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I recently created a brief presentation on wiki’s.  I have been reading, creating and changing wikis for a while now.  However, when I created this presentation, I was amazed at how much information and uses there were out there on Internet for wikis.  So, where did the word come from?  The word itself, “Wiki”, is derived from the Hawaiian word “wiki wiki”, which is used to describe something “quick” or “fast”.   Ok, so what is a wiki?  Well, a wiki is basically a website where users are able to add, remove, and edit every web page, within a web browser such as Internet Explorer and Firefox.  Unlike a typical webpage, as we know them, a wiki allows for easy access to internet publishing.  You don’t need to have intimate knowledge of HTML, PERL, XML or any other coding language, to get started.  All you really need is to be able to connect to the internet and then write.    OK, so wiki means quick and fast, sounds right up the Internet,  and our fast paced, immediate gratification, world’s alley.  But you might ask, “what can it really offer me?”  I would suggest there are several key elements that it offers. One being, collaborative knowledge building and storage.  Sounds spacious right, well it is!  It can give users the ability to organize;  knowledge, ideas, information, projects, create discussions and much more.  As powerful as that sounds, it also offers something that one might not really think is that great, but can be supremely helpful.  Wiki’s track document changes or basically, it keeps a running history.   Well, no big deal you might think, ohh but it is!  It gives you the ability  to compare side by side changes in the documentation and can allow you to revert to older version or put back removed content.  This can be extremely handy as you will be able get your stuff back!  Lastly, it is available to anyone, anywhere at anytime.

So a bit of history.  Ward Cunningham, in 1994 created Wiki software that he coined the WikiWikiWeb.  Cunningham named from the Wiki-Wiki Shuttle, which serves the Honolulu airport. His purpose was to create a tool for his office that would provide a quick and easy way to edit webpages.  Then around 2000 a fairly typical encyclopedia web based site called Nupedia was setup and only lasted about 3 years.  It’s articles were written by experts which would certainly be consider very important.  However, this limited it’s content enhancing ability and support.  Around a year later,  the same group who had started Nupedia, started Wikipedia.  As most of us know already, Wikipedia is considered the mother of all wiki’s and houses over 41 million entries contained in 264 “wikipedias” which are basically individual wikipedia’s that are in different languages.  This information can be found here http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/List_of_Wikipedias .  The largest “wikipedia, being English, hosts over 2 million “official articles” which are considered “encyclopedic” information and over 12 million non-articles which are considered user pages, images, talk pages, “project” pages, categories and templates for a total of more then 15 million and as mentioned, that is just English language entries.   As you can see the use of Wikis and specifically, Wikipedia, has made a significant internet informational impact.

So then where is the wiki?  Well if you have been on the internet, chances are it’s already in your browser bookmarks, your online reading, research, or schools.  As I mentioned the largest and most prosperous wiki, Wikipedia, offers a plethora of information.   Although wiki’s are usable in almost any application for information collaboration , one of there most thriving focuses is within education.    Education offers the most prolific use of wiki’s.   We can see there use in every discipline and grade level.   For example, the ACM wiki at UIUC (https://www-s.acm.uiuc.edu/wiki/space/home) which provides an information and collaboration site , English 15 Rhetoric and Composition at Penn State University, offering their students class info, readings and assignments in one neat package (http://epochewiki.pbwiki.com/RhetoricAndComposition),  and last but not least my workplace wiki, ACCC’s Micro Repair wiki where we collaborate and keep a store house of documentation (https://tigger.uic.edu/htbin/perlwrap-auth/csoadmin/wiki/view/Main/MicroRepair).   These are just the tip of the wikiberg and you can easily find tons of examples, just do a search.  I had 39,000,000 hits in google when I typed in “wiki and education”.

There are tons of freely available wiki websites out there where anyone can start their own wiki page anytime.  Such as WikidotPbwiki and Wetpaint, to name a few.   These sites offer easy and free sign up, setup and support.   Most offer step by step instructions on how to use their site as well as training videos.  Along with that most have good and active forums where you can obtain valuable support.  Even if you don’t have an idea in mind, start a page and see where it leads you…
So… we found out what a wiki is, who made it and a brief history about it, also we looked into where wiki’s are and some of those using them.   However, even with all that information there is still that, “why” should I/we join all those others that are jumping off that bridge?   Why should I, it has its dangers…

Well, what are the common issues?  There is the fact that Wiki’s are “open” documents, anyone can edit it, change it and not always for the good.  Yes, this is true and there is going to be a bit of trust involved with a wiki, but the beauty is the ability to change it.  Information out of date?  Change it.   Information incorrect?  Change it.  Wiki page completely messed up?  Use the history and upload an earlier revision.  It is a simple matter to fix the problems.   Ok, well if wiki’s are open and I want to use one in my k-12 school/classroom how do I protect my students information?   Indeed there is a sizable need to protect under aged students information and it is best to seek out your school districts policies.  However, it is still worth the effort to use a wiki, even if it must remain restricted within the classroom/school.   Your school can learn the ins and outs and then the benefits of wikiing and may in turn re-evaluate restrictions based on good computing and security practices created from its use.  There is also a concern for copyright infringement.  This can certainly be very difficult to ascertain and track.  There are several ways to combat this,  primarily, teaching good source documentation practices.   Why reinvent the wheel, if the information is already out there, point to it, quote it, and then source it.  This is a great use for wiki’s, a store house for all of your great class links.  Get familiar with copyright laws and “fair use”, there are a ton of good sites that can give it to you in layman’s terms.  One really good one is the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s FAQ on “Fair Use”.

Maybe your fears are not completely settled but here is a short list of what you may be missing out on…
A space for writing exercises and practice
A space for group project collaboration
A space for book discussions
A space for planning
A space of development
A space for leaning

Have you seen your wiki today?

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:HNL_Wiki_Wiki_Bus.jpg – PPT slide background image
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/List_of_Wikipedias – wiki stats
http://www.uwm.edu/Libraries/courses/wiki/1.html – background information about wiki’s
http://www.classroom20.com/forum/topics/649749:Topic:34241  – Effective  use of wiki’s discussion
http://www.techlearning.com/story/showArticle.php?articleID=196604182 – Wiki word definition
http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2006/07/07/what-is-a-wiki.html – General information about wiki’s

So, online classroom… You might thinking, huh… “online”, “classroom”?  But if you have not experienced the many, many benefits of both being a student and teaching, in and using an online environment, I would suggest to you that you are missing out on an excellent experience!  I am a current student in an online master’s program and have had a learning and even teaching eye opener.  I found this to be the case for many of the students who are in my cohort and came across Rita’s blog posting, “Student & Teacher in Online Classroom”.   Her post provides a frank and honest view of her experiences learning and teaching in an online environment.  Like most of us and as Rita mentions, “thought that an online program would be lacking in interaction – boy was I wrong.”  I was too!  I was amazed at the constructive, engaging and insightful chats, forums, wiki’s and blogs were within the context of learning.   I have used instant messaging, forums and recently wiki’s for many other uses, mostly with online gaming and it had certainly enhanced that experience.  But, I was even more excited to see how much more it benefited education.

With online learning environments, I believe, we are seeing a change in the traditional “fact to face” learning environment.   As Rita mentions, “I truly feel that I interact with my classmates and instructors more often and on a more complex level than I ever have in a face to face environment.”  I agree, online learning provides a content rich and is very interactive.  However, one of the key elements to creating a successful online interaction is preparation and participation and dare I say, a heightened ability to multi-task.  As Rita discusses in her blog, we had a chance to create and “teach”, for 10 minutes, an online learning session.  As with Rita, I too was a bit on edge about creating and running the session.  Since I went dead last, I thought I had a little bit of an advantage,  being able to see some of the high and low points of presenting online.  However, even with this advantage and as Rita mentions, “I felt overwhelmed by all of the interaction going on.”  This was truly the case.  Trying to keep my conversation going, managing the slides and trying to look at chat, I felt like I was in a whirlwind and need five eyes and two brains.  I did however, truly enjoy and came away from the experience with a greater understanding and appreation of both the environment and the abilities of those useing it for teaching and learning.  I however, have a lot of experience to gain before i will be able to create a highly engaging learning environment but, I think that I am on my way!

I wrote this as a comment to my blog posting of “The future is… How We Educate” and I wanted to move them to a blog post.  It stands as more of a follow up blog posting then just comments…

The first time I saw the video, “Web 2.0… The Machine is US/ing Us”, I was so impressed at how the “history”, development and impact the Internet has had on global communication was presented. The evolution of how we have come to communicate with each other is amazing and scary all at the same time.

As I watched the video, I began to feel just how small the world is becoming, so to speak, and how connected we all can be… Web 2.0 can and has truly made and impact on education, allowing teachers to provide much needed blended learning, immediate feedback, unlimited research capability, social impact and versatile communication with students and parents.

However, with “great power comes great responsibility.” I think many many teachers feel very intimidated by not only technology but the expansive amount of tools that are available to them. Along with the “scaryness” of just learning technology, how to integrate it is an even bigger one. “Ok, I have all of these tools, software, hardware, what do I do with it all, who will show me how to use them?” I see this all the time at UIC. It may not be actually said, but I can see it on the professors faces. At the university level, we have so much technology available, so much support and open avenues to try new software and hardware within our education environment. I know that at the K-12 level, teachers have similar problems but don’t have as much support and open avenues for experimentation and believe it is much more of an issue at the K-12 level.

UIC has recently opened, UIC Prep which is a High School ran by the university. I think this is where we need to go, the universities need to really involve themselves within the K-12 school districts to help develop and support technology, we have the resources, we need to use them.

On a last note, is the “machine us/ing us?” I would say yes and I would not consider it a bad thing, at this point. As it says the “machine is us” we develop bigger and better ways to go global, educate, communicate, etc, etc ,etc. We are creating for ourselves…

Please check out this digital story I created.  I came up with the idea while my wife and I were looking over old video’s and pictures.   As we all know, kids have lots of energy (still waiting on the science discovery that lets us tap into it) and I have tons of videos of them doing all kinds of crazy fun stuff.   It occurred to me, that their actions reflected some of the principles of physics.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a rocket scientist, but watching them made me think of how they learn.   As you can see, they are not aware of the “defined principles” of physics, but they sure do put them to the test!

In the end, they are always learning, even if they don’t know that they are…

Mike

Web 2.0, as it has been termed, has spawned a multitude of new and exciting ways to utilize, work with, work in, communicate and collaborate within the Internet.   One the biggest influences web 2.0 labeled applications has is with turning how we communicate with one another, on its head.  With the development of applications such as Facebook, MySpace, Blogging, Twitter, Delicious and the like, it has made building “your web” a reality.  No longer does it require you to understand programming, web design, and access protocols.  If you have access to the Internet, you have access to create your own image, your own world and share it.  As mentioned in The Horizon Report 2008 Edition,

We are seeing a shift in focus; where the primary purpose of the web has been seen as sharing files and applications, there is a growing sense that the real value of the network lies in the way it helps us create, identify, and sustain relationships. This seemingly subtle change—from an emphasis on file sharing to one on relationships— will have a profound impact on the way we will work, play, create, and interact online.

As educators this new and exciting way to socialize and educate goes far beyond the pen pals days, notes tied to balloons and even email.  We have before us an opportunity to bring the world to our classrooms as well as open it to the world.  How can we do it, how does it work, what do I have to be worried about, will I really have the time?  These questions have and continue to plague technology integration in education.  However, we must, absolutely must, work to answer them or we will have our students answer them for us.  As a teacher, it is not only our duty to “teach,” but also to learn, and with technology it may not be such a bad thing to have students, help answer these questions.  I cannot think of a better way to motivate learning then using the everyday technology tools students’ use, such as Facebook or Blogging.  With Facebook a teacher has the ability to create a “web space” for their class where students can collaborate on projects, homework or have extended discussion.   Blogging offers topic discussion and evaluation, promotion of ideas and insights on any range of topics.    These tools and ideas are just a drop in the bucket as to what can be had by embracing technology…

Mike

How we educate has, and will, change dramatically as well as exponentially in the years to come.    If we are to “keep up,” we will need to think, technically and globally.   We as teachers and parents must learn along with integrate ourselves into this technological world we live in, if we are to understand how to interface and educate in the 21st century.   However, we face many hurdles such as basic understanding in regards to the use of technology such as computers, software, the Internet, as well as emerging technologies within our classrooms.   Additionally, we must reevaluate our definition of teaching and classroom, and the meaning of the the words “teacher” and “classroom.”  It’s outdated use and meaning will change whether or not we like it and we must be willing to nurture this change.

There are many key elements involved with FutureED which must be considered:

– “Teacher’s” excitement and willingness to learn/understand technology in education

– Administrators understanding and ability to promote technology change in education

– Training

– Development, by educators for educators

– Thinking Globally

– Web 2.0

– and many many others…

One of my favorite videos, “Web 2.0… The Machine is US/ing Us”  provides insight regarding changes in the way we communicate, learn, collaborate as well as how we are linking to one another, breaking borders and living globally.

We have an exciting road ahead of us and I am tieing up my shoes, dusting off my hat and am ready to go!