Wikiworld - Commons and Education/Wiki Workshop - An Introduction to the Wikiworld

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Wiki Workshop

This is a short introduction to the wonderful of world of wikis, their use and basic principles. Please, join in!

Wiki Workshop is part of Wikiworld - Commons and Education learning resource.

Wikis in Practice

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What is Wiki?

  • "The simplest online database that could possibly work" - Ward Cunningham (Developer of the first wiki)
  • Allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser
  • A tool for creating information and sharing information together
  • Encourages democratic use of the Web and promotes content composition by nontechnical users
  • Teaching the Machine video
  • Information r/evolution video

How Does Wiki Work?


Theory, or Cultural Transformations

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Pedagogical Transformation and Two Metaphors of Learning

  • Socialization Process Turning Upside Down?

Traditionally the older generation has taught the younger ones, but nowadays the younger generation teaches the older ones (at least in the area of use of social media and gaming. Children and young people are "foot soldiers of modernity," as Paul Willis (2003) puts it [1].

  • Learning as transmission and reception

In the transmission and reception metaphor the human mind is seen as a container of knowledge and learning as a process of transmission of ready made knowledge and facts from those who (are supposed to) know, such as teachers, to those who does not know such as children; in other words learning is like filling empty glasses from the large container.

  • Learning as participation

The participation metaphor of learning emphasizes participation in various cultural practices and shared learning activities (in kindergarten, at school, in university and various informal learning sites, workplaces and organizational activities). In this metaphor knowledge and learning are situated and created in people's life-worlds, and as part of their socio-cultural context.

Social Media as Collaboration, Interaction and Participation

  • Collaboration and collaborative learning
  • Interaction (social networking)
  • Participation, everyone can!


  • volunteer
  • collaboration, collective
  • materials in common & public
  • aggregation

- wikilearning: wikiuniversities & wikilibraries?

Some Differences between Traditional and Social Media

Traditional media (a book, a television broadcast) is author generated (one to many), static (corrections), one-directional,, editor-produced and controlled, and promotes hierarchical, authorised solitary learning whereas social media is user generated (many to many), editable, debatable and reviseable (interactive), multi-directional, always group-based approach, sometimes even solidarity learning.

Other Characteristics of Social Media

• Radical openness (transparent) vs closeness • Reflective uncertainty vs unreflective certainty • Discussion • Collaboration • Collectivity, community • Collective intelligence: organic approach, problem posing pedagogy • Sharing (”sharing our toys”) • Participation

Traditional, formal learning versus wikilearning

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Radical openness and 'disorganization' of learning vs. politically and economically regulated school learning with top-down, ready-made curriculum

Wikilearning is a radically open and dis- and unorganized in the sense that it is not regulated by laws or education policies, it is not part of the nation state and its educational system, but an independent activity. It does not exist in a written curriculum. However, as Scott Lash (2002), among others has pointed out, the disorganizational nature of networked communities can be very effective. For instance, the informal volunteer organization provides a framework for such intricate distributed knowledge work as developing the GNU/Linux operating system.

Voluntary participation vs compulsory participation

Whereas wikilearning occurs in free participation, school learning is not only compulsory, but also governed and regulated by the federal government and/or the state, and teachers and adminstrators as 'disciplinary experts' who not only decide what and how students ought to be learnt but also shape curriculum and assessment standards (Greenhow et al. 2009, 248). The voluntarity of wikilearning extends to all levels; the decision to participate or not, the intensity and mode of participation are all voluntary.

Radical inclusiveness (wikipublics, wikipublicity) vs. Economically and culturally determined exclusiveness (mainstream media, counter publics)

In order to participate in the mainstream media you have to have certain qualities in your possession. It is not enough to be able to read and write and speak. You also have to have a degree, that is, educational and cultural capital. Often a permission of some kind is needed, and often the permission is not granted in a neutral way, but may need connections, money, qualifications, etc. In addition, mainstream media is heavily dependent on both its owners and the flow of advertisement money. Both facts point to the same direction: mainstream media cannot be too controversial if it wants to sell and make a profit. Like the mainstream media, alternative media with their counterpublis have their own rules of participation, too, which exclude or include. Participation in wikilearning is much more inclusive activity: only basic literacy and computer skills are needed.

Peer-to-peer (p-2-p) -interaction vs. teacher- and tutor directiveness

Wikilearning occurs in a peer to peer mode, that is, by learning from each other, and helping each other to learn. Importanly, the p2p structure allows also giving without taking and taking without giving, i.e., it is not reciprocal. Thus peer pressure is kept to a minimum. This might sound like a dream, or a never fulfilled utopia, but it is actually embedded in the use of the wiki technology itself. Where school learning 'technology' is written according to the habits and traditions of didactics and pedagogy (teacher-centered, student-centered pedagogy and so forth), and these habits and traditions are also embodied in school buildings and classrooms designs etc., wikilearning is based on voluntary self-aggregation of the participants with their productive assets. These assets are both immaterial and material: immaterial as brain power and cooperation (or 'participatory processing') with other users, and material as access to computer and to the digital networks (Bauwens 2009, 123).

Reflective uncertainty vs. unreflective certainty

One general wikilearning principle is that of reflective uncertainty. Wiki information should not be taken for granted, because wikis are editable and the current edit may be erroneous if not outright malicious. However, the history of edits can, at least in principle, be traced back to the beginning. This, of course, is a dramatic difference between wiki-information and printed information. Wikipedia's edit and history buttons potentially increase learners' skills in critical media literacy in comparison to textbooks' qualities to augment unreflective certainty. Gradually, by using wiki type pages, users learn to mentally expect and anticipate the structures of editability and genealogy also on other pages, including those of books. Thus, the reflective uncertainty of wikified information leaks also to other areas of knowledge.

Evaluation and synthetisation vs. listening and (rote-)memorizing

In wikilearning it is crucial to negotiate on information and knowledge (e.g., in wikis' discussion areas and so-called "coffee rooms") in contrast to school learning which emphasizes hearing and listening, and rote memorizing the things teacher has taught. Wikilearning includes information searching and comparison of different sources of information as opposed to school learning's text book approach.

In addition communication and information exchange in wikilearning are not based on the model of sender and receiver (Shannon information), but on suggestion and evaluation. Take an ethnographic look to the classroom: in a traditional classroom the activities are speaking, listening, making notes, filling workbooks. The wikilearners are widely distributed, and the activities are typically computer-mediated. However, the difference is bigger on the level of cognition and experience. Speaking, listening and making notes correspond to the cognitive activities of conveying information and memorizing. When an open source developer receives a piece of new code (a patch) the point is not to memorize or even to use it, but to evaluate it, and synthetise it with possibly several versions of the existing codebase. (It is also noteworthy, that in the hacker world, there is a militant ethos of evaluating the patch, the hack, and not the submitter, the author of the patch). Ideally, all activity in wikilearning has this quality of evaluation and integration, rather than delivering and memorizing.

This quality of learning can be seen especially in young people's learning as Greenhow et al. (2009, 251) points out: "Contradicting traditional pedagogical models in which students submit their works to one authoritative source (the instructor) and receive feedback from that source, today's learners expect to participate in evaluating as well as in being evaluated and to share work and feedback among their peers."

Cooperation and sharing vs. evaluation of individual achievements

Wikilearning is based on doing and creating together. The idea is that no one can achieve alone what can be achieved together. In wikilearning individuals' learning achievements are not measured, criteria external to learning activity itself are not used. The value of a learning activity will be judged only by the participants themselves based on their different motivations of participation (utility, fun, communality, etc.).

People's collective intellegence vs. expert knowledge of the schooled elite

A wiki page aggregates the common pool of information by the editors of the page. It is not the property or achievement of any one participant in the group and could not be written by any one editor. The wiki software is built for this kind of aggregation, not for the publication or dissemination of pre-existing knowledge. Furthermore, the process of aggregation does not have a pre-defined endpoint. The aggregate is always freely available and subject to further uses, editions, modifications and additions. This promotes a radical plurality of information, compared to the gated or closed forms of expert information relied on by formal education.

Problem-based learning vs. subject-based learning

The motivation for wikilearning is based on voluntarism, therefore the artificial boundaries of subjects (such as maths, literature, etc.) do not have to be replicated. The motivation of each participant is in one way or another internal based on the desires and problems of everyday life. This is, again, in clear contrast to formal education whis is often compulsory and in which individual learning tasks are often externally motivated (by the need to get good grades, to be a good pupil, etc.).

Folksonomy vs. taxonomy

Connected to the point above, the material in wikilearning is categorized and interconnected by ways which the users find meaningful, not in the categories of expert definitions or institutional classifications. The tags and hyperlinks created by users eventually build a folksonomy, in which both the basis for the classification (the ontology) and the classification itself emerge without expert validation either before or after the fact. Thus folksonomy supplants the more familiar taxonomies where the new always gets subsumed under the old.

Local, contextual ad hoc-learning vs. predestined learning goals and achievements

Wikilearning responds to local and contextual needs. In the anthropology on open source software developers, one of the earliest groups that have embraced wikilearning to the full, this phenomenon is called "scratching your own itch"; developers typically develop software that they themselves need or want to learn about (see Raymond 1999). Consequently, also the process and duration of learning are based on this real-world need, unlike in formal schooling where pre-existing goals have to be achieved and where performance is evaluated with regard to rigid benchmarks.

Radical equalities vs. equal opportunities

Like discussed above, wikilearning is based on radical equality in the sense that with regard to wikilearning everyone already is equal - the starting point is the freedom of everyone to participate, create, use the materials, etc. Wikilearning is not regulated by academic degrees and does not intend to produce a rival hierarchy or order of rank. In fact, typically the hierarchy in a disorganization is also task-based, contextual, informal and susceptible to rapid changes.

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