Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Using a Wiki to Scaffold Primary-School Students' Collaborative Writing

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Using a Wiki to Scaffold Primary-School Students' Collaborative Writing

Article excerpt


The current technology-driven educational setting emphasizes the integration of Web 2.0 technology in language teaching and learning (Education Bureau, 2007; Richardson, 2009), and teachers are being pressured to integrate technology into their teaching. This study aims to address research problems at both a theoretical and a practical level. At the practical level, how can we integrate Web 2.0 technology (e.g., wikis) into daily English-language writing lessons with primary-school students? What are the benefits and potential of this technology for teachers and students in Hong Kong, where English is taught as a second language (L2)? Does wiki technology enhance students' writing and, if so, in what way? How can we harness the power of collaborative technology into an effective teaching tool?

At the theoretical level, many studies have started to appear on the application of Web 2.0 in education involving collaborative tools called wikis. The studies examine the application of wikis and explore their usage potential, the effects they have on student learning, and their effectiveness when used with appropriate instructional practices. They occur across different subject disciplines, including English language, geography, engineering, and library and information science, at both the tertiary and the secondary level (Chu, 2008; Engstrom & Jewett, 2005; Mak & Coniam, 2008; Nicol, Littlejohn, & Grierson, 2005). However, whether or not these findings are applicable to young learners at the primary school level and whether they are transferable to young L2 learners needs further investigation.

A case-study approach was used to explore the challenges and potential benefits that a wiki may bring to students and their teacher in a local Hong Kong upper-primary English-language class. The findings may help illuminate the potential of Web 2.0, specifically wikis, for helping to scaffold young L2 writers in creative reasoning and meaningful learning. The notion of "scaffolding," rooted in the Vygotskian concept of "zone of proximal development," was coined by Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976) and refers to teacher and peer support that enables learners to attain a higher level of achievement than they would be able to do by themselves. Our study investigated the students' and teachers' perceptions about wiki's key affordances and how they helped scaffold young L2 learners in their writing through teacher and peer social interaction and collaboration.

Literature review

Literature on collaborative learning in second-language (L2) acquisition strongly supports the importance of social interaction and collaboration in L2 learning (Saville-Troike, 2006) and writing (Hyland, 2003). Most of the literature views technology-supported collaborative learning using computer-mediated communication in L2 learning in a positive light (Jones, Garralda, Li, & Lock, 2006). New technologies have had a tremendous impact on the teaching and learning of writing in the last few decades (Goldberg, Russell, & Cook, 2003; Hyland, 2003), and there are both advantages and disadvantages in using technologies for L2 writing. Although some researchers have been critical of computer-aided/assisted instruction in language learning (Angrist & Lavy, 2002), generally, the literature seems to point to web-based collaborative learning as potentially promising technology in language learning as well as in writing (Goodwin-Jones, 2003).

Gibson (1986) first coined the term "affordances" as what the environment offers and provides as perceived by the subjects living in it. Similarly, Norman (1998) describes affordances of a tool as both the perceived and actual properties of a tool that determine how it can be used by the user. For technology implementation to be effective, the affordances provided by a wiki and the affordances required by a learning task need to match (Bower, 2008). In computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL), Kirschner, Strijbos, Kreijns, and Beers (2004) distinguish three types of affordances: educational, social, and technological. …

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