Destructive Creativity on the Social Web: Learning through Wikis in Higher Education

Destructive Creativity on the Social Web: Learning through Wikis in Higher Education

Steve Wheeler (University of Plymouth, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-208-4.ch031
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Abstract

The use of group oriented software, or groupware, encourages students to generate their own content (McGill et al, 2005) and can foster supportive and dynamic communities of learning (Shaikh & Macauley, 2001). One form of open architecture groupware known as the Wiki is freely available online in several versions, and enables tutors to quickly set up online spaces which can be edited by students, at any time and from any location. Online social spaces of this nature can be used to encourage creative writing and to engage students in critical discourse through focused discussion, but Wikis also have disruptive potential and can cause dissent and disharmony within the group. This chapter aims to highlight some uses of the wiki as a social writing tool, reporting on student perceptions of the limitations and benefits. The chapter also focuses on the tension between creative and destructive uses of wikis and concludes by offering recommendations on the effective use of wikis in mainstream higher education. The use of interview data gathered from a study conducted with a group of student teachers in 2007 is included to support the key messages of this chapter.
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Abstract

The use of group oriented software, or groupware, encourages students to generate their own content (McGill et al, 2005) and can foster supportive and dynamic communities of learning (Shaikh & Macauley, 2001). One form of open architecture groupware known as the Wiki is freely available online in several versions, and enables tutors to quickly set up online spaces which can be edited by students, at any time and from any location. Online social spaces of this nature can be used to encourage creative writing and to engage students in critical discourse through focused discussion, but Wikis also have disruptive potential and can cause dissent and disharmony within the group. This chapter aims to highlight some uses of the wiki as a social writing tool, reporting on student perceptions of the limitations and benefits. The chapter also focuses on the tension between creative and destructive uses of wikis and concludes by offering recommendations on the effective use of wikis in mainstream higher education. The use of interview data gathered from a study conducted with a group of student teachers in 2007 is included to support the key messages of this chapter.

‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’

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Impact On Pedagogy

Although relatively new, the exponential and rapid growth of the social Web is beginning to impact upon post-compulsory education, compelling some academics and teachers to repurpose key aspects of course development and delivery. For example, the social affordance of multiple-user generation of content is challenging previously accepted mores, not least the traditional primacy of the tutor role. Students are beginning to take greater responsibility for their own learning, whilst the role tutors have enjoyed as the sole source of specialist knowledge is rapidly waning.

It is not only the role of the teacher that is being challenged. Popular Websites such as Wikipedia are premised on the principle that all users have the freedom to generate their own content, and this presents a significant challenge to the traditional status of knowledge. Moreover, the exponential upsurge in student activity on extra-institutional social networking sites such as MySpace and FaceBook raises the stakes in the teaching and learning game. Not all students are ready to generate their own course content and learning materials, but increasing numbers are familiar with the concept of a shared digital space and they pursue it with vigour. Student reactions will vary, but recent studies report that students of all ages comment positively about content generation using wikis (Richardson, 2006; Wheeler, Yeomans & Wheeler, 2008).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaborative Learning: Learning activities that encourage group work and co-operation between students.

Wikipedia: One of the first and most popular wiki encyclopaedia sites.

Wikiquette: Acceptable behaviour and use of wikis which are generally agreed by all users.

Post Compulsory Education: In the UK, all students who are over the age of 14. Also synonymous with lifelong learning

Social Networking: In this sense, Websites designed to connect people together who have common interests

Darwikianism: A belief that the fittest – that is the most accurate and relevant entries – will survive and grow, whilst weaker entries will be sought out by the community of users and deleted, or modified to make them stronger

Wiki: An editable Website.

Social Presence: The perception that individuals are brought closer through the use of technology.

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