This week’s assignment for the 13 things @ Coe is all about using wikis. Someone stated that wiki means “fast” and the word has been back-tracked to stand for “what I know is.” What follows in this blog post was originally posted on the 13 things @ Coe wiki. It might have changed there since I posted it, but here’s what I originally wrote : )
I have often found myself telling students, “Wikipedia does not count as a resource.” I teach a leadership course to some pretty amazing students at The University of Iowa each summer and we do a research project to capstone their learning. The first day in the computer lab, we always talk about how to find valuable information on the web, and what that looks like. First of all, there are a ton of resources online to tell you how to find reliable resources online. Ah, the redundancy and information hole that is the world wide web. Here’s one “collection” of useful sites: Teacher Tab: Evaluating Internet Resources. Thanks, google (again).
What makes a reliable internet source?
- Author(ity) — who is the author and are they credible?
- Objectivity — is the information biased?
- Authenticity — where did the information come from?
- Reliability — is the information accurate?
- Timeliness — is the information current?
- Relevance — is this information helpful?
- Efficiency — is it easy to find the information you need?
What’s unfortunate is that many “wiki” sites, and even blogs, have many of the criteria generally used to evaluate a “good” source. Wikipedia, for example, can cite the author and where the information originated, offer accurate and incredibly current, helpful information and for all other purposes appear as a credible source. There are even ways to warn other people that the information presented might be biased so that you can keep looking for more information. Blogs function in much the same way, and can seem even more reliable because we “know” the author.
What does this mean for wikis and education? Part of me screams, “Danger, Will Robinson, danger!” The other part of me thinks (a little more quietly), “hmmm…cool.” I’ve used Wikipedia more times than I could even think of counting as a starting point for research, whether about a word or term I’ve never heard of, or to learn about something interesting to me personally, like the tree of life and Great Danes. We used wikis a little bit as a part of the Residence Life Staff Moodle page this past year. My staff didn’t like them and felt in many ways that they were a more difficult and timely process than just emailing in a journal and keeping the handwritten duty log in the office. I was really surprised. I would personally much rather type than write by hand…usually. Then again, a piece of paper is a little more portable than a computer on rounds of the building.
I do like that wikis offer a different element than google docs in that it’s more like an active webpage with links, different pages to navigate among, etc. At the same time, the “usability” and familiarity of the Microsoft counterparts of google docs might mean that students are a little more apt to jump on board with them. This generation is pretty adaptable1, though, so only time will tell, I suppose.
We’ll see where wikis take me this year. I’m enjoying the collaborative nature of the wiki and seeing everyone’s contributions. This is a lot easier than reading everyone’s blog! At the same time, it’s not as easy to find specific information within the wiki like you can with each singular blog post (by tagging it). What I don’t like all at the same time is that this is a rolling conversation in a lot of ways. We read what’s written, identify ourselves, offer our own information, and then maybe respond to some other participant’s information. This becomes a little muddled, like the brown eggs Bruce wrote about. Should I comment right after someone else’s edit? Do I identify myself so they know who edited it? Should I just add a footnote? I don’t know the rules, and as a “J” on Myers-Briggs, I desperately want some structure. At the same time, there are endless possibilities here. A wiki might be the penultimate version of truly giving up authority on knowledge when it comes to web 2.0 — something I am realizing I might be a little less comfortable with than I initially hoped.
I’ll still tell the students in my classroom that Wikipedia is not a credible source, though it can very well lead to some and I’ll continue to use it myself for the random information gathering I do online. If I use wikis, I’ll probably set up some structure, at least until we get to a place where we feel comfortable exploring without some structure. I hope to experiment with some additional ways to incorporate these things into my work in the fall, most likely with the RA and ARD staff. This should fit nicely with my goal to be better company for the journey.
until next time, ekg