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Posts Tagged ‘wiki

I received this screenshot of what seemed to be an unintentionally funny description of a local university.

From ambit to armpit.

I asked the sender where is was from, but that question drew a blank. Bonus pre-lesson: Seek the source.

I applied that lesson by searching for SUSS and a segment of the description. This led me to the Wikipedia article on Education in Singapore.

The segment currently reads:

In 2017, Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) was declared as the country’s sixth autonomous public university. The university was previously established in 2005 as SIM University by the SIM Group. Thereafter it undergone restructuring and is currently under the ambit of the Ministry of Education.

It is still not grammatically sound, but there is no more armpit. The description is less whimsical with ambit.

If you examine the history of the document, you will find an editing battle. The original word was ambit. It was changed to armpit in May 2018. It was not until June that armpit was reverted to ambit.

Here is the bad news: Teachers were responsible for passing the armpit edit along. While it was good for a laugh, it revealed a lack of digital literacy.

The good news is this lesson: You can learn how to check the history of an online document like a wiki page. In the case of Wikipedia, you need only look for the “View history” link (currently at the top of each page).

Bonus lesson: Do not use words like “ambit” that tempt pranksters to change them to “armpit”. Both words work — one is descriptive and the other is hilarious.

Even though I do not use Wikispaces, I was disappointed to learn that “Wikispaces Classroom and Free Wikis will be decommissioned on 31st July 2018”.

I started using wikis when they were still in their infancy. I can actually recall using the precursor of what is Google Sites today. I am not referring to the old version of Google Sites; I am talking about JotSpot (which was acquired by Google in 2006).

When I was a professor, I designed an ICT module that focused on collaborative writing with wikis. I wrote book chapters on wikis and was sometimes referred to as the “wiki guy”.

  1. Tan, A. (2011). Why write with wikis?. In Ho, C.M.L., Anderson, K.T., & Leong, A.P. (Eds.), Transforming Literacies and Language: Multimodality and Literacy in the New Media Age (pp. 207-222). London: Continuum.
  2. Tan, A. (2010). Wikis. In Chai, C.S., & Wang, Q. (Eds.), ICT for Self-directed and Meaningful Learning (pp. 249-261). Singapore: Pearson.

Though they sound old or even uncool now, wikis are fundamental to the Internet in general and to education specifically. Take Wikipedia for instance.

Wikipedia is a common reference tool that was vilified, but now has gained ground reputationally for being up-to-date and linked to useful references. It has been used for coursework to teach authentic writing and assessment of the same.

But back to Wikispaces. I have used that service before, but pulled out the moment it started charging money. I also relied heavily on PBwiki (now called PBworks) for much of my life as an academic. PBworks sends me regular email notifications asking to claim the URLs and spaces; I always say I want them to remain.

I do not have that problem — yet — with Google Sites. They were and are my mainstay for e-portfolios (for student teachers and my staff), courses, workshops, event planning, etc.

While Google does not charge money, we probably pay for use by providing usage data and other metrics. But the same could be said for any other “free” platform. Google Sites seems to be the least demanding and invasive.

The Wikispaces help page provides instructions for exporting data. This is the least any user should do, i.e., keep a local copy. But wikis need to be online to be helpful.

Sadly, importing to other platforms is rarely, if ever, smooth or easy. When I moved from the old Google Sites to the new one, I copied and pasted content from one to the other and still had to make major edits.

The overall lesson is not to treat online services like untrustworthy and unhelpful mercenaries. Such services come and go like any tool or resource.

The lesson is that we need to take ownership of our work, trouble and all. If we are proud of it and if it helps others, we need to make sure it remains “some more” even if the hosting service is “no more”.

I just read in the print copy of Digital Life (2 Dec 09) that MOE’s deal with Google Apps is worth S$650,000 a year over two years. Does that sound like a lot? No, not if you do the math.

Based on MOE’s 2008 corporate brochure, Singapore has 29,000 teachers and an annual education budget of S$8 billion. Google Apps for education is barely a drop in the bucket.

MOE’s press release on 22 Sep 09 about adopting Google Apps does not mention explicitly if students will get to use it as well. If students are included as users, how is that drop shared among all teachers and students?

MOE claims that we have a student:teacher ratio of 21:1 (paragraph 11, cough!). Simple arithmatic (29,000 x 21) tells us we have about 609,000 students. Add the number of teachers (29,000) and the total potential users is 638,000. That means that it will cost us a little over S$1 per year per user. That’s value for money… if you like playing the numbers game.

I don’t just play by numbers. How will teachers and their students use Google Apps? Will these Apps be effectively integrated into teaching and learning? While I am watching for answers, I am not waiting. Time will provide some answers, but so will action.

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I am using some of the Google Apps now (Sites, Docs, Spreadsheets, Forms, Presentations, Mail and assorted widgets) without NIE being part of the Google Apps for education picture. I am using it partly as an informal LMS, but mostly as a collaborative learning space.

I think that using it as an LMS provides my teachers-to-be with some level of familiarity. But they also explore the use of the Apps to facilitate collaborative writing, data collecting and processing, planning, designing and learning. I hope that by providing one possible model of using Google Apps, my teacher trainees can then test the ground when they are posted to schools.

I am glad to report that I see some green shoots already. A few of my trainees come up to me after class to tell me that they are setting up their own Google Site wikis or to ask me how to do something or other. I also hope to be involved in the education of in-service teachers next year under a new MOE programme. More details on that if the plan solidifies!

I have been assigned as a facilitator for next semester’s Group Endeavours for Service Learning (GESL) in NIE. This will be the third time I am doing this.

I blog about this because some things have changed since I first facilitated a service learning group three years ago. For one thing, GESL has a subscription to an NIE-wide PBworks wiki since Jan ’09 for groups that opt to use it.

I had started using a wiki for my GESL group in Jan ’07. I had also started using a wiki for teacher trainees during practicum. One of my colleagues (who is much higher up on the hierarchy) jumped on the wiki bandwagon, got excited about the possibilities, and wondered out loud if we should find a way to increase the use of wikis.

I recall having a discussion where he mooted that there be a system-wide wiki for practicum. Even though I love using wikis, I was against the idea because I knew that our colleagues would not know what wikis were or how to integrate them meaningfully. Providing them with wiki “training” was not going to change mindsets and belief systems. So I suggested that NIE try wikis with something less ambitious and somewhat less reliant on traditional forms of assessment. Good sense prevailed and the powers-that-be decided to try wikis with service learning.

I do not know how many service learning groups actually used the GESL wiki last semester, but a cursory look tells me the numbers aren’t encouraging. I attended a briefing for GESL facilitators just now and almost none of the other facilitators had heard of the GESL wiki.

However, I was encouraged to note that a few of my colleagues had actually used wikis in the courses that they taught or attended. I also know of school principals and heads of departments who had to use wikis when they came to NIE for in-service training. So I know that wikis are being used in NIE.

I initiated the use of wikis in my courses, GESL and practicum in 2006 and have never looked back. But I have not tried to force it down the throats of others around me. I have shared my experiences with wikis and have welcomed any like-minded educators into the wiki-users fold. In short, I have used the viral or infective method as opposed to the policy method. Though the number of consistent wiki users remains small, they grow semester by semester. But more than just numbers, I think that they, like me, have discovered better ways to teach.

So now I have some validation for what was my gut feel: When attempting to integrate any form of Web 2.0, it is better for it to grow from the ground up than the top down. After all, that is one underlying philosophy of Web 2.0: For the people and by the people.

Every day I get at least one article via RSS that suggests the value of Web 2.0 at work.

I ignore most of them because they rarely suggest concrete ideas. I also think that the way they might be used at work differs markedly from how they might be used in education.

Along came an article from Computer Weekly titled “How to use Web 2.0 at work“. I scanned it and noticed the box that highlighted the companies that had adopted internal wikis, e.g., Apple, the BBC, BMW, CERN, CISCO, Disney, the FBI, Microsoft, Pixar, Sony, Yahoo… their list was longer! Gartner had predicted that more companies would jump on the wiki bandwagon, but I did not realise just how many!

Anyway, the article does not seem to offer concrete ideas if 1) you do not know what the Web 2.0 technologies they mention are, and 2) you do not have the imagination to see how they might be more effective and efficient. But the article did offer ideas for integrating Web 2.0 in R&D, CRM, KM… you know, all the things that business folk and the knowledgeable layman would understand!

What tech publishers seem to understand is that businesses should take advantage of what their workers and customers already understand and use. Sadly, we are barely scratching the surface in education! (Yes, I say this time and again, and I’ll keep saying it until people actually adopt Web 2.0 in meaningful, powerful ways.)

Our students and children need to learn (and continue to learn) how to use relevant technologies to survive in the social and work place. Web 2.0 will evolve to Web 3.0 (possibly the semantic Web or the location-aware Web). Digital immigrants know how difficult it is to pick up new technology lingo and skills. So why should we hold our children back now by limiting their use of powerful technologies?

I presented my use of wikis for practicum at the Fusion Learning event at NIE today. I hope that my audience “got” my message within the 10 minutes I was allocated.

We are preparing practitioners, not students of educational theories. Trainee teachers should be maintaining e-portfolios to showcase their knowledge, skills, and attitudes as teachers. We, as teacher educators, should not be the only ones looking for them. Trainees should be given the opportunity to take greater ownership of their development, highlight their strengths, and work on their weaknesses.

Of all things Web 2.0, wikis are quick, easy, and convenient tools for doing this.

The Australian government sees the importance of Web 2.0. An article in Oz Computer World titled National Innovation System Review urges Web 2.0 adoption starts off by saying:

The federal government has released the report of the Review of the National Innovation System Venturous Australia, which details recommendations for remodeling the nation?s innovation system.

Among 72 key recommendations was a call for an advisory committee of Web 2.0 practitioners to be established to propose and help steer governments as they experiment with Web 2.0 technologies and ideas.

Wither, Singapore?

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