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Learning and Teaching with ICT

Assignment 1: Introduction

Affordances of an Educational Technology (Wikis)

Introduction / Technology Description
Wikis are synonymous with the Web 2.0 phenomenon and have existed since the mid 1990s but their popularity has increased dramatically in recent years. Their distinct name originates from the term WikiWikiWeb with the word wiki meaning ‘quick’ in Hawaiian. Wikis are simple and editable web pages that allow anyone to create and upload content through a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. All that is required is a computer or mobile device (such as a Smartphone or iPad) with an Internet connection and a web browser. This allows the user to edit and upload content from anywhere in the world. According to 7 Things You Should Know About...Wikis (2005), the ease of using wikis reflects their equivalence to a shared piece of digital paper. This indicates that anyone who is able to write conventionally using real paper will find the digital version simple due to the limited amount of computer skills required, thus making wikis attractive for anybody. Those with more advanced levels of computer literacy will find they are able to utilise some of the more advanced tools such as media insertion, tables, calendars, polling and drawing tools depending on the tools included in the wiki. One of the key features is the ability to hyperlink pages and content throughout the wiki thus seamlessly connecting the information. Wikis have traditionally been asynchronous but many now combine synchronous tools such as chat features which enable enhanced collaboration including instant communication. One of the most famous and biggest wikis is Wikipedia which is an online encyclopedia into which anyone from around the world can contribute. There are many wikis that are suitable for education such as Wikispaces, Wet Paint, PBWorks and Wikidot. With some investigation into the tools offered in each wiki, it is very easy to find the best wiki for use with students depending on needs. A wiki bears some similarities to a blog, however blogs are usually presented in a chronological order whereas wikis are more content based. Also, blogs tend to be more individualised and opinion based whereas wikis are usually centred upon the notion of collaborative construction of information and tend to be more objective. Wikis can contain a blog component, though blogs do not usually contain a wiki component.

Wikis can provide a powerful tool in education and can be used with all age groups as an alternative medium to demonstrate and develop learning, particularly with 21st Century skills such as higher order thinking, critical thinking, creative thinking, technological literacy, collaboration skills and communication skills. There is an abundance of affordances for this technological medium with some limitations, most of which can be overcome through careful strategic planning and facilitation of learning. Is has been stated by Vines (2006, para. 5) that many of the strengths can actually be the limitations as well and this is something that could be taken into consideration when planning student learning around the use of wikis.


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