Collaborative Editing

Barn raising in Lansing (now North York City Centre). Toronto, Canada.
Photo Credit: Barn raising in Lansing (now North York City Centre). Toronto, Canada by Alexander W. Galbraith

This week we turn our attention to some of the most popular online venues for the communal discussion, dissemination and collaboration of ideas, information and resources—blogs, wikis and similar co-constructive spaces. In what ways do the readings for this week provide an insight into their potential use in educational settings? In what ways could they support the learning goals you have for your students? What do these venues for collaboration and resource sharing mean for you as an educator and scholar? What questions do they raise for you? In class we are going to have some hands-on practice with some collaborative research and information-filtering tools, such as Diigo and Zotero. We will also navigate around our course wiki and start to formulate our classroom project.

[UPDATE] Here is an archive of our February 12th Elluminate session over at LearnCentral on Finding and Filtering Online Resources. We were thrilled to have educators from all over the world join our group and even though I am still navigating my way around Elluminate, we found this environment to be the most collaborative and easy to use for our virtual session and will use it again.

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10 Responses to “Collaborative Editing”

  1. inasayyoub Says:

    Reading through The Power of Wikis in Higher Education gives teachers more reasons for why they should integrate this as part of the courses they teach. Instead of giving students assignments to do on their own , where they feel more like finishing the task rather than focusing on learning something new, teachers can benefit from wikis to have students work together and learn from each other.
    One of the points that attracted me as a language teacher in using Wikis is the ability to see how students progress in working on their projects. This means helping them learning better through giving them feedback needed just on spot rather than getting their project at the end of the semester and just do a meaningless correcting that wouldn’t be of any effective role for students learning.
    This article also suggests a solution for a question that me and any teacher would ask about ensuring that students would not only be good at a certain aspect of a subject more than the other since they have a certain role in project when working in a group. This can be worked on through assigning a different role for students every time.
    Still , I believe that students who are described as highly competitive wouldn’t prefer working in such a way. Since publishing the work doesn’t really focus on a certain person and thus their sense of owning the whole thing as their achievement is not satisfied. But beside that, publishing students’ work is a good way to motivate students to work and learn and share their work with others. It would be of great interest for them to know that they are been read by others and that means more effort into their work and a better learning. This would be of high importance for language classes, where students work more on their language trying to perfect it when they know that native speakers of the language would be reading what they have to post!!

    • sondrus Says:

      I liked your idea of assigning and alternating roles for students. I can see how such an approach would require students to master different vocabulary or even writing styles. Such an example might be a project where a group was writing on rock music in Germany. Maybe one person would write on the singers’ and bands’ personal lives, another person write critiques of their songs, someone write fan letters, another write vocab. lists for some songs… So the language and tone in a critique is very different from a fan letter.
      In addition to increasing students’ language skills I think switching their tasks will keep them excited. Though it might cause some resistance as once they get used to doing their task they might not want to switch. So maybe setting the rotation early on would be good. This rotation should foster collaboration, as students could ask each other for vocab or tech. help.
      Your other point that interested me was how the highly competitive (individualistic) students would not like this. It might help when presenting this project to tell students that learning to collaborate will help them in internships and jobs-that this happens in the “real world”. In America individual learning and independent/individual work seems to be emphasized. In this article Wikis as lab reports were used and the author made a point of dividing the parts of the lab report to various students. I wonder how other cultures might approach this task. It seems in America there is a connection with ownership, individual ownership being highly valued. Often what happens with collaborative projects is parts being pieced together, instead of an organic generation of the whole. I’d say this stems from the fact that frequently the contributors are focused on their contribution instead of the project as a whole.
      I’ve seen some beautiful collaborations in creative writing. For example a book called Shame, written in English and German as a series of exchanges between two authors on the word/idea of shame. It seems in this project that its success is largely due to deep listening (reading of each other) to each other. In a Creative Writing class I taught I had students collaborate on writing plays. I’d say the works suffered from superficiality. Perhaps this was due to a lack of trust with peers. You have to really know someone to freely choose to collaborate with him or her. So how can collaboration be made most effective outside of dividing and assigning tasks? I’d really like to hear about collaborative work in different countries!

      • celeste2010 Says:

        When we have our introductory discussion on sports in our Spanish (L4) class, I always ask my students which are the benefits of practicing any sport. Of course, healthy lifestyle and health benefits are first thing they say. But I like to keep asking on more benefits and it’s kind of difficult for them to go outside the same body centered issue.
        With a little help, other social issues like making new friends and meeting new people come out. That’s good but not enough so I keep pushing them to go a step beyond and ask them: ‘do you think there might be a connection between sports and jobs?’, giving examples like any jobs, like a businessman or a nurse. It’s funny because they look at me like I’m crazy trying to connect areas that are completely different. But soon or later the key word comes out: “teamwork”. And it’s wonderful to see those expressions when they realize of the wide variety of skills you can learn in any field of study even though it’s not directly related to that specific field.
        If feel this idea is connected with Suzanne’s idea of helping students open their mind to new collaborative projects. Maybe if we could emphasize this idea of teamwork as a special skill they will develop and that could give them an extra bonus for their career and personal life. It might be a good approach in order to get those skeptic students involved in the project. And of course it always looks good to have teamwork experience in a resume when trying to get a job. What do you think of this idea?

    • Lay Says:

      I agree with Innas in the sense that we would be challenging our students to “filter” information and collaborate with their peers or with others who are interested in a specific topic. However, beyond the fact that, as Innas states, both the workload and the achievements are shared and this may create a problem for competitive students or may induce other to rely on somebody else’s work, our system is not yet prepared for this type of projects. The curriculum, just to mention one of the obstacles, sometimes does not allow us to implement such tools. Other problem is the “monopoly of the book”. Our (economic) system still rely mostly on the notion that only good information can be found in this or that book.

      This brings me to Chris’ concern. I do agree that Wikipedia is useful but tricky. The information can come from a plethora or sources. Just watch a comedy skit on TV where they make fun of how easy it is to change information on Wikipedia and fool millions of people around the world. Even Thomas L. Friedman, who we watch a few weeks ago, agreed that Wikipedia is not so reliable because his own information was wrong! Even so, we all use it constantly because it is EASY (and that is the magic word). Easy in, easy out.

      With that on the table, we must ask: what do we really want our students to learn? As I have said before, we must help them to become their own filters of information. Then, our goal should be to help them understand the consequences of publishing on a space such as Wikipedia.

      Then again, we should start by asking ourselves how do we create a balance between the system and the new sources.

  2. kemen528 Says:

    This week’s readings on “Collaborating Editing” aid my search for what I am sure is an important goal for any language instructor’s for his or her students in the United States: sparking students’ interest in a language other than English (and with the language comes different components, specifically cultural ones). While reading “Reflecting, Writing and Responding: Reasons Students Blog” by Carie Page, I first focused on her observations of the students’ interests when it comes to why they blog and then how instructors implemented them in the classrooms. I believe that blogs can be extremely beneficial with the writing component in language learning. As Lay has mentioned, she has implemented a blog in her composition classroom where students not only practice their writing skills but their editing skills as well. This is clearly an important step in language learning, and where as traditionally writing and editing would only be done at the classroom or at home, this gives both students and teachers and ability to perform this task anywhere at anytime. The accessibility component of the blog, I believe, is one of the keys for student participation as well as having a clear incentive to do so. I am fairly certain that the article stated that it is useful to not only make blogging a requirement, but tailor it to students’ interests.
    The readings on wikis also helped me learn more about another collaborative tool that can be used in the classroom, which I believe could be very useful in a language class. I really enjoy the idea of having students collaborate in order to compose a piece of writing. I think that this activity can really change how we give students writing assignments and make them less monotonous. The only thing I worry about is the pressure there can be on students to not make any grammatical errors for the portion they are responsible for, and the chance that exists that they may “feel stupid or dumb” for making such mistakes.
    Another topic of discussion, which I find slightly polemical, is the use of Wikipedia in the classroom. Hopefully, we can discuss this further in our class. I have always been told by professors that Wikipedia is not a reliable source, and frankly “See who’s editing wikipedia” by John Borland made me a bit nervous about who is editing wikipedia and its reliability. What does everyone else think? Should we advocate the use of Wikipedia in the classroom? We can warn students of how wikipedia is put together, but at the same time, how can we protect them from erroneous information? I am still not entirely clear on this issue.

    • Blanca Says:

      I share Kemen’s concern about the pressure “writing publicly” can put on our students, also commented by Inas. Using blogs and wikis and publishing their writings can help students pay more attention to their compositions, but they can also “get stressed” and start overcorrecting themselves or perceive the task as annoying.
      Regarding the individuality issue that Suzanne (I hope I wrote your name correctly) mentions, I confess I never thought about that. In my experience, most of the students find group work refreshing, precisely because they share responsibilities. However I must say that they usually think so about group work in class, not so often when it implies meeting during their free time (not so free, as we all know).
      Finally, I share again with Kemen’s concerns about Wikipedia. In my opinion, it is a valid source of information, as long as we approach it with some criticism in mind, just as we should do with any other source (have you ever looked up a word in a “serious” bilingual dictionary and got an awful or erroneous translation?). I confess I have used it a lot of times. It is usually my first stop when looking for information, because everything is explained in a way everybody understands it. But then, I visit the sites they offer as references and contrast it with other sources. Obviously there are topics in Wikipedia more “inclined” to be manipulated, but there is also a team fighting against that… In short, collaborative work and common sense.

      • chenwenh Says:

        I do agree with what Blanca said about the use of Wikipedia. It is an online encyclopedia, edited and revised around the clock. Even though the revising itself is not necessarily exclusively done by credible, “authoritative” experts, whose expertise are defined within the traditional categories, it is obvious that among the crowds, real experts coming from credible authorities do stand up and help weeding out wrong or biased information. I do believe instructors should take precaution when referencing to Wikipedia or when advising students to search for information through Wikipedia. However, like what Blanca mentioned, highly prestigious publishers do not necessarily produce perfect books without errors, despite their rigid rules of peer reviews. This does not mean that Authority 1.0 should be disregarded at the age of Web 2.0, but this does speaks to us instructors the importance of validating the value of collaborative tools. I think we should always keep in mind Michael Jensen’s Authority 2.0 and 3.0 when we pose questions of authority over information resources. We need to be more open-minded, in the sense that we are also careful of the downsides and that we do not welcome whole-heartedly without doubts.

    • christopherlaine Says:

      As for the use of Wikipedia in class, I think its viability varies by discipline. Roger Travis, for example, allows Greek Civ. students to use it for their research paper. This surprised me at first, but when it comes to a subject so old and with a relatively well established orthodoxy, Wikipedia is more reliable than it would be for anything dealing with current events. I am still a little wary of Wikipedia, having seen examples of imprecise grammar, for example, that result in vagary. Personally, I would try to implement a policy which would allow the students start with Wikipedia in order to get a broad overview of a subject and then require further research. If for the sake of the project, nothing more than general knowledge were required (say for a close reading of a text), I would hope the student could just appropriate the Wikipedia content as part of common knowledge. Which brings up an interesting issue regarding plagiarism: when does a student need to cite Wikipedia? Given that it provides a general survey of a topic, does a student need to cite if s/he learned at the site that, say, Laius was the father of Oedipus? In this case Wikipedia could function as a reminder of things you forgot or were supposed to know (a symptom of being knowledge-able).

      • sondrus Says:

        I too agree that Wikipedia can be a valuable source and certainly a great first researching place. Your question about when a student needs to cite Wikipedia made me think of how some common sources (I think such as the Almanac or Encyclopedia?) don’t need to be cited? I can’t remember exactly, but I thought there were/was some source which was considered “common public knowledge” and so in this light Wikipedia could be considered. I did find a link on how to cite Wikipedia: http://www.ehow.com/how_2031033_cite-wikipedia.html I also think it could be neat for a class to have students look at relevant wiki cites and decide if they have anything to add, edit or rephrase.

  3. celeste2010 Says:

    I think Diigo provides a wide variety of possibilities.
    Zotero is also useful and maybe it’s easier to learn how to use it. But when I tried to find groups and information on my specific field, Zotero didn’t show many.
    I’m a Diigo fan right now and also being able to post sticky notes and highlight allows us to be eco-friendly because we don’t need to print tons of material we always need in and for our classes.


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