Wikis and Learning

I am normally really excited about our weekly readings, but I’ll admit, this week was rough.  I just couldn’t get into the article.  Maybe I felt that it was written way above my head or I just couldn’t extract enough from it to get really excited like I normally do.  In any case, what I did manage to get from the article was that the authors feel that a person can gain a deeper understanding of content when contributing to a social software such as a Wiki.

I was interested in the fact that on page 106 of the article the author points out that a wiki is able to be accessed by an intranet in addition to the Internet.  This got me thinking that a company wide Wiki would be an excellent way for seasoned employees to pass on “tribal knowledge” to new employees entering the company or even knowledge for someone to fill in suddenly.

For instance, say the Benefits Administrator has tasks that are performed on a daily basis and no one else knows how to perform them.  If she had an emergency suddenly and needed to be off work for an extended time – no one else knows how to do the work that really needs done.  If the company had a wiki on their intranet, employees could add step-by-step instructions on how to perform their daily tasks.  If everyone added training type information to the wiki it would be an excellent way to pass on knowledge from seniors in the company that might retire or others that might move on to other positions or even just for someone to be able to fill in, in case of an emergency or extended vacation.

The collaborative nature of the wiki would allow several people from a department that might share information to work on a page and keep it updated.

I think that Wikipedia is a good resource if you are looking to find a piece of information to research further.  For years it has been drilled into us as students that Wikipedia is not an appropriate source of information for research.  If I did look at Wikipedia it was to look at citations at the bottom so that I could find a “credible” source.  It still feels wrong to cite Wikipedia but I am trying to keep my mind open about using it in the future.  I know most professors probably still cringe at the thought of people citing Wikipedia as their sources.  I don’t know how long it will take for this to change.

I quite enjoyed reading over the “What Wikipedia is Not” section.  Things like this always amuse me, this is similar to you should not try this at home statements on tv.  They are there because someone actually tried to do them.  Never ceases to amaze me the things people do, even on the Internet.  Even though Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia I could see people trying to put their resumes on there for people to stumble across.

UMChemProfessor‘s personal page was also very interesting, see I did like the topic I just didn’t like the research article, and it was a great way to show how a wiki can be used for learning purposes.  While I’ve never taken chemistry or any other higher level science courses I can appreciate what looks to be quality work produced by students.  Who knows working collaboratively on pages such as this could someday produce a cure for cancer.  Great minds and all of that.

Again in this lesson I think one of the most important take away items is again the opportunity for collaboration to bring about learning.


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