Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Using Wikis for Learning and Knowledge Building: Results of an Experimental Study

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Using Wikis for Learning and Knowledge Building: Results of an Experimental Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the last few years, various technologies and tools have been developed that provide opportunities for computer-supported knowledge exchange (Cress, Kimmerle, & Hesse, 2006; Kimmerle, Cress, & Hesse, 2007), as well as for computer-assisted learning and collaborative knowledge building (Bryant, 2006). Technologies that support people in communicating, interacting, and collaborating in large communities are referred to as "social software" (cf. Kolbitsch & Maurer, 2006). The collaborative development of knowledge that is enabled by social software illustrates quite nicely what Scardamalia and Bereiter (1994, 1996, 2003) describe in their theory of knowledge building. Knowledge building in the web is virtually scaled up from smaller groups (e.g., a class or a team in an organization) to large communities of users. Wikipedia, the Online Encyclopaedia, is one of the most frequently cited examples of this phenomenon (cf. Baytiyeh & Pfaffman, 2010; Goldspink, 2010): 13.8 million registered and many other unregistered users have contributed more than 3.5 million articles to the English version of the Wikipedia (figures of January 2011). This success story of social software on the Internet has convinced many people to apply social-software tools in educational contexts as well (Evans, 2008; Fessakis, Tatsis, & Dimitracopoulou, 2008; Kim, 2008). It is assumed that social software has a great potential in the context of learning and knowledge building, both in formal and informal learning situations (Bryant, 2006; Parker & Chao, 2007; Wang & Turner, 2004).

Wikis are particularly interesting for learning purposes (Reinhold, 2006; Shih, Tseng, & Yang, 2008; Wang & Turner, 2004; Yukawa, 2006). Wikis may be characterized as collections of websites on intranets or the Internet. Such websites cannot only be read by users, but may also be edited by any participant (Leuf & Cunningham, 2001). In a wiki, people may generate content and link it to other content, using hyperlinks. Users are allowed to change text, insert new text, or even delete the whole text of a wiki or parts of it. In this way, a community of wiki users can work together in order to create one shared digital artefact. Thus, working on a wiki enables a collaborative development of knowledge (Kohler & Fuchs-Kittowski, 2005) and leads to knowledge building as the creation of new and innovative knowledge. Users can use a wiki to share their knowledge, create a joint artefact, discuss and integrate different opinions, develop innovative ideas. This may, at the same time, lead to individual learning. Thus, wikis may be considered as powerful tools for learning and knowledge building in educational contexts.

The initial enthusiasm has settled down, however. Some practitioners report on the pitfalls of social software in educational contexts (cf. Cole, 2009). Often, students use wikis as a read-only-source. They will not change any content and seem not to be motivated to construct knowledge together with others. It seems that the success of a real social web (e.g., Wikipedia) cannot directly be transferred into classroom (Forte & Bruckman, 2006). Using wikis in educational contexts will not per se lead to learning and knowledge building. So the main issue of this paper is to examine the process of individual learning and collaborative knowledge building with wikis and specify the circumstances under which these processes may be successful. The first part of the paper gives a short survey of psychological and educational approaches that are helpful to understand individual learning and collaborative knowledge building with wikis. In the second part of the paper, we report on an experimental study that focused on incongruity between the knowledge of individuals and the information contained in a wiki, as an important trigger for processes of learning and knowledge building. The final part of the paper aims at integrating theoretical assumptions and empirical results, and suggests further implication for the use of wikis and other social software in educational contexts. …

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