UNIT 2: What are the benefits and challenges of using Wikis in teaching and learning?
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The benefits of using wikis to teach and learn with begin with "wise wiki use."
- Open: Wikis are open to all. The sense of pride that comes along with shared ownership/ authorship is immense. Furthermore, wikis are world-wide. Thus, anyone and everyone around the globe that has access to the web has access to your wiki. People located all over the world can contribute to one wiki.
- Ease of Use: The relative ease of which someone can learn and navigate through a wiki is grand. All that is needed is a sound internet connection.
- Instantaneous: Inputting information on a wiki is instantaneous. Thus, updates on information is as current as it can be. Also, wikis provide (students) with immediate access to information as it is uploaded.
- Tracking: Wiki software tracks all edits so it is easy to see the "history" of a project.
- Flexibility: Wikis are flexible. There is no "pre-determined structure" so is can be altered to fit the needs/ design of the users. Even more importantly, because wikis grow as a direct result of participation they can address a great variety of educational/ pedagogical needs.
- Access: Wikis stay on the internet and thus can be referenced at any point in the future, with the click.
- Collaboration: It is through collaboration that the most valuable wikis are created. Wikis inherently call for additions, deletions, improvements, etc. by participants. The result is often a document that has been created by many authors. This process is exciting and the educational value of a wiki is thus, revealed. The wiki document can become a published piece, printed out and shared or it can further grow into a new wiki with future contributions.
There is enormous excitement and benefit that goes along with the features and possibilities of wikis in education. However, there are some drawbacks as well. It is acknowledged that the above advantageous easily fall into the category of disadvantages as well.
- Validity: The first and foremost element is to remember that wikis should not be used as a sole source of information. One must remember that wikis are created by a variety of individuals, all of whom may be far from experts in the field. Thus, learners must remember to support their information with a variety of resources. It certainly might be a fine place to begin research but it is important to recall that information from a wiki usually needs to be verified.
- Small Group Work: Wiki use is best within small groups. "Too many cooks in the kitchen...." is a phrase that applies to wiki drawbacks. It is best that tasks be divided up and small pockets of learners work together. Large group instruction via a wiki is not practical.
- Regulation: It is difficult to regulate and manage a wiki and it is open to SPAM and vandalism. There needs to be a good handle on such regulatory efforts.
- Lack of Confidentiality: Remember, a wiki is an OPEN NETWORK. That itself implies the lack of confidentiality/ privacy when it comes to what is added to a wiki.
- Deletion: Anyone with access can alter or delete information on the wiki. Thus, just as one can easily gain authorship, there is a danger in losing it as well.
Benefits and Challenges have been addressed in this unit. You may now proceed to Unit 3 to learn about how wikis are effectively being used around the globe.
Remember, at any time feel free to jump to our K-W-L Chartto document your learning.