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Posts Tagged ‘collaboration group team’

Using wiki with students as a notebook for ICT learning

Executive summary

In this report I will explain what is a wiki and how I use it in my ICT course with my students as a participative notebook. I will point out the different outcomes and drawbacks I have noticed after two years of practice. Finally I will provide some recommendations for using wikis with students and give some further readings.

Background

Although the web service Wikipedia is well known by most Internet users, the concept behind wiki remain obscure for most of them. A wiki is a piece of software usually accessible on the web in which users can create, edit and improve text as in a word processor.
Text authors embed links, multi-media such as images, sound or video. Wikis are called social tool because they let other users to interact with published media and edit in the same time or at different time. Documents can then be created within a group of users. Authors or wiki managers can attribute roles to each actor and limit the right to edit or create to certain or all readers/users.
An history is preserved and shows all the editing together with the name of those who made them. From this, it is always possible to rollback and return to a previous version of the wiki documents or to decide to purge the history and then freeze the document in its latest stage.

Current practice

With my first year Gymnasium students (secondary school, students in age 16-17) I give an IT course. This course is given half class (about 16 students) every two weeks. One of the most problems is students’ memorisation of taught concepts between two session. Sometimes, taking account of the holiday and imponderables more than one month can separate two lessons.
Until 2007, I requested students to take notes of what we studied during a lesson. Especially when working on Excel with some complex formula or concepts. More than
once, notes were lost and not taken by students and then assessment always shows poor results.
Since 2008, after each didactic sequence, students are asked to write a small report on a wiki for memory. They also have to write step-by-step instructions to show they have understood how to proceed with tasks and to remember the process in the future. These notes are shared among the groups and each member can come on one other’s wiki and edit it if he finds that corrections have to be done.
The result of this is already a better rate of pass at the final assessment. I have observed that students go by themselves to find information in their wiki’s notes whenever they need to recall some procedure in Excel or in Word. They are more critics on the notes they take and on the notes others have taken.
In the future I would like to observe whether the reflexive task requested after each learning sequences gives students more confidence or doesn’t change long term retention.

Recommendation

To extend or adapt use of wikis in teaching, we must be aware that a wiki is not a tool our students have already use. A phase of learning a about the tools is essential, and exercises using wikipedia, for example, could be positive.
Installation of wiki is relatively complicated. But a simple wiki with basic functions is available in Moodle as activity. This activity module supports groups and grouping to crate group, private, or class wikis.
Without tasks that demand collaboration a wiki is useless. And wikis are to develop interactive and dynamic, multimedia, hyperlinked documents. For any other use of text processing, wikis have to be replaced by fora or blogs which are more common to practitioners.

Issues

The main issue is in the nature of wikis which is not very well understood by users. Wiki is a tools belonging to the Web 2.0 family. It encompasses collaborative, multimedia and hypertext facilities. It resembles to a word processor but has to be use differently.
Page layout editing is most of the time less straightforward than in a word processor, in a blog or in a forum. Editing wikis has some limitations that are minors if other functionalities (group, link, multimedia) are used. .

Further reading

Duffy, Peter D. and Bruns, Axel (2006) The Use of Blogs, Wikis and RSS in Education: A Conversation of Possibilities. In: Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006, 26 Sep. 2006, Brisbane. Available from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/5398/1/5398.pdf (accessed on 11 January (2010)
Educause (2005), 7 things you should know about… wikis, Educause, Available online http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7004.pdf (accessed on 10 January 20010)
Mader (2006), Using Wiki in Education, Steward Mader ed.
Richardson, W. (2009) Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for
Classrooms Corwin Press; Wikipedia (2010), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki (accessed 11 January 2010)

H808 Core Activity 6-4: Reflecting on the group dimension of professional practice

In this activity we had to work in a group, chosen by our tutor, with the aim of making a presentation. The information we received was as follows :

—- begin paste  —–

  1. You can organise your group in any way you choose; for example, by choosing a coordinator, identifying who has the necessary technical skills or agreeing on a division of labour […].
  2. You should first use the one or two cases you have agreed on, to come to a consensus on a small number (five to ten) of key principles of practice that you believe to be central to effective elearning, and which are illustrated by the case(s).
  3. Identify which features of the example cases (screenshots, text, description, etc.) you can use to illustrate the presentation.
  4. Agree on the type of presentation you will create. For example, it could be a standalone series of PowerPoint slides; PowerPoint slides with notes outlining the oral part of the presentation; a single slide constructed like a conference poster; a leaflet produced in Word or PDF; or a mini-website […]
  5. Construct the presentation […].
  6. Finally, nominate someone in the group to post the presentation […].

— end paste —-

We had two weeks to complete the task which represents in OU vocabulary about 30 hours of work. I have the habit, when working in a group, of working as much as leader as a member. I have to say I am a bit disappointed by how things happened in our group.

Working in a group

Back at the beginning someone booted up the group and for me became de facto the group’s leader, but this contribution was not followed by other guidance. Until the end of the project it remained unclear what the group really wanted to do and we did something that made, I think, most of the participants happy (though it is difficult to say due to the lack of feedback from the group members on that activity and on what we achieved).

In e-learning as in many subjects where interdisciplinarity is the keyfactor, working in a group is important. By group I mean team and I differentiate a team from a group by the following claims:

A team has a leader

A group is simply a certain amount of people in the same place (physical or virtual) not necessarily driven by the same goals and objectives. A team has a structure and usually has a leader who steers the team by organising its life, distributing the task, controlling the feasibility and the accomplishment of the different sub-tasks. The leader leads and must have the big picture in mind which he can share with the team’s members but this is not mandatory.

As Henry Mintzberg described in his “The Structuring of Organizations: A Synthesis of the Research”, first published in 1973, leadership can take different forms,  from dictatorship to democracy to adhocracy.

Maybe in our group for this task 6-3 we all believed that adhocracy would save the project and that everyone would work in the same direction, taking the same decisions at the same time, without discussing it. While this may work in a few companies in Northern Europe, it certainly could not work here because we didn’t have enough at stake in that project, and we as group members were not implicated enough in its success (= reward).

A team has clear targets

What differentiates a group from a team is the clear understanding of the target that must be reached and the means mobilised to succeed. The first thing to do is to redefine, in the group, the task, its outcomes, the process, the time and the tools to engage. All team members must have a clear view of what place they will have in the project and all the main points must have been negotiated and accepted. In sociology we call this: defining the boundary-objects (Star, 1989). Here, the activity suggested by the H808 team/tutor is not clear at all, and we should have spent time negotiating a common project. Reading forum posts in different groups it appears to me that we all had different interpretations of the task, both in our group and between the different groups’ members.

A team works together

To make people work together it is not sufficient to show them the goal and shout “go”. A preliminary phase is essential to build the team, to learn each other and trust each other before starting to work together. In a distance environment Salmon Gilly suggests a rather long period of ice-breaking and team-building at the beginning of every new project (Salmon, 2002; 2004).

Here we had no time and moreover no tutor or group leader to create that emulation. I believe, and certain other members of other groups also suggested this, that a contact with any social cues would have rendered this process obvious and quick. A quick conference with Skype, Elluminate or other tools of this kind would put all the participants together at the same time although not physically in the same place. I personally can’t consider working with a group of people without having heard their voices, seen their faces and knowing how they want to participate in a project and what they want to achieve.

For me anonymity is a limitation in group management and team building.

About the tools

Nowadays there are zillions of tools on the Web for teamworking. We worked with Google Document and we didn’t use all its potential. Collaborative tools are not necessary the easiest tool to use and need some work to understand and to delimit all their features. I just take the example of wikis: everyone knows about wikipedia but few know they can modify wikipedia content if they desire and fewer know exactly what is and how to use wikis in general.

During this activity, some other groups used Google Documents to communicate on all the different sub-tasks to be achieved by the team. In my experience it is often  simpler to adapt ourself to a known tool than trying to use new technologies promises. In our group we could have used Prezy, a web 2.0 service for presentation, instead of Google Documents – Presentation, but we preferred a more classic and limited, but relatively know tool.

Using new technologies on a so short amount of time where the target is to produce a final document is certainly too much demanding for a group, but maybe not necessarily  for a team where one person could be dedicated to discover and engage with it, in all other cases I think that the cheap and cheerful solution is certainly the best and only answer.

References

Salmon, G., 2004. E-Moderating, The Key to Online Teaching and Learning, Routledge. Available at: http://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=IBf0ZqgHhP8C&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=salmon+gilly&ots=7lgGY4RD1_&sig=QbG0F5vmACM_dUoBkTgYGnvvbhA [Accessed July 16, 2009].

Salmon, G., 2002. e-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning, London: Kogan Page. Available at: http://books.google.com.au/books?id=ZZYyTV7MwoEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=salmon+gilly&lr=&source=gbs_similarbooks_s&cad=1 [Accessed July 15, 2009].

Star S.L. & Griesemer J.R. (1989), “Institutional Ecology, ‘Translations’ and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907-39”. Social Studies of Science 19 (4) pp 387–420