Posts Tagged 'collaborative writing'

Wikis and Writing in Higher Education

As a result of weather conditions here in the Northeast, I found that I had no phone or Internet service yesterday.  What was I to do?  I felt so disconnected. No blogging, no tweeting, no Youtubing, no ninging – I was at a loss.  Then I realized that I could revisit an older source of learning – reading a book.  How unique!  It just so happens that the day before I received a copy of Wiki Writing: Collaborative Learning in the College Classroom by Cummings and Baron.  So with cappuccino in hand, I dove it.

This book is a collection of essays from college and university faculty from the fields of English, rhetoric and composition, communication, writing, and cultural studies, just to name a few.  The pieces focus on theoretical aspects of writing in general and wiki writing in particular as well as practical applications of using wiki technology in college courses.  Many of the authors either conduct research on the collaborative aspects of wiki writing or refer to prior research in related fields. As I read through many of the essays I was comforted by references to the works of Ann Berthoff, Donald Murray, Andrea Lunsford and Lisa Ede, Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia, Kenneth Bruffee, all of whom I have read and cited during my earlier years a teacher and researcher of writing processes.  After having read so much this semester from technology experts (who have their own language, of sorts) , it was good to feel familiar again. So, I guess as the old saying goes – we often come back full circle (or something like that).

One particular essaythat I will comment on here is by one of the editors, Matt Baron.  His essay entitled, “Is there a wiki in this class? Wikibooks and the future of higher education,” describes the ways he has used wikis in his graduate courses and offers some comments to ponder.  One that stuck with me is that “wikis are communities of people, not just data bases of files.”  This comment made me think about the role the instructor has to play in setting up the communitity and providing support for it as necessary.  Along with this idea is the his view about how the community will function and what students need to know about the views of the community and wiki etiquette (although he does not call it that per se).  He remarked that “knowing how to change a page is one thing; knowing how to make an approrpriate change that will be accepted by the community is another.”   As I read this remark, I thought about my own use of wikis in courses and the ways in which I paid more attention to technical skills than creating a community – I mistake that I hopefully will not make again.

During Barton’s course he had students read Lawrence Lessig’s book – Free Culture – because he views wikis as “democratic liberation” (see a prior post for info on Free Culture).  I concur that wikis can have more far-reaching effects than many of us novice users have yet to discover.  And, it is good to know that scholars from a variety of related fields are researching this important avenue for collaboration.  Maybe one day I will too.

August 2020