Wikis, collaboration and the role of the teacher

I’m a fan of using wikis as a tool for collaborative learning – in my context, I’ve used it as a professional development activity for tertiary educators. I’ve briefly outlined some of the benefits I’ve perceived in an earlier post: Read-write learning in professional development

Wiki pegboard by Luigi ChiesaIn an recent Educause conference paper entitled Within the Wiki: Best Practices for Educators, Barbara Schroeder describes 10 ‘instructional strategies for successful learning with wikis.’ This is a really useful list of guidelines for teachers planning to incorporate the use of wikis into courses.

The teacher’s role

One of Schroeder’s guidelines is ‘define and identify roles for collaborative activities.’ From my own experience, I’d add that it’s important to be clear about your own role as teacher/facilitator. For example, what will you do when a student contributes information which you can see is clearly wrong or misinformed? You could:

  • Ignore it
  • Correct it
  • Point out privately or publicly that it’s incorrect
  • Hope that another student corrects it
  • Give someone the role of responding

Each of these has advantages and drawbacks!

The truly collaborative wiki has the potential to change the power balance between teachers and learners and their respective roles: no longer is the teacher the sole source of authoritative knowledge. On the other hand, ‘wrong’ information can be detrimental and even dangerous, in vocational or academic education. It’s important to be clear about your own role in relation to the shared knowledge and communicate this to learners beforehand.

Photo: wiki pegboard by Luigi Chiesa.

2 thoughts on “Wikis, collaboration and the role of the teacher

  1. Barbara Schroeder

    Thanks Paul for noticing my paper about wikis and your comments. You have brought up a very important point about what to do when students are misinformed or make mistakes. I ran across your blog when looking for research on using blogs and found your blog/wiki matrix very helpful and interesting. We have along way to go in education, since I think we are still trying to make emerging technologies adapt to our existing ways of teaching instead of trying to figure out what these new technologies are showing/telling us about how we should and want to learn. Thanks for your blog and the work you do.

  2. Paul Left Post author

    Great to see you here, Barbara – thanks for the feedback! I’m glad you found the read-write matrix helpful.

    Yes, the potential of new technologies is great, and I enjoy the dialogue with others who are exploring how they can be best used to enhance and transform learning and teaching.

    Thanks again for your input.


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