Chapter 7 discusses the merits of collaborative learning and the tools available to facilitate it. Specifically, Chapter 7 identifies discussion forums as an awkward and less effective manner of collaboration and notes that many students do not like to perform collaborative work online. However, Chapter 7 lists the virtues of collaborative work including the challenges new ideas face, as well as the authenticity of the material introduced. Chapter 7 follows this theme to the inception of Wiki software, which is a type of social networking software that has a lot of potential for collaborative applications. Wikis are appropriate for a large number of users or small teams. Materials suited for development in Wiki include project glossaries and FAQ pages. As Chapter 7 continues, it provides detail on the set up of Wiki software, describing the access to the software; how to create an appropriate frame work for a Wiki page that is not as directionless as turning over a blank canvas, and how to develop instructions for students. When dealing with collaborative works, Chapter 7 includes content on dispute resolution and encouragement in group editing to ensure that the collaborative process runs smoothly. Chapter 7 concludes with a look to the future of Wiki software forecasting the changes that will need to be made in the software and on the part of academia for Wiki to reach its full academic collaborative potential.
Chapter 8 takes the foundation of Wiki and expands it into the Wikibook concept, meaning that rather than access to editing rights of a web page, wikibooks would enable entire chapters and volumes to be collaboratively edited. Chapter 8 notes that the most important factor in Wikibooks is that they are shared. Wikibooks can be viewed as disruptive technology (although I personally prefer the term ‘innovation’), but in essence, Wikibooks can spark random acts of thinking without the stamped approval of academic administration. This, to me, sounds like authentic learning. Chapter 8 touches on the fact that education reform is an issue in this country and that there are studies that show that students are not work force ready. In this context, Chapter 8 discusses the challenges in academia including outdated curricula and reliance on standardized tests. Moving from the educational climate of 1988 to 2008, Chapter 8 notes the importance of independent and critical thinking and the subsequent and necessary shift to digital learning. Chapter 8 describes three Wikibook experiences with students in 2006, 2007, and 2008 and addresses the issues that can occur in a Wikibook. Particularly, issues in a cross-institutional Wikibook included tension, instructional issues (disruptive technology), need for coordination and leadership skills and motivational issues. Chapter 8 closes with an acknowledgment that in order to progress, the existing Wikibooks, POLT and WELT will need to continue to develop.
Chapter 7′s strengths are many. It opens notions of collaboration that acknowledge pros and cons of collaborative academia as it exists today. The organizational approach to defining the Wiki was very accessible to me and I have no experience with Wikis. I appreciate the references to students’ needs as well as instructors’ needs. Chapter 7 also has a great length. It neither cuts off abruptly, nor carries on for too long. I cannot offer any weaknesses on this Chapter as this is my first encounter with Wiki. I did not feel, upon reading the material, that anything was lacking.
Chapter 8′s only weakness was that the concept was a little confusing, however, that assessment is based entirely on my novice experience with Wikibooks. I had to reread some sections just to visualize an online collaborative project that is a different beast from a typical Wiki page. Chapter 8′s strengths follow Chapter’s 7′s in that it is extremely well organized. I particularly liked the comparison in the academic climate of 1988 to 2008. I also found the three Wikibooks discussed to be very interesting and that the pitfalls were offered candidly and in an effective manner to provide instruction on how to create a better Wikibook. I also enjoy the “Looking to the Future” predictions in both Chapters 7 and 8.
Instructors (teachers, and in my case, lawyers) can use Wiki projects to promote thinking beyond regurgitation, to allow participants to become well versed in the forms of other people’s work product and thereby broaden horizons on the dissemination of information. Wiki projects fit right in with distance learning (and distance business collaboration). It’s much more cost effective than setting long distance conference calls or traveling out of town/state. Movable type printing presses revolutionized the flow of information because it allowed information to travel, to reach more people. Wiki projects are the next logical step in evolution of thinking. Movement of information is no longer an issue, in the form of output. The issue now is allowing information (documents, ideas, projects) to be created, in the context of input and Wiki software addresses that issue.
As I mentioned in my discussion on strengths and weaknesses, I really liked the future forecast at the end of each of these chapters. Wiki has the potential to be too powerful, too cheap and too easy not to become relevant to the future. While I think that Wiki and Wikibooks will become the routine for academia, as the book stated, possibly replacing hard copy text books, I do see a longer road for Wiki in business. In litigation, there are too many levels of standards, particularly in confidentiality and authenticity that would allow Wiki to grow as quickly as it might in education. But it is certainly not a fad.
In terms of what I learned from these chapters, I’m afraid it was all new to me. I had a very superficial concept of Wiki in that, I’ve used Wikipedia and some other lesser wikis and had a vague awareness that wikis could be edited by anyone, but that was the extent of my understanding. I’d never even heard of a Wikibook before.
These chapters absolutely gave me insight into the use of technology education. As stated above, I had a vague awareness that wikis had a sort of “accesible editing/input” concept, but I had never thought about it in terms of collaboration. I like the point the book makes about working collaboratively resulting in better ideas. After reading these chapters, I see so much value in applying Wiki to education first and business second. The chapters did leave me with questions, but only in the sense of “what next”. I’m glad our next assignment is hands on wiki experience because I want to see how well I can do it and if I can translate it into the legal practice.