Sunday, March 09, 2008

Wiki writers

In the Web 2.0 class last week, I asked everyone to find something on Wikipedia that they knew a lot about and to edit something on the page. I decided to do this because so many of the folks in the class had been blogging about how they couldn't imagine editing a wiki and didn't really like the idea of wikis because someone might come along and mess up what's written.

Luckily, SZ's excellent presentation on Tuesday about her own wiki helped to dispel some aversion toward wikis. But, still, I wanted writing to happen. So we all edited on Thursday.

As I was illustrating to the class what I wanted them to do, I had to think quick to try to find an entry I thought I would be able to edit. What popped into my head? Peter Elbow. So I went to his page, which is in fact surprisingly short. I edited it by adding a word to one sentence and then adding an entire sentence that linked to another Wikipedia page. That was my contribution.

The most popular pages for the folks in the class were their high school pages. Some of them had to start from scratch, while others were able to add just a sentence or two to already existing pages.

A couple of students after class blogged about still not wanting to contribute to wikis.

But what struck me about the activity is how much, really, it IS writing. There's the myth of the author, of course. But didn't the author die in the 60s? Why is that specter continuously haunting acts of writing? What is writing if it's isn't adding a little bit to what's already accumulated? Even when we're writing a whole entry (or paper or book or whatever) ourselves, we have to accumulate. Aggregate. Select. Then create some sentences. Go back and add some words. Write some new sentences.

The wiki. It *is* writing. That's what I say.

10 comments:

Jon said...

"The wiki. It *is* writing."

Ah, but tell that to the administrators. I'm teaching a course in which students have to write wikipedia articles, but only courses with traditional essays count at my uni to be considered "writing intensive."

Donna said...

Yes, well. That assumption is only just now beginning to be brought to light at my university, too. But it looks like headway is being made. (But how about this: a writing course isn't writing intensive either!)

Cool project you've got going, all the same.

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cutter said...

Hey Donna,
What do you sense is the cause for resistance?

Jon said...

I reckon you might be interested in these reflections on using wikipedia in a course. Your thoughts would be welcome.

Donna said...

Well, Robert, as it turns out, students from the class read this blog, so maybe they'll shed some light on that.

I do think there were some shifts on this after I had someone come to class to show us what she had done with a wiki (a cool project on a Native American trickster figure). I think part of the problem with editing wiki entries that others have created is feeling like they don't have the expertise. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong!)

And, Jon, your reflections are very instructive. Asking students to edit entries in Wikipedia is no small undertaking--it's a peer review process, really. I have to say--I had no idea myself about all that!

Some students in class are in fact setting up there own wikis, apart from Wikipedia. So there's a difference there, both in terms of feeling a kind of ownership of the wiki and in terms of removing the outside review process (even though that seems like a pretty interesting learning process, all on its own).

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Thanks,
wikiflooring.org

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