Thursday, July 23, 2009

5.3.2: The wiki way of knowing

In their article "The wiki way of learning" (AJET 25(2), 135-152 [PDF]), Ruth & Houghton (2009) make a clear and useful distinction between wikis as 'coming to know' and wikis as 'reproducing knowledge'.

In the case study, Ruth & Houghton demonstrate how a wiki can be used effectively in both undergraduate and postgraduate contexts by focussing on the process rather than the product (though, it seems, the proiduct was also quite good!) The article emphasises the need for careful structure as novice perspectives are blended in with those of experts.

Ruth & Houghton (2009) seem to have achieved the ultimate goal for progressive educators - a 'community of practice' within a tertiary course setting. Part of the reason why the case was successful rests on what drew them together - the creation of a course text. The nature of the subject ("Mobile Workforce Technologies") is such that any text prescribed would be quickly outdated: "In the course, the catalyst is, in part, the lack of a defined textbook and the desire to have the latest information" (p.146).

In some ways it is frustrating that Ruth & Houghton do not provide an actual evaluation of the course, but their case does illustrate the 'wiki epistemology' of collaboration, construction/co-construction, different ways of learning, egalitarian participation (a term I prefer to their "the authority of 'the expert' is undermind", p.148), and a constructionist orientation.

Critically, Ruth & Houghton point out that "Collaboration and construction/co-construction are useful where definitive knowlegde is not available, or where processes are in stages of development" (p.148). Such is the case with their course. It is also clear that the lecturers themselves were motivating and dedicated to the outcome, and gave careful consideration to the role the wiki would play. An excellent example of how extending tools can extend!

1 comment:

LukeH said...

Hi there,

Good points made... and thanks for talking about our paper. Good to see such genuine enthusiasm for e-learning.

Luke.