Monday, February 4, 2008

Facilitating Online Learning Communities: Assignment 2

I joined an open access course last year: Facilitating Online Learning Communities. I am now officially enrolled and am in the process of completing the four assignments. Assignments 3 and 4 were concerned with the Elluminate sessions that I ran for midwives last year.

Assignment 2: Contribute to a wiki.

Over the weeks I have developed and contributed to several wikis:
  • Developing an abstract for the New Zealand Rural GPs Network conference in March 2008: This was a small project that I worked on with Carolyn in Wikispaces. We developed an abstract for a workshop that would introduce GPs and health professionals to social networking tools. Whilst the abstract was declined, we really enjoyed the process of collaborating in a wiki and found the software very easy to work with. NB: Very stupidly, I deleted the wiki -I will not do that again, I promise.

My involvement in 'barn raising' and contribution to the course wiki

I attended a number of barn raising sessions but to be honest I felt they were less focused than the 10 minute lectures so I did not feel they were as valuable to me personally. I was also very slack about contributing to the course wiki.

Barriers to using the course wiki on WikiEducator:
  • I did not fully understand the instructions on exactly what I was supposed to do.
  • Found the technology much more complicated than Wikispaces. Having no knowledge of html was a big disadvantage. So the whole thing got put into the 'too hard' basket.
  • Did not see the personal benefit of putting information about midwifery on the course wiki eg developing the conference abstract with Carolyn had a direct benefit. I know you can argue that I would have been benefiting the greater community but I didn't see the need of replicating information that can be very freely found on the Internet already. So I saw it as a time-wasting exercise and felt no 'ownership' of the process of updating the wiki. Having said all that, I would contribute in this way in Wikipedia because I know it is accessed by so many people. However, the software still 'frightens' me so I have yet to pluck up courage and add material to Wikipedia. Time constraints are also a major barrier.
Summary of my impressions of wikis and their use in building communities

Initial impressions of wikis, or as Leigh coined it, 'midwikery'.

I love the idea of open collaboration. From a practical point of view, it saves a lot of time and inconvenience compared to sending emails or letters back and forth, and is a lot more inclusive especially for midwives and students living/working in rural areas. I think it has huge potential for collaborative work such as developing national clinical guidelines, political submissions or group education projects. However, as a complete newbie to this technology, I have found Wikispaces or even Google Doc to be easier to manage than WikiEducator. So again, we're back to the concept of keeping things simple with the lots of support and information for people new to the technology.

Clearly there are issues that need to be addressed, not least those of quality of information and how it is monitored or moderated (Boulos, Maramba, & Wheeler, 2006). And whilst the wiki is seen to encourage equality of authorship which in turns promotes negotiation, community democracy, sharing and trust, concerns have been voiced about the smothering of the individual voice which may be problematic for people who are less articulate (Fountain, no date). This gives rise to the concept of 'Darwikinism' where only the fittest survives ie people will edit material that is seen to be sub-standard (Lamb, 2004).

To conclude, I think the wiki is another example of a collaborative tool that has great potential for midwifery professional practice and education. I have a lot more learning to do about the practicalities of utilizing the software. I look forward to seeing how it is incorporated, if at all, into health practice.

The wiki prayer (Lamb, 2004).

Please, grant me the serenity to accept the pages I cannot edit,
The courage to edit the pages I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference

Final note: Cake recipe taken from nzmidwife wiki.

Spiced date cake

250 g Dates 1/2 cup boiling water
1 tsp baking soda 125 g butter
1/2 cup sugar 1 egg
1 cup flour 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice

Pour boiling water over dates and soda. Soak 1/2 hoour. Cream butter and sugar, add egg and beat. Stir in dry ingredients, then date mixture. Bake in a ring tin approx 1/2 hour in moderate oven. Ice with lemon icing.

Compton, M. (1982). Spiced date cake. In Rally Cook Book. Palmerston North: Every boys and every girls rally.


Boulos, MK., Maramba, I., & Wheeler, S. (2006). Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education. BMC Medical Education. 6: (41), 6 pages [accessed 4/2/08]

Elgort, I. (2007). Using wikis as a learning tool in higher education. In ICT: Providing choices
for learners and learning. Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007. [accessed 4/2/08]

Fountain, R. (no date). Wiki Pedagogy. Available: [accessed 4/2/08]

Lamb, B. (204). Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not. Educause Review. 39 (5): 36-48 [accessed 4/2/08]


Sitting In Silence said...

Wow...what a wonderful job you have both done.

Had to laugh at the Wiki great.


Sarah Stewart said...

Yes, it made me laugh as well!