Writing with Wikis

Facilitated by Troy Hicks


As we invite students to compose and collaborate in online spaces, wikis have emerged as a primary tool for writing. While wikis sometimes have a negative connotation in academic circles -- any discussion of Wikipedia will assuredly bring out a range of emotions in teachers and researchers -- the basic principles of wiki writing offers students many opportunities to draft, publish, and revise their work. Moreover, wikis provide opportunities for students to develop online communities, embed additional web-based media into their writing, and monitor their own work over time. This segment of our ACE workshop will invite you to become a wiki writer, seeing the possibilities for yourself and allowing you to set up your own class wiki in the process.

Opening Quote

from Haring-Smith, T. (1994). Writing together: Collaborative learning in the writing classroom. New York: HarperCollinsCollegePublishers.

Although there are many ways in which people can collaborate on a text, we will focus here on papers that involve more than one person contributing directly to the creation of a text and so sharing responsibility for it. This usually means that a number of people interact directly at some point during the production of the text. Most often, a group brainstorms and plans a document that is researched and drafted by one or more individuals working alone. Then the draft is revised and published by a group. Collaborative writing may also involve shared production and/or responsibility for a text, in which the group establishes the initial goals for the project and retains responsibility over the final text by revising it. Although one or more individual writers may actually draft the work, they are fulfilling the group's goals. (p. 360, "Defining Collaborative Writing")

Wikis in Plain English by the Common Craft Show

Another Look at Collaboration

To think more about how collaboration is changing, here is a quote from Tapscott and Williams' recent book, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything to give you something concrete to think about as we imagine the workplaces of the future:

Google CEO Eric Schmidt says, "When you say 'collaboration,' the average forty-five-year-old thinks they know what you're talking about--teams sitting down, having a nice conversation with nice objectives and a nice attitude. That's what collaboration means to most people."

We're talking about something dramatically different. The new promise of collaboration is that with peer production we will harness human skill, ingenuity, and intelligence more efficiently and effectively than anything we have witnessed previously. Sounds like a tall order. But the collective knowledge, capability, and resources embodied within broad horizontal networks of participants can be mobilized to accomplish much more than one firm acting alone. Whether designing an airplane, assembling a motorcycle, or analyzing the human genome, the ability to integrate the talents of dispersed individuals and organizations is becoming the defining competency for managers and firms. And in the years to come, this new mode of peer production will displace traditional corporation hierarchies as the key engine of wealth creation in the economy. (p. 18)