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EDU617

Learning and Teaching with ICT

Assignment 2: Issues

Trends and Issues (Wikis)

Issues

As many of the affordances of wikis are also the limitations, the trends can also be similar to or the same as the issues. While many of issues that arose through the research are valid, many of them may be able to be resolved through careful structuring of the learning tasks and preparing students with specific skills prior to undertaking a wiki based collaborative task. These issues are able to be grouped under the categories of Collaborative/Social, Research Related, Pedagogical and Technological Issues.

1.Collaborative/Social Issues
Whilst collaborative learning is beneficial to student learning and has been supported vastly across the literature, some similar issues seem to arise. Across some of the research, it has been reported that students have found editing each other’s work difficult. Grant (2009) found that very few students edited their peers’ work nor felt this to be desirable and this was echoed by Woo et al. (2011) who found that some students would have preferred it if others were not able to edit their pages. The advent of Web 2.0 technologies has initiated new ways of learning or a greater focus on areas that were not considered to be important in the past. Not all students are used to changing the work of their peers or critiquing friends’ writing and so this is not an unexpected issue. Mak and Coniam (2008) also found that edits on other students’ work by peers was limited and that this could have been because the education system in Hong Kong has not historically encouraged students to work together, let alone correct their peers’ work. This is possibly due to avoidance of causing friends to ‘lose face’. Similar issues related to the nature of the Hong Kong education system were stated by Woo et al., though educators are trying to make a difference to this by the use of wikis and other Web 2.0 tools. A range of students in the Mobile Workforce Technology study by Ruth and Houghton (2009) also expressed concerns about their work being copied by others when using wikis.

The social aspect of working collaboratively in groups has also been reported to have created some issues, as reported in some of the research into wiki use in education. Woo et al. (2011) found gender distributions across groups created some conflict and that this impacted on the process of working together online. Students may not always be used to working with the opposite gender and this can sometimes hinder the learning process until such issues are resolved or dealt with. They also reported that job distribution across groups, where each student was provided with a specific role, created some problems. If students are not used to dealing with social issues such as taking turns, sharing responsibility, confronting problems respectfully and accepting differences in opinions then this will possibly become an issue when working on a wiki in a group. Careful and structured preparation prior to wiki tasks could perhaps alleviate some of the issues that may arise.

2. Research Related Issues
The biggest issue that seems to arise across the research into wikis in education is that there is not very much peer reviewed literature available. Ruth and Houghton (2009) describe research on wikis in education as being in its infancy and this has been reflected in comments by Grant (2009) that there are few secondary studies in this area and that most are short term, small scale and from higher education. There are very few primary education related studies and the sample sizes were all under 38 students. Across 7 of the articles used for this paper, all samples were 45 students or below while one included 86 students. While the transferability of findings across educational sectors is certainly possible, further research in each phase of learning would be desirable.

3.Pedagogical Issues
An issue that arose as a result of using wikis in education has been that students have not gained or rehearsed necessary skills before launching into the tasks related to the research studies. This issue of limited prior skills can limit the learning that is able to take place throughout the wiki tasks. In addition to collaborative and social skills, students need to have an understanding of scanning, skimming and note taking according to Woo et al. (2011). Such skills are complex and vital for selecting appropriate information from the Internet or editing the work of others and if students are limited with these skills then the focus can be drawn away from the fantastic affordances that wikis provide. From another perspective, the learning of these skills with a true and authentic purpose such as via a wiki can be equally beneficial and powerful. As Grant (2009) reports, the total ecology of the class requires careful consideration and planning prior to utilising technologies such as wikis so that maximum educational benefit can be achieved and time can be used effectively.

4.Technological Issues
Technology can often cause frustration in the classroom and this was echoed across the research into wikis. As Thompson and Absalom (2011) reported in their study where students worked together to create a project about a region of Italy, the technology mediated learning environment can add further complication to the writing process. This is because there are numerous skills involved in producing work through the digital medium that students need to develop such as typing, navigating the online environment and selecting suitable information. The notion of working together with peers online and editing friends’ work are further skills requiring development.

Other issues reported included slow loading of the wiki in the study by Woo et al. (2011). This occurred when all students were trying to log on in the class at the same time and this possibly created a server issue. Working at home or outside class time would probably not create a similar issue, though this would be dependent upon the Internet connection speed. Other studies have also reported issues of potential malicious hacking. Mak and Coniam (2008) expressed concern that wikis were open to intrusion and that a solution to this can be to password protect the wiki. However, sometimes too much security can limit the fabulous affordances provided by the technology such as the ability to collaboratively create work. Change in practice takes time and regular rehearsal and it is through this that such issues and concerns may disappear.

 

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