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
In 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.