Friday, October 31, 2008

Wiki choices

Wikimart Which wiki is a question which has been big in my mind for the last few weeks. I use wikis in a number of contexts, but at the moment I'm considering the technology I'm going to use next term on my final year virology course at the University of Leicester.

Over the last few weeks, I've gone backwards and forwards about WetPaint. The alternative is the Learning Objects wiki add-on for Blackboard. Both of these have advantages and disadvanatges. One of the main ones is lack of RSS output from the Learning Objects/Blackboard wiki, which WetPaint has, making assessment of individual contributions much easier. In fact, without RSS output I'm not sure how I could assess individual contributions to a group Learning Objects/Blackboard wiki. (Sigh, yes, I do have to assess, or students won't engage.) Privacy (which I hate but students like, as I found out in my forays into assessing contributions to Wikipedia) and the much greater range of content which can be embedded into Learning Objects/Blackboard wikis make me lean towards this solution.

In fact, the bigger question for me right now is group versus individual wikis. Previously on this course I have used collaborative writing on Wikipedia as an assessment format, but I was persuaded by a presentation at the HEA conference this summer to try out individual Learning Objects/Blackboard wikis this time around. However, although that might solve some of the problems with the squabbles about credit for contributions to a single group wiki, I've never felt comfortable with abandoning the idea of collaboration where knowledge is individually owned by students but socially constructed.

So right now, I'm stuck in a morass of self-doubt, both on the technology and the pedagogical fronts. Both solutions are flawed. Which is worse? Maybe I should just get the students to write a 3000 word essay and spend a boring afternoon marking them all?

Richard Badge is using the Learning Objects/Blackboard wiki as a place to keep lab notes and record gel photos, and laboratory wikis were originally a component of Small Worlds, although we've backed off promoting wiki use recently.

Maybe I'm going about this the wrong way. Perhaps the question is:

Why wiki?

Although I've never found approaching these problems from a learning outcomes perspective any more helpful than Sarah Horrigan.

Input, please?