Wikipedia as a pedagogical tool for teacher training

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1 Introduction

The B.Ed. programme at Christ University had introduced a course called 'Digital Culture and Education' with the following introductory note

"The focus of ICT in education by the governments, the civil society and the corporate has been the students. Most of the approaches of these interest groups are techno-utopian. This course is designed to critically look at the dominant approaches to ICT in education and focus on teacher-empowerment to deal with digital classroom consisting of digital natives and digital immigrants. The course also attempts rethink the role of a teacher as a medium of transferring knowledge to creator of knowledge both in English and local languages."

With a course objective as described above, specific teaching and learning objectives to develop the relevant skills and attitudes from the learners were needed. These are listed below:

1.1 Teaching objectives

  1. Facilitate activity-driven learner oriented classes with knowledge creation
  2. Highlight cultural shifts brought about by digital technology to the knowledge domain
  3. Introduce learners to various openness movements that have informed the discourse on Open Educational Resources
  4. Expose and train in content creation and teaching through open knowledge platforms like Wikipedia think the role of teacher as a facilitator of knowledge creation

1.2 Learning objectives

By the end of the course, learners will be able to

  1. Understand digital culture and digital classroom
  2. Use social media for education
  3. Create Wikipedia content in English and at least one regional language
  4. Design appropriate evaluation strategies for learner driven classroom

1.3 Research questions

The course facilitator had the following research questions in mind while engaging the class

  1. Wikipedia is a collaborative writing tool. How do we instantiate the construct of collaboration in this context?
  2. Has the use of a collaborative writing tool helped the students to improve their academic writing skills?
  3. How can wiki software be used to improve online communication skils?
  4. How has the process aided in engaging the teachers with the students?

2 Process

The course facilitator had to spend close to 100 hours for in-classroom engagement, providing feedback over Wikia, email and phone calls in come cases, checking artefacts produced by the learners, training student companions in apprenticeship mode to work with their assigned wards, flipping the classroom to ensure that in-classroom activity were constructivist, finding appropriate assignments that were aligned to the learning objective and thus ensuring that the class was effective.

The task had to be broken up into manageable chunks to address the course-teaching-learning-research objectives. The two internal assessments, mid-term and final exams provided the time frame for the sub-tasks. Since creating good quality Wikipedia articles is a difficult process, the students first created accounts on Wikipedia and played the Wikipedia adventure to gain basic skills. The instructions for the programme evolved on a private wiki1 in consultation with all students. The idea was to increase student ownership of the idea by democratising the process and discussing the pros-cons. To create a good quality learning experience, student companions were selected and academic incentives were provided. This greatly helped in peer learning and better engagement. Students were encouraged to discuss their tasks on the private wiki where both the instructor and student companions provided feedback2. A large part of the discussions also took place via email. The students then created articles in both English and regional languages in three iterations.3, 4, 5 Feedback was provided by the student companions, the facilitator and Wikipedia editors which provided an authentic learning environment. A qualitative assessment was given to the students using a Wiki-education template created by the inter-disciplinary programme in Educational Technology at IIT-Bombay. This is still in the process of qualitative assessment.

Table 1 summarises the activities chosen along with the mode of engagement to satisfy the different objectives.

Table 1: Relationship between objective and activity
Objective Activity
Platform for collaboration Wikia and Wikipedia
Activity driven classroom Flipped classroom;Think-pair-share;Constructivism;Peer learning
Training phase one Create accounts; Use Wikipedia adventure
Training phase two Students created content on their user page for chosen topic
Formative feedback Instructor feedback to all students
Identify student companions Nine best students chosen and academic incentives offered
Peer learning Guidance and feedback by student companions
Facilitator instruction Wikia used1
Online communication skills Wikia talk page; feedback from facilitator+student companions2
Improvement of writing skills Feedback from Wikipedia editors:appreciation -> deleted articles
Internal test one Intermediate submission.3 Iteration one
Mid term:project based learning Students had to incorporate all learning techniques for project
Internal test two pre-final submission.4 Iteration two
Final exam Iteration three.5 Students fill wiki learning template(qualitative)
Evaluation stratagies Designed in collaboration with student companions

3 Outcome and digital produce

The B.Ed. students have contributed to over 75 English articles and over 50 articles in the regional language - all related to educational technology. The regional languages include Kannada, Tamil, Telegu, Hindi, Malayalam, Gujarati, Assamese and Punjabi. A large number of regional language articles have come out very well. While the initial stages and evaluation of artifacts was a time consuming task, the utilisation of student companions did improve the quality by several orders of magnitude. This, however, required a lot of planning into the process. The feedback from the Wikipedia editors was crucial because it was unbiased and critical thus forcing the learners to reevaluate their own skills. There are a lot of qualitative learnings from this entire exercise which can be shared with the University and larger community after a detailed qualitiative analysis of the data.

As of 30 September 2015, following were some statistics:

Table 2: Interaction statistics - quantitiative
Parameter Value comment
Number of students 65  
Number of email threads(ed.christuni.in) 512 excluding emails from personal IDs
Number of messages in longest thread 118 instructions to student companions
Next largest thread 55 "Progress report" - 23-27 Sept
Email thread size range 1-15 Most are in single digit
Number of threads facilitator responded 348  

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Footnotes:

Date: 30 December 2015

Author: Vikram Vincent

Created: 2016-07-13 Wed 13:15

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