During week two for the ICTs for Learning Design course we are required to post a reflective blog post on the “Mobile phones wiki” exercise. This is mine.

About the task

In order to reflect upon the role of mobile phones in education we’re required to read some resources and contribute to a wiki. The contributions to the wiki are organised using de Bono’s six thinking hats.

Reflection on my learning

Mm, not so good. When I first visited the Wiki there was no information, so I contributed drawing on some resources I found and left it at that. I’ve just gone back to the wiki to see what has evolved and there is a lot more information on it from a range of folk. The problem is, however, that my contributions are no longer showing up and are apparently not evident in the “history” of the Wiki.

This experience has limited my learning, at least in terms of what was possibly expected. Not in some small part because I am now feeling somewhat frustrated by the whole experience. Both because of the apparent technical problems robbing me of a learning experience but also because I have a general belief that Wikis restricted to members of a class are not really wikis. Though my current frustration may be creating an overly negative reflection.

One thing I have learned is that Wikis are not necessarily effective if there is no on-going use of the information. For example, if I had completed this reflection yesterday after initially contributing to it, I would not have benefited from seeing insights from others. The exercise would have been little different from creating a blog post. Even now, with contributions from others, I wonder how much the use of the Wiki has contributed to merging and improving of ideas. Or have students simply looked for bits that aren’t there and added that as their contribution. The students seem to have add their initials (e.g. (DJ)) to their contributions.

Perhaps what the experience has reinforced is that “the characteristics of the wiki design” encompass a number of different dimensions, including

  • The nature of the technology.
    The Moodle wiki is pretty bad from a couple of perspectives, especially because it is shut off within the course site. But also includes how it is implemented within a particular context, and it appears there may have been problems with this particular course wiki.
  • The connection with the sequence of learning, or how it is introduced/connected.
    In this case, the sequence of learning was talking about “learning design frameworks” such as engagement theory etc and how we might use those to design lessons with ICTs. Then, all of a sudden we’ve jumped over to mobile phones, 6 thinking hats and a wiki. There was no immediate connection in my mind, it seemed somewhat arbitrary and wasn’t explained. Arguably it was also in direct contravention to engagement theory, something we’d just read about. This wiki was not open to other folk, it was not something we were producing for other people. A better approach might have been for us to create this wiki page on Wikieducator.
  • What students understand.
    The mindset and purpose of students will influence how an activity is seen. I don’t think many of the students appreciate that one of the features of a Wiki is the ability to edit other people’s work. It appears most students have added their bit separately, rather than merging and modifying something someone has already written (need to look further to prove this). There’s the pragmatic need to be seen to be fulfilling the task, contributing their bit by putting their initials next to their contribution. In part, this comes back to how this activity was introduced. I don’t think Wikis have been explained well, especially this point about collaborative authoring.

Reflection on potential for my learners

I doubt that I would use this sort of activity (closed wiki, disconnected activity, limited introduction of wikis, not for an external audience) with my learners. The basic idea, however, of using scaffolded, collaborative authoring on a Wiki does have some significant potential.

Perhaps a better example of the type of activity that I see as having significant potential would be to replace this activity with the task of creating a Wikipedia page for learning engagement theory. Or the task suggested above, create a mobile phones in education page on the Wikieducator site. Of course, these types of ideas require some significant extra work and time. The scaffolding for a Wikipedia page would take some significant work, but we would not be the first so hopefully there would be resources out there to use.

Thinking specifically of my likely teaching in secondary mathematics and information technology. I can see both these types of activities (Wikipedia or Wikieducator) as having potential. Especially with my idea/dream for a senior IT course that would engage the students with the task of making a significant contribution to an open source product. One approach would be for the entire cohort to work on the same open source product, but possibly work on different plugins. So, separate work but still a common collection of knowledge. Most open source projects (I’m thinking Moodle here) don’t have real great resources for beginning developers. One of the sub-projects the students could have would be to create these resources, or at least start contributing some. A wiki would be an obvious place to start.

Constructivism, Connectivism, Behaviourism, Cognitivism

Again, I think there can be the distinction drawn between the learning theory that was intended in the design and the “theory” that drove how students implemented the task. As intended I’m guessing that there is a heavy constructivist flavour in terms of getting folk to construct their own meaning, contributed that to the wiki and the gain value from seeing (and maybe modifying) the contributions of others. However, as discussed above, I’m unsure just how much collaboration went on. The 6 thinking hats provided some scaffolding and this reflection activity has engaged a bit of meta-cognition.

Arguably there are some glimmers of connectivism, but very faint and I assume, unintentional.