Using Wikis in Teacher Education: Student-Generated Content as Support in Professional Learning

Using Wikis in Teacher Education: Student-Generated Content as Support in Professional Learning

Steve Wheeler (University of Plymouth, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-783-8.ch317

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The Rise Of Social Software

Social software, it is claimed, has brought renewed enthusiasm to the use of web-based tools in education (Jones, 2007). Because it relies heavily on user collaboration, social software has been instrumental in restoring the Web, reconciling it to the original vision of a space where all are able to participate (Schaffert, Gruber, & Westenthaler, 2006). The tools and features that contribute to the social Web (or Web 2.0)—for example, blogs, wikis, and social networking sites—have been dubbed the “architecture of participation” (O’Reilly, 2004) because they encourage users to move away from passive reception of the contents of web pages toward active involvement and even content generation (Kamel Boulos & Wheeler, 2007; Williams & Jacobs, 2004). Web 2.0 tools offer students the opportunity to create, edit, share, and publish knowledge and information within and across communities of practice and interest (Rudd, Gifford, Morrison, & Facer, 2006). This is, of course, a highly desirable outcome for professional learning in that it fosters reflective learning and encourages engagement within the learning community. One social software tool, in particular, the wiki, is a website that can be edited and expanded by anyone who is a registered user. The wiki idea was first conceived by Ward Cunningham as a means of quick and easy online collaborative text editing (Cunningham & Leuf, 2001) and has rapidly caught on as an online collaborative tool for within education (Wheeler, Yeomans, & Wheeler, 2008). Wikis incorporate a number of content generation support features that enable students to contribute toward a shared online repository of knowledge, including tagging, versioning, hyperlinking, and commenting (Trentin, 2009). Wikis not only create opportunities for students to benefit from the knowledge of others; there is also evidence that users can create their own group consciousness which contributes significantly toward community building (Fuchs-Kittowski & Kohler, 2005) and create their own “knowledge structures,” thereby achieving a sense of ownership (McGill, Nicol, Littlejohn, Grierson, Juster, & Ion, 2005).

There is however a caveat: Anyone who enjoys orderliness and clear structure could be uncomfortable when working with wikis. They generally appear to be chaotic and unstructured as they are constantly under development and are invariably a “work in progress.” As such they tend to have only a primitive form of navigation, so users must rely on hyperlinking and the use of a search function to locate useful information (Elgort, 2007).

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