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Learning and Teaching with ICT

Assignment 1: Limitations

Affordances of an Educational Technology (Wikis)

Whilst there are many affordances provided by wikis, a number of limitations exist and these require careful thought by teachers utilising this powerful learning tool in the classroom. One of the main functional limitations of wikis can be that it is easy for users to manipulate and change content due to the nature of wikis. Along with the benefits of collaboratively constructed information come the potential issues related to sabotage and abuse, which can result in an online equivalent of vandalism or bullying. Another limitation as raised by Fountain (2005) relates to censorship of content. Student often require guidance in the use of appropriate online language, content and ways of communicating with others and this can definitely become an issue when students have limited social skills or believe they are immune from consequences for inappropriate behaviour (netiquette) when online. The issue of plagiarism is another limitation of wiki use as students often copy and paste information directly from the internet and need to learn the skills of writing information in their own words. Examples of strategies that need to be taught to facilitate this include paraphrasing, note taking, skimming, scanning and using key words. Also, monitoring student learning through wikis and their input into content creation is a big limitation, as over time the wiki becomes a group rather than individual learning product. This is an example of how some of the affordances are also limitations. This leads to a difficulty in assessing student learning and providing targeted individual feedback to students. As stated by Fountain (2005), the ways in which wikis can be used as a tool for student learning can challenge the traditional notion of authority and this can be an issue. The concept of ‘experts in the field’ and ‘who’ constitutes an expert can be controversial. The access to experts via the internet has exponentially increased the ability to use this resource due to the ability to connect with people around the world, however choosing the right people to use as experts or even rethinking the notion of what constitutes an expert can be a limitation that may not have a simple answer. Using wikis can require a challenging shift in pedagogy and this is reflected in the comments by James (as cited in Fountain, 2005) in that it is easy to change tools but not practice. Retooling can be extremely difficulty and require a great deal of professional learning for the teacher. Fountain (2005) also raised the ethical issue that future employers may be able to go online and view students’ work and this could greatly limit employment opportunities.

A number of technological limitations are evident such as the fact that some wikis are end dated. This can be an issue when time has been invested in creating the content and the wiki suddenly disappears. While this is not necessarily the case with all wikis, it is something that the teacher may need to be aware about to avoid this scenario. Another issue can be with version changes that can occur. This may not affect all wikis but is another consideration to take into account when using wikis with students. Some search engines that are included in wikis are better than others and this can limit the ability to navigate between pages and sections of information. Concurrent editing has been reported as another issue by Fountain (2005). This can be a problem with logging on through school servers and can lead to various anomalies in login information as sometimes students can be signed in under incorrect names. This is an issue that has definitely occurred in some Western Australian schools.

There are also a number of limitations or challenges associated with cognitive aspects of using wikis. The fact that wikis are usually structured with more open ended tasks means that students often end up writing far too much. If the students have not been provided with sufficient opportunities to rehearse the use of higher order thinking practices in addition to an oversupply of information, the focus can possibly be too much about process rather than achievement (Fancy A Wiki, 2007). Many students actually want to get the correct answers in their work and are used to this way of thinking and this can also be a challenge to these students. Fountain (2005) suggests that the creative aspect of wikis is also a limitation because helping students to break out of the box can be very difficult and this can therefore be very time consuming. She also states that in addition to this, many students are not used to working in a non-linear fashion with the collaborative medium of wikis. The way in which pages within a wiki and also from the Internet can be hyperlinked is an example of the non-linearity of wikis and this can be very difficult to students who are used to working in a more linear fashion.

The social limitations on wikis are also apparent and include the difficulties associated with group processes related to the co-construction of information. The fact that responsibility for creation of a wiki is placed upon the group rather than individuals (7 Things You Should Know About…Wikis, 2005) can make it very difficult for those less motivated to input sufficiently to the group and this can often result in conflicts occurring. Students require a lot of practice about how to work in a group and social issues can cause a great deal of problems for the students with these issues as well as for the other group members. This can quickly spiral out of control in a class situation into physical conflict or bullying. In many instances, dominant learners and the notion of the group mentality that can result (Fountain, 2005) can also be a negative factor on the use of wikis in the classroom. Many students also lack the ability to self-monitor their learning when online (Fountain, 2005) as they may be used to the highly structured nature of more traditional classrooms and this is a big limitation to students who are thrown into using wikis and collaborating using online tools. To enable the effective implementation of wikis as a part of student learning, a paradigm shift in the perception of what constitutes effective teaching and learning needs to take place and this is an enormous task for those that believe in a more traditional style of teaching. Learning for educational practitioners takes time and can be costly and this means that students can ultimately be missing out or getting left behind.


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