About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Group communication and the wiki

For three semesters now, I have used the wiki as a vital piece of my courses. As I teach both educational technology courses and communication courses, this seems relevant. However, I feel that we are just beginning to understand the importance of using a wiki in terms of knowledge building.

These are some of the questions I am pondering and hoping to answer in the next year or so:

What is really happening in the process of creating a wiki? How is this the same or different than other computer supported writing technologies?

How can we use the transparency of the wiki to help us determine how the group affects the writing process and knowledge building that goes on? Can we develop a way to "capture" the learning that happens when writing as a group?

It seems that wikis begin to take on a dynamic life of their own. When I look at the "product" my students create, it does not necessarily show any learning. Yet, when I ask them to describe their learning (give a presentation on discrete content areas that the blog was supposed to aid in their learning) they seem have a deeper level of learning than more traditional methods (lecture, in-classroom activities, discussion of readings). How does this happen?

What skills and learning styles are best suited for a wiki (both what the students should have before they can use a wiki and what skills can be developed on a wiki)? This is the one area that I do feel I am being to find answers to. First and foremost, wiki users need to have good group communication skills (understanding the group process and roles, group leadership/followship skills, group problem solving and decision making skills, and group writing skills--which is different than individual writing skills). Contrary to popular beliefs, I don't think a wiki will help individual writing skills (at least I have not observed it), nor does good writing skills mean you will be successful in writing on the wiki. Secondly, wiki users need to be able to make connections to ideas. My hypothesis is that spatial thinkers (e.g. those able to write good hyper text) will find the wiki much easier to use than linear thinkers. Expanding this idea, certain cultures might find wiki use more intuitive (generally not Germanic or Anglo cultures which tend to be more linear and individualistic). Finally, clear cut guidelines and learning scaffolding in the use of wikis will be needed for novices, but these are skills that most businesses are looking for, so the wiki would be a good vehicle in developing these skills. Specifically: critical thinking skills, networking and connection of ideas and data, team work, and self regulated work.

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