Image via WikipediaJon F. Orech, a teacher at Downers Grove South High School wrote in Turbo-Charged Wikis: Technology Embraces Cooperative Learning about challenges in the use of wikis for collaborative learning:
Orech continues in his post to describe Johnson and Johnson's strategies to collaborative wiki projects. He summarizes the approaches and provides examples from his experiences that I will try to incorporate into our iTeam work. I recommend Orech's suggestions to anyone considering wikis for collaborative learning. Orech also includes links to a couple of popular hosted wikis that encourage use of their tools for education by providing free educational spaces and support specifically oriented toward educators:
When educators first tried wikis in the classroom, the realities often fell short of expectations. Usually students were disinterested in the topics or were not familiar with the technology, or were not adept with collaborative writing. The results usually consisted of disproportionate work distribution and copy-and-pasting: in other words, very little learning. Even if the work was evenly distributed, it resembled a “quilt,” with each student stitching in their own panel with little regard for what their partners wrote.
What was missing was a sound pedagogy for learning. By infusing structured Cooperative Learning strategies (Johnson and Johnson, University of Minnesota http://www.co-operation.org/) student-generated wikis become a much more productive activity.
Some of the more readily usable wiki interfaces are http://wikispaces.com and http://pbwiki.com. A slick website that evaluates wikis head to head is http://wikimatrix.org. Try it!The selection of the most appropriate tool for your situation can be a daunting task (dozens of criteria for dozens of candidates). The third link in Orech's recommendations provides a web-based wizard to help with the selection process. Unfortunately, the Wikimatrix designers have not included many pedagogical criteria. I have used PBWiki (msad75.pbwiki.com), and Wikispaces (an experimental site before PBWiki solved the challenge of accounts for students who don't have email).
Do they differ pedagogically? Does it matter in the constant development of new features?