The social construction of knowledge using a wiki

I’ve started a few projects in my department, one of which revolves around the use of wikis to create environments for students to engage more dynamically with both the content and each other.  The rationale is that deeper learning occurs when there is an understanding of the content that goes beyond the ability to recite tracts of it back to the teacher.  Another component incorporates the idea of social constructivism, which asserts that knowledge is created through social interactions, where groups build knowledge for themselves and for each other.

It seems that a wiki is an appropriate platform that fits well with this concept.  It allows collaboration from many students, separated in geography and time, to build on each others’ contributions leading towards the completion of a shared goal, all the while encouraging discussion around the content and structure of the content.  In my Applied Physiotherapy class, I’ve put aside a small section of the OpenPhysio website in order to evaluate the process.  Each group must complete an article on an appropriate topic assigned to them, as well as provide a critical review of another group’s topic.  They are also encouraged to make small grammatical and spelling corrections on any other topic they read.

I’m hoping that the process will highlight the benefits of truly working together as a group, as well as of the peer review and drafting processes.  Students should be more aware of how to structure documents with regular feedback, not only from the facilitator but also from each other.  The ability of the wiki to track changes over time will provide valuable information about how the document grows, who makes contributions, the challenges of group dynamics and a host of other data that might be useful in forming a more academic picture of the use of new technology in education.