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EDU617

Learning and Teaching with ICT

Assignment 2: Trends

Trends and Issues (Wikis)

Trends

There was a large diversity in learning tasks across all articles, though the common thread that held them together was that each study involved students in a collaborative writing process. Hastie, Casey and Tarter (2010) investigated the impact of using wikis as part of a secondary Physical Education class learning task in which students were asked to create a new invasion game in small groups. In a study by Mak and Coniam (2008), students from a Year 7 ESL (English as a Second Language) class in Hong Kong were asked to devise and produce a printed brochure (using a wiki) for parents about their school. This research took place in a Hong Kong secondary school but for the purpose of this paper has been considered as primary school to enable easier comparison with a regular Australian school system. The research by Tokito and Kubota (2011) involved Year 3 students from a Japanese primary school communicating with students from a Hawaiian school through use of a wiki, conferencing software and an online bulletin board with an aim to promote intercultural understanding. Students from a Year 9 History class were involved in investigating the innovations that have occurred in technology since the 1950s with a wiki as a central tool for collaborative work in a study by Grant (2009). In a study by Piffaré and Staarman (2011), students from a Year 3/4 class in Spain used a wiki as a tool for collaboration in creating a science based task on Mars and the possibility of setting up a colony there. Woo, Chu, Ho and Li (2011) investigated the use of a wiki in a Hong Kong Year 5 class through a collaborative writing task in which students created an informational text about animals. The research by Thompson and Absalom (2011) was related to a collaborative project between an Australian university and secondary school where students co-constructed a document about a region of Italy using the Italian language. Ruth and Houghton (2009) researched the use of wikis with university students in a Mobile Workforce Technology course through a task of creating a technology textbook. Table 1 provides an overview of this information.

 

Table 1. An overview of the wiki based tasks, the educational sectors, learning area use and sample size.

Researchers

Educational Sector and Year Level

Learning Area

Task Title

Sample Size

Hastie, Casey and Tarter (2010)

Secondary: Year 10/11

Physical Education

PE Invasion Game

28 students

Mak and Coniam (2008)

Primary: Year 7

Literacy: Writing

School Brochure

24 students

Tokito and Kubota (2011)

Primary: Year 3

Culture

Intercultural Understanding

32 students

Grant (2009)

Secondary: Year 9

History

Innovation in Technology since the 1950s

45 students (estimate)

Piffaré and Staarman (2011)

Primary: Year 3/4

Science

Colony on Mars

25 students
(12 students in depth)

Woo, Chu, Ho and Li (2011)

Primary: Year 5

Literacy: Writing

Text About an Animal

38 students

Thompson and Absalom (2011)

Secondary/Tertiary: Year 11/12, undergraduate students

Italian

Italian Regions

45 students (estimate)

Ruth and Houghton (2009)

Tertiary: undergraduate and graduate students

Workforce Technology

Mobile Workforce Technology Textbook

86 students

 

Throughout the articles, similarities with trends are apparent and can be categorised as those related to Collaborative/Social, Cognitive, Pedagogical and Technological Trends. A small number of trends reported fit more than one category and some sub-categories have also been determined.

1.Collaborative/Social Trends
One of the most common trends across the articles has been related to the collaborative element of wikis. All the studies involved students working together online to produce a text based document. Students were encouraged to co-construct the shared document with peer critiquing and feedback as an important element of each. This collaborative nature was harnessed across the studies and students were supported in working together as a team and as Hastie et al. (2010) reports, the result can be a positive interdependence between the students and stakeholders (such as teachers) in the process. The resulting ‘Communities of Practice’ (Hastie et al., 2010; Grant, 2009; Ruth and Houghton, 2009) and ‘Knowledge Building Networks’ (Grant, 2009) enable students to learn from one another as well as working together towards a common goal. Woo et al. (2011) reported that the wiki in their study assisted in fostering teamwork, encouraged peer interaction and facilitated online group work. This was well reported across the other studies, however, Pifarré and Staarman (2011) suggested that a dialogic perspective is also required for effective collaboration to occur, and this was reflected in the findings from their research. The space for effective dialogue between students through careful structuring and scaffolding of the learning environment assists in higher level thinking and this has also been reflected in the study by Thompson and Absalom (2011).

Another trend that exemplifies the importance and benefits of collaborative learning through wikis is in the equality that each group member is afforded or as Ruth and Houghton (2009) describes it, egalitarian learning. The fact that each group member has a voice can mean that students feel valued and part of the group and in turn produce a higher quality result through strong peer interaction. This notion of equality also has been reported as building confidence in students across the literature and this social learning outcome is vital for 21st Century education. This was particularly evident in the study by Hastie et al. (2010) where non-superstars in a Physical Education class were empowered through building upon their strengths of creative thinking through the wiki.

2.Cognitive Trends
The cognitive domain also features highly across the research and the trends towards higher order thinking in education, particularly with reference to the use of wikis and ICT are widespread. The Internet and various online tools and resources such as wikis, blogs, message boards, web conferencing and instant text chat open up a world of information, resources and tools. These heighten the need for 21st Century learners to be able to employ skills such as critical thinking, creative thinking, creative reasoning and digital literacy. This is echoed by Pifarré and Staarman (2011) in the ‘Thinking Together’ approach (Mercer and Littleton, 2007; Dawes, Mercer & Wegerif, 2000, as cited in Piffaré & Staarman, 2011, p.191) to collaborative learning, which was utilised as a frame for their study. This approach is designed to engaged and support students in collaborative talk processes around the development of their wikis. They also discussed the need to develop of the skill of reasoned disagreement, which was reflected in their study and ways in which students are able to develop this through the use of wikis. By this skill they refer to the ways in which students approach the process of disagreement about something a member of their group has recorded on the wiki. It is not always easy for adults to express conscientious objection to another person’s work, nor is this simple for children as their skills are often less developed in this area. Wikis are a great tool that provide a platform for practicing appropriate forms of disagreement, such as kindly telling others they disagree with what they have written, beginning the disagreement by stating a positive comment or by using less demanding language. This valuable skill has been stated widely across the literature and Hastie et al. (2010) have reported that sharing through a wiki, critiquing work and dialogue lead to new ways of thinking. Different ways of learning and thinking was also reported as an outcome of using wikis by Ruth and Houghton (2009) as students continue to experience learning in the digital world. The exchanging of constructive feedback through wikis (Woo et al., 2011) further echoes this trend and the development and rehearsing of such skills can be provided in this environment to maximise student learning.

Trends in using wikis as a reflective medium have also been regularly reported across the research. A valuable affordance of wikis is the discussion tool which allows students to hold asynchronous conversations related to their work. Such reflection can be about the process of wiki creation (Ruth & Houghton, 2009), on the quality of student work (Grant, 2009) or any other aspect of the collaborative group process. Rather than students merely producing work, reflection is an integral and vital part of the process of learning and is a skill students need to develop for life and learning in the 21st Century.

The collective ownership of co-constructed work through the use of wikis, as reported by Hastie et al. (2010), is a trend that attracts significant attention throughout the literature and without this online tool, it has been reported that the outcomes achieved would certainly not have been possible. Mak and Coniam (2008) also echoed the idea that through this collective ownership, a greater coherence in work produced has been evident. The cognitive skills involved in producing work as a team through
co-construction are quite different to those required for producing individual work and wikis are exciting tools that can provide opportunities for students to develop these skills.

3.Pedagogical Trends
Effective pedagogy is always at the core of successful learning and a number of specific trends were highlighted across the research. The element of motivation featured highly and this ranged from students enjoying publishing work on the Internet (Grant, 2009) to students increasing engagement with authentic tasks (Ruth and Houghton, 2009). It is evident that when students are engaged with their learning, a higher level of outcomes is achievable and the literature demonstrates that this trend is common across different learning areas and phases of learning. When the students are motivated, the teachers also become motivated towards the use of wikis as described by Hastie et al. (2010) and Woo et al. (2011), who also stated that the teachers found it convenient. In addition to the strongly motivational nature of wikis, Hastie et al. found that students who were non-superstars in regular Physical Education classes were suddenly empowered. By demonstrating the skills they were good at allowed these students to feel more connected to their peers within this class and motivated them to try harder in an area that may not otherwise have done so.

Providing students with authentic tasks appears as a trend across the research. An example is in the study by Mak and Coniam (2008) where students from a Year 7 class collaboratively devised and produced a brochure on their school and this was distributed to parents. This provided a purposeful task that was directly relevant to the students as their parents would be able to see the work their children had produced and it also strengthened the students’ desires to produce their best work. It is well reported that through activities that have real-world relevance and utilise outside experts, promotion of a higher level of engagement and outcomes occurs. Such tasks can be much more than just opportunities to practice or apply learning (Herrington, Reeves & Oliver, 2010) and can connect students beyond the confines of the classroom. An example of this could be the use of ‘Experts in the Field’, as was the case in the study by Hastie et al. (2010) where students communicated with a real sports department as part of their project in creating a new barrier game. Students received regular feedback from their peers, teacher and the expert and this assisted them in creating a game that could be chosen to be played in the school league. This provided the students with a real goal with relevance. Likewise in other research, this enhanced the learning that took place and richer learning experiences were possible.

Assessment is another pedagogical area that appears in some of the research. Using wikis to track edits made by students has been a common trend that has provided teachers with a lot more hard evidence than they would be able to gain through observation of group work using a more traditional approach. The ability to see every edit that has been made affords teachers with the ability to delve deeper into the learning that has occurred and to analyse many elements of student work such as grammar, spelling, vocabulary and corrections to each of these. This occurred in the research by Mak and Coniam (2008) and Pifarré and Staarman (2011) where both found that the t-unit statistic increased for complexity of writing via the use of wikis. Ruth and Houghton (2009) also stated that using wikis as a tool for learning created a shift from closed to open assessment, where students are assessed on the work created by the group. This shift is inherent with all collaborative learning and can be challenging, though also provides a new and exciting way of viewing the learning process and what we consider to be important at an epistemological level.

Another trend that has been reported is the opportunity that wikis provide for teachers to scaffold learning (Woo et al., 2011). Due to the fact that wikis as a technological tool are relatively new in education, the need for teachers to move from disseminators of knowledge to facilitators of learning is increased. Students need to be provided with supports for working in collaborative groups, working in an online environment, strategies and frameworks for selecting appropriate and reliable information from the Internet and remaining safe whilst on the Internet as well as many other areas. An example of scaffolding to assist students with their writing was in the study by Piffaré and Staarman (2011) where projects about a colony on Mars were created in Science. Students were provided with sentence openers to enhance the quality of collaborative talk in which students were engaged as part of the wiki development. Grant (2009) also believes that teacher modeling and facilitation is heightened through the use of wikis and that the teacher cannot just step back. For real learning to occur, the teacher’s role, though taking on a shift, is still paramount to successful student learning and this is widely reported across the literature.

The emergence of Web 2.0 has provided new possibilities in education. As stated by Piffaré and Staarman (2011), the shift in roles from consumers to creators of knowledge is a trend created through the use of online collaboration tools, particularly wikis. This is a major affordance of Web 2.0 tools and requires a shift in pedagogical thinking as we develop students for the 21st Century world. This change brings along a new set of challenges for teachers and students but at the same time opens up new possibilities for learning.

As wikis are predominantly a text-based tool, the element of writing is common to all. Across the literature, wikis have been used in a wide variety of learning areas and courses as represented in Figure 3. There is diversity in the learning areas represented in the research and this could be due to the fact that wikis are such a versatile tool and provide a wide range of affordances to education.

lrning area
Figure 3. Distribution of learning areas across the research into wiki use in education.


4.Technological Trends
Technology develops at a truly amazing rate and one of the most powerful affordances this has provided in education is the ability to take learning beyond the physical confines of the classroom. One of the major results is that the traditional classroom can now become a virtual classroom that is available 24/7. As Ruth and Houghton (2009) report, the notion of a virtual classroom and the functions of wikis allow for asynchronous learning to take place and for students to work at their own rate and when it suits them. It was also reported from student surveys in research by Woo et al. (2011) that this 24/7 availability of wikis provides for speedy idea sharing. Mak and Coniam (2008) also believe that computer work done at home, as with the printed brochure created by students in their study, opened up the time and situation for learning to take place beyond that which is possible in a physical classroom. This notion of a virtual classroom is reported widely across the ICT literature.

Trackability is a function of wikis that is reported as beneficial with wikis in education as teachers are able to monitor and assess development of students’ ideas and editing attempts with greater ease than is possible using traditional classroom approaches such as observation. This function also reduces the pressure of teachers having to listen to numerous student conversations in a short time and often at the same time. This tracking functionality enables teachers to support students, provide feedback and track editing, as reported in research by Woo et al. (2011) where students were engaged in collaborative group work to produce an informational text on a chosen animal. This was also reported by Grant (2009) through a History task in which it was possible to track individual authors of text created in the wikis. The trend to utilise this function was reported across the research and has been harnessed regularly.

 

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