Wiki software because it was specifically designed for teachers.

My aim is to recruit a small group of 3 to 5 secondary school teachers all from one particular school or at least in the same geographical area so that face-to-face meetings will not be too difficult to organise. 

The course will integrate skills using Wiki technology with knowledge of KC, aiming to bringing the two into alignment.  It is essential that “…teachers’ knowledge, beliefs and values change in line with affordances provided by new technologies” (Cox et al, 2003b, p. 10).  

The aim of the course is to:

  • Give teachers the time and resources to develop their pedagogy as well as their ICT skills (Cole et al 2003b, p 34). 
  • Change the pedagogical reasoning behind the teachers’ practices (Cole et al 2003b, P 35).
  • Make these teachers confident with Wiki technology.
  • Build a group Wiki resource about socio constructivist learning theories and KC.  
  • Introduce them to learning communities.

The course will cover:

  • How to use and teach with Wikis, in particular using CoWeb software.
  • What are the characteristics of the KC metaphor?
  • What are the guidelines for KC classrooms?
  • What are the characteristics of successful KC classes?
  • How to foster a KC community.

Research questions:

  • How can Wikis be used for KC?
  • How does the use of Wikis facilitate KC?
  • Are Wikis a suitable medium for a KC approach to teaching?
  • Does explicit knowledge of the research on collaboration [5] promote collaboration in this project?
  • Does knowledge and understanding of the Knowledge Creation metaphor and related pedagogy change teachers’ beliefs and values in relation to their teaching practice?
  • Can CoWeb software be improved to make it more effective as a medium for KC?


The course will be run over eight weeks for one and a half hours each week. Three of these sessions will be face-to-face group meetings with the other five sessions to be done asynchronously online in Wikis.

Data will be collected from the following sources:

  • Online questionnaires before and after the course.
  • The contents of the Wikis they produce during the course.
  • Interviews before and after the course.

This research will be carried out in accordance with the requirements of the University of Sydney ethics committee.  Teacher confidentiality is to be respected at all times. Teachers will be informed of the purposes of the study and methods to be used in the study.  They will be able to withdraw from the study at any time. The Wiki resources produced by this study will be jointly owned by participants and researcher.  Interviews will only be recorded with the permission of the participants. All participating teachers and schools will be given a certificate of appreciation and participation from the University ofSydney.

Research Plan

December 2006.

Write to particular head teachers and principals outlining my research and request appointments to speak to them.

Feb - March

Develop the course.

Jan 2007

Develop a flyer/information sheet to recruit teachers

Feb-March

Talk at a staff meeting. Recruit teachers to do the study.

March 2007

Brief teachers and negotiate a time and place for 2-3 face-to-face sessions.

April-June

Conduct research

July-Nov

Analyse data and write report.

 

The audience for this research will be my supervisor/professor, the teachers involved, the co-operating schools’ executive staff and possibly related professional associations.

Resources required:

  • Wiki engine (CoWeb) and storage on central server with user name and password access.
  • Venue with computers for face-to-face sessions, preferably at the schools.
  • Audio-recording device for interviews.

The feasibility of this study will be determined by the availability of technical resources and the willingness of teachers to participate, depending on the demands on their time.

 

Footnotes

[1] Intervention Studies

Intervention studies are those in which the researchers have introduced a specific ICT resource.  In intervention studies, the settings in which the ICT is used as well as the teachers’ pedagogical practices are affected, and this will affect the outcome. (Cox et al., 2003a, p.5)   In this study the ICT resource I am introducing is the Wiki .  The setting for this intervention is in a professional development course and the pedagogical practices are social constructivist.

[2] The Wiki

A Wiki is a freely expandable collection of interlinked Web “pages”, a hypertext system for storing and modifying information – a database, where each page is easily editable by any user with a forms-capable Web browser client.     (Leuf & Cunningham, 2001, p. 14)

[3] Knowledge Creation

Paavola et al. (2004) propose Knowledge Creation as a new metaphor for learning.  Knowledge Building as proposed by Scardamalia and Bereiter is one significant branch of Knowledge Creation pedagogies.   Scardamalia & Bereiter (2003) define Knowledge Building as “the production and continual improvement of ideas of value to a community” (p.1370). It is based on the premise that although the level of achievement may differ, knowledge building is the same regardless of age or ability.  “The goal is to advance the frontiers of knowledge as they perceive them.” (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2003, p.1371)

[4] CoWeb

Mark Guzdial, associate professor at the College of Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, has developed a cross platform, open source Wiki project that has been adopted by teachers all over the world (Lund & Cunningham, 2001).  It is easily adaptable to the needs of the school. Rick et al. have found CoWeb to be a popular and useful tool for collaborative work with low infrastructure costs (p.11). 

[5] Collaboration

The characteristics of Collaboration to be used in the professional development course are in line with researchers such as Dillenbourg, Roschelle & Teasley.

 

References

  • Banzato, M. (2005) Chapter 3, Pedagogy in “A Common European Framework for Teachers’ Professional Profile in ICT for Education”, Edited by Vitorio Midoro.
  • Boulos, M.N.K., Maramba, I. & Wheeler, S. (2006)  Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education.  BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:41
  • Bruns, A & Humphreys, S (2005)Wikis in Teaching and Assessment: The M/Cyclopedia Project. Presented at the International Symposium On Wikis, 2005
  • Becta Review (2005) Evidence on the progress of ICT in education, British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta)
  • Cox M., Abbott C., Webb M., Blakeley B., Beauchamp T. and Rhodes V. (2003a), ICT and Attainment, A Review of the Research Literature, ICT in Schools Research and Evaluation Series, No. 17, Becta/DfES, Coventry/London. http://www.becta.org.uk/pagedocuments/research/ictattainmentsummary.pdf
  • Cox M., Webb M., Abbott C., Blakeley B., Beauchamp T. and Rhodes V. (2003b), ICT and Pedagogy, A Review of the Research Literature, ICT in Schools Research and Evaluation Series, No. 18, Becta/DfES, Coventry/London. http://www.becta.org.uk/pagedocuments/research/ictpedagogysummary.pdf
  • Hewitt, J. (2004).  An Exploration of Community in a Knowledge Forum Classroom. An Activity System Analysis. In Designing for Virtual Communities in the service of learning Edited by Barb, Kling and Gray.
  • Koschmann, T. (1996). Paradigm shifts and instructional technology: An introduction. In T. Koschmann, (Ed.), CSCL:  Theory and practice of an emerging paradigm, (pp. 1-23). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Koschmann, T., & O’Malley, C. (1994, October). Tutorial on computer support for collaborative learning. CSCW ‘94 Conference, Chapel Hill, NC.
  • Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Leuf, B. & Cunningham, W. (2001) The Wiki Way, Quick Collaboration on the Web.  Pearson publishers.
  • Paavola, S., Lipponen, L. & Hakkarainen, K. (2004) Models of innovative knowledge communities and the three metaphors of learning. Review of Educational Research, 74, Iss 4, 557-577.
  • Rick, J., & Guzdial, M. (2006). Situating CoWeb: a scholarship of application. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 1(1), 89-115.
  • Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2003) Knowledge Building. In J. W. Guthrie (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Education (2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan Reference. Page 1370-1373