Wednesday, November 14, 2007

SL - A 3D Wiki?

It is according to the New World Notes blog. Blogger, W. James Au, believes that until now, SL as a 3D wiki has merely been an analogy. He states,

"Virtual/real world architects Keystone Bouchard
(Ryan Schultz) and Theory Shaw (Jon Brouchoud) of Wikitecture Studio have just filled this gap. Their "Wikitecture Tree" saves the data of a building project into a leaf on the tree. Collaborators can then review and critique each, and if they like, create a new version of it-- which then literally becomes, in turn, another leaf sprouting from the original design. To see any of these iterations, you just click on the leaf, and the design rezzes before your eyes."

A demo of Bouchard and Shaw's Wikitecture Tree is available on YouTube at .

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wikipedians and a Representative Sample

Bryant, S. L., Forte, A., & Bruckman, A. (2005). Becoming Wikipedian: Transformation of participation in a collaborative online encyclopedia. In M. Pendergast, K. Schmidt, G. Mark, and M. Acherman (Eds.); Proceedings of the 2005 International ACM SIGGROUP Conference on Supporting Group Work, GROUP 2005, Sanibel Island, FL, November 6-9, pp. 1-10. Retrieved February 7, 2007, from

Curt mentioned that this article is heavily cited in journal articles and conference presentations related to the topic of wikis. I thought the authors provided a thought-provoking analysis of the ways in which novices become enculturated into the Wikipedia community. As individuals become move from novices to "experts" in this community, the roles shift from user to contributor to guardian. While articles tend to note the limitations of the study, the authors' disclosure in this particular piece made me question how generalizable their findings are to the average Wikipedia user.

In the Conclusions, the authors state, "Participants in this study were strategically recruited in ways that ensured awareness of community norms and active participation in community spaces. These were active, committed members." The Ns were also really small in this study - only 9 participants - and these individuals were not necessarily your typical Wikipedia user. Based on this data, it is unclear how the authors can claim that their findings may suggest an "emerging genre." For this group, it is, but expanding the claim beyond that is questionable. This is a rather brief article that is likely an abbreviated version of a much larger document. Thus, it is possible that in the editing process, details that would support the authors' claims were deleted for the sake of space. If not, the authors' conclusion is a stretch.

Wikis and Academia

Rosenzweig, R. (2006, June). Can history be open source: Wikipedia and the future of the past. The Journal of American History, 93(1), 117-146. Retrieved February 4, 2007, from

Like many articles that examine the wiki phenomenon, and the proliferation of Wikipedia, specifically, this piece by Rosenzweig begins by outlining what it is and how it works. Because the author's message is targeted at historians, he explores how wikis can be part of the historian's toolkit. He does this by comparing historical entries in Wikipedia to comparable ones found in more "traditional" encyclopedias - American National Biography Online and Encarta to name a couple. Based on his comparison, Rosenzweig concludes that Wikipedia is roughly equivalent to Encarta, but lacks in comparison to the American National Biography Online. However he does note that the authors who have contributed entries to Wikipedia are not representative of the general population. Instead, the contributors tend to be English-speaking males; hence the criticism that Wikipedia has been shaped by "geek priorities."

Rosenzweig goes on to make a case for why historians should care about Wikipedia. For one, he points out that you don't have to look to the Internet to find bad history; it's also found in the library stacks. [I can attest to this. When I was working in an academic library, we found a book in the stack stating that there is not evidence to suggest that smoking is bad for your health. Our records indicated that the book had been recently checked out so you know that a student included that little factoid in her paper.] Next, instructors generally do not want their students to rely on any encyclopedia entry for their term papers. The impact of Wikipedia alone is yet another reason why historians should care. Also, the peer review process for the featured article section is another Wikipedia characteristic that Rosenzweig highlights.

Despite the fact that there are difficulties implementing a Wikipedia-style model in academia, Rosenzweig nonetheless suggests that a publication that relies on volunteer labor would not be foreign to scholars. In fact, scholars are already spending numerous volunteer hours on journals and conferences. The discussion about the possibilities for history scholars to become actively involved in a tool, like Wikipedia, reminded me of the Pronetos project: "a global think-tank of the leaders in your field". Pronetos was launched at the end of October 2007, and members can post work for peer feedback, remix content posted by others, and produce new custom publications based on the resources found on the site. Will this catch on? Maybe with a group of pioneers (and those who have tenure) who are willing to try a model that runs counter to the traditional system. Until the tenure and review process changes, though, it will likely be difficult for Pronetos to obtain a critical mass.

Wikis and Friendship

Ferris, S. P., & Wilder, H. (2006, June/July). Uses and potentials of wikis in the classroom. Innovate Journal of Online Education, 2(5), Retrieved July 4, 2007, from

This article provides a general overview of wikis in education. The authors begin by discussing learning paradigms, such as secondary orality, which values "community, group-sense, and participation." They then move on to outline the various definitions associated with wikis, crediblity debates, and the ways in which wikis foster collaboration among teachers and students. While these issues and concerns are noted in numerous articles on wikis, the one statement made by the authors that attracted my attention was the following: "While a weblogs is most often based on a diary metaphor in which the weblog author is the primary author who posts on a regular (often daily) basis, a wiki is more like a friendship based on a specific interest."

Even though I think this is an interesting and unique metaphor, the term "friendship" is perhaps too strong of a word. The authors refer to stamp collectors who have no connection to each other with the exception of stamps. However, if the stamp collectors meet to discuss/trade etc. stamps, then there may be more to the relationship than people independently contributing to an entry on the
cyberpunk movement. To me, friendship is more than just people who share an interest in a particular topic - there has to be some type of communication or interaction. In this section of the article, the authors don't mention the interactions contributors may have on the discussion pages. If they had, it might be easier for me to buy into the friendship metaphor; but, based solely on the arguement made by the authors, they have not convinced me.

Blended learning, blogs and wikis - oh my!

A new book on blended learning - Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles, and Guidelines (Garrison & Vaughan) - takes a look at the blended learning trend. Not only do the authors discuss the theories surrounding the incorporation of technology into the curriculum (e.g., active engagement, social presence), but they also examine ways educators can use blogs and wikis to enhance the f2f learning experience. In this Inside Higher Ed interview with the authors, they outline the design of assigments using blogs and wikis that foster collaboration, self-reflection, and peer review.

Monday, November 12, 2007


This just in...

CNN has just launched a news site in Second Life!

"Just as CNN asks its real-life audience to submit I-Reports -- user-generated content submitted from cell phones, computers, cameras and other equipment for broadcast and online reports -- the network is encouraging residents of Second Life to share their own "SL I-Reports" about events occurring within the virtual world."

For those interested in honing their amateur reporting skills, CNN will be hosting its first in-world training session on Tuesday, November 13, at 5 p.m. ET at the I-Report Hub.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Podcasting and Web 2.0

As I was reading the articles for this week, I was thinking about the question, "Is podcasting a Web 2.0 technology?" Stevens (2006) makes the following distinctions between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. To him, Web 1.0 was "the era of the 'read-only' Web"; in contrast, Web 2.0 is the "'read-write' Web (p. 3). When I think of Web 2.0, words like sharing, collaboration, participation, interaction come to mind. The white paper by Deal (2007) outlines three ways podcasts are being used: 1) lectures for review; 2) supplemental material; and 3) podcast assignments. None of these activities requires interaction through the technology per se. Sure, student may interact and collaborate while creating their podcast assignments, but once that recording is posted, that's it. Instructors could also design activities that foster this type of environment, but thus far, this does not appear to be the case.

Further, Deal, as well as Brittain et al. (2006) and Lane (2006), also points out that most students do not take advantage of the mobility afforded by the podcasting technology; instead, students listened to the recordings via their computer. To me, this type of use takes us back to the days of Web 1.0. The only difference is that instead of reading the content, they are listening to it. While I do believe that podcasting technology does have the potential to become more Web 2.0-like, I don't think it's there at this time. As was the case with early cinematographers, we are replicating what is familiar as we learn more about this technology. Perhaps the uses of podcasting will become more innovative and creative as we learn more about the technology and its capabilities.

Gadget Giveaway or Educational Tool?

The articles we read this week discuss podcasting and its use in academic settings. While the focus is primarily on initiatives at institutions such as the University of Michigan and Harvard, the Duke iPod program was mentioned in passing.

In August 2004, Duke University launched an initiative designed to expand the use of technologies in education by distributing iPods to approximately 1,600 first-year students. The results of this program can be found in this report. Even though data were collected to support the notion that the iPods added value to the educational mission of the institution, the actual impact of this tool is still unknown. Like the authors of this week's articles, Duke University researchers also concluded that more research is needed; however, anecdotal evidence suggests that the iPods did positively influence exam outcomes.

Still, the Duke program was scaled back and iPods were only distributed to students who were enrolled in courses that used the technology. Despite this turn of events, though, many institutions were making the move to hand out various types of devices (e.g., laptops, PDAs, Blackberries, etc.) to their students. This raised the question as to whether podcasting did foster learning, or whether it was merely a pawn in the "great gadget giveaway" - efforts not to enhance student learning but to recruit students to certain campuses.

What makes pieces like the one by Brittain et al. (2006) so important is that these individuals clearly illustrate why the University of Michigan School of Dentistry integrated podcasting into the curriculum. Even though students were asking for video recordings of lectures, the authors worked to determine whether this technology would best match the needs of the students. After several stages and pilot studies, podcasting was found to be a better match. Rather than selecting a technology just because it's hip and cool, this program and its students rationally considered their options before selecting one. It's research like this that can be used to counter claims made by skeptics. With anecdotal evidence alone, though, this is a much harder case to make.