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Page history last edited by Dave Foord 5 years, 2 months ago

The STOLEN principle for using wikis educationally


Wikis became a major buzz word within education in about 2005, with many tutors jumping to make use of this new technology. Unfortunately many people set wikis up with the best intention for their students, only to find that they didn’t work, or didn’t achieve the desired learning outcomes. This document follows some action research carried out by Dave Foord (www.a6training.co.uk) to try and identify why some educational wikis worked, and what could be done to increase the chances for others in the future. The research lead to the creation of the STOLEN principle – 6 basic features each identified by the letters STOLEN, which if considered could increase the wikis chances of being successful.


The STOLEN principle, breaks down some of the features of using wikis educationally in order to increase the chances of the wiki being successful, and meeting the desired learning outcomes set by the tutor. It is by no means essential to meet all of these criteria, but meeting more rather than less, may increase the chances of the wiki working. These rules will probably need to be modified as the technology improves and wiki become more culturally mainstream, but as a starter these rules give a tutor some guidance.


The next few pages give a little  information on the key features, then the final page is a tick sheet to help someone who is designing an educational wiki activity.




The idea of this wiki, is to allow people to improve the STOLEN principle, by editing the information below, if you wish to do that - the password that you will need is "nelots" (The word stolen spelt backwards)



Specific Overall Objective


Clear objective for the wiki

The wiki needs to have a simple clear objective - a clear purpose, explaining the benefits of either contributing to it, or the benefits of the end product once produced.


Understood by all

All people editing the wiki must understand the objectives, to allow them to edit the wiki in accordance with these objectives.


Not a 'general' area

Although ideologically there would be some merit in giving people a 'blank space' for them to explore their thoughts and possibilities, in reality with the relatively small number of students on any one course, module or unit - a 'blank space' is unlikely to magically get converted into a media rich knowledge bank like Wikipedia


(Here is an addition I consider important)

Grading strategy

If your wiki is not graded, that's fine. But if you plan on grading your students on their work on the wiki, establish some rules ahead of time so students can be aware of what they will be graded on. You might have to assign individual or group spaces in addition to a common space.

(Mathieu Plourde, Instructional Designer, University of Delaware)




Definitive times for different 'stages' of use

It is very easy for this sort of activity to 'get put off until I have more time'. To avoid this, setting intermediate deadlines, is advantageous. Sending reminders (e.g. emails) will usually trigger a rush of activity so can be used as a mechanism to keep up a wikis momentum.


Definite end point - even if left open after

Resources like Wikipedia have no definitive end point, the resource will continue ad infinitum When creating a wiki for educational use, it is unlikely that such a resource will get created or be useful, so wikis should be set up for specific purpose, with a specific end point. There isn't a problem with leaving the wiki open afterwards, nor is there a problem with people continuing to edit the resource, as this would also be ideal.






People need to feel that they 'collaboratively own' the wiki

Students will create highly imaginative blogs, Myspace or Facebook areas - because they belong to the students, and these areas are a reflection of them and their personality. To get high levels of creativity in a wiki, then creating some element of ownership can be advantageous, although there is a risk that this 'ownership' if individual will inhibit the collaborative nature of the wiki.


The conclusion therefore is to try to create a 'collaborative ownership'. This could be done by using language appropriate to the natural language of the group, or by having a soft touch when moderating the activity on the wiki. Another option is to designate certain areas to certain participants (of groups of participants) - it may be possible to make the exercise competitive, with different groups set a challenge of creating a resource that is 'better than other groups'. This will depend on the nature of the groups involved and will require diligence from the tutor.


Localised objective


Some structure of what is expected

Wikipedia has evolved organically, effectively with no starting structure, however this has only been possible by the high numbers of people involved in the editing of the site. This model will not replicate itself at a smaller level with an educational wiki. Therefore the wiki creator will benefit from creating some structure of what is expected - this could be some headings to use, an example page etc.


Starting points for editing

For most people wikis are new concepts, and the thought of this collaborative editing is daunting to many, especially if presented with a 'blank canvas' - it is therefore beneficial to create some starting points for the students to edit - this will probably be linked to the structure that is being created.




Engagement rules


Who can edit

Some people will be nervous about editing, so reinforcing who can (and is desired to) edit the wiki should be made obvious on the site.


Which parts they can edit

Clear guidance on which parts can (and is desired to) be edited should be made clear and obvious on the site.


Acceptable and unacceptable use

Depending on the ages and nature of the people who will be editing the wiki, it may be beneficial to provide some acceptable and unacceptable use guidance. This would benefit from not be presented in a formal 'Thou shall not' style, but could be incorporated in other information (e.g the purpose of the wiki) and should definitely be 'light touch'.






Clear navigation structure

One of the beauties of wikis is the way that they 'grow organically' however this often results in different people creating different styles of navigation structure, which can result in confusing navigation.


The wiki moderator could create their own structure for people to follow - which should ease this problem, but may inhibit the 'freedom' of the site. The best that someone can do when using a wiki educationally, is look at what they have created through the eyes of the students, or ask a colleague, friend, relative to look at.


Simple navigation

As well as the navigation being clear, it will ideally be simple, usually this means not too many clicks to find a specific part f the wiki, but balanced by not having a long list of links or information. With some wiki providers it is possible to create menu pages, which sit at the side of the wiki - these can be used to help with the navigational structure.






































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