email is dead, long live Web 2.0


You wouldn’t necessarily know it was a wiki either, rather it is a shared document held online with secure access by a group of people collaborating on a complex project.

The roles are well-defined, as clear as those on a film production team (with similar titles):

  • Senior Production Manager
  • Production Manger
  • Learning Design
  • Designer
  • Developer

and so on

New to an e-learning office I find I am permanently online adding to a massive, collaborative wiki which is the e-learning course with its plethora of inputs.

Email rarely comes into it, why should it?

Wikis are lean production, they operate ‘just in time’ with each cell responsible for picking up their task as it best suits them.

The Open University provide an OU Student Blog platform, which you are required to use for some modules to build up reflective practice, they also provide a portfolio called MyStuff in which to dump stuff.

As portfolios either system can be used to aggregate content that can be shared, offered with restricted access or kept private.

I have been on the Masters in Open & Distance Education (MAODE) for two years, we have to give blogs, portfolios, wikis and other tools a go.

The interesting thing is to see how it plays out in practice during these MAODE modules.

I can cite failures as well as extraordinary successes.

Like learning to do anything new people/teams need to accept that at first they are getting into the sandpit to play.

Letting go of inhibition is tricky, academics in particular find it very hard to touch the words of another person.

The trick, I find, is to think of myself as a writing team, that the words that appear as text might just as well be a conversation around a meeting room table. Over time the ‘script’ will be bounced around.

Some tricks:

  • A wiki needs to be ‘populated’ with some text, ‘seeded’ by someone just so that there are some ingredients to get started on.
  • Don’t fuss about spelling, grammar or even the accuracy of ideas that you present. Indeed, the rougher the initial input, even the presence of easy to fix mistakes, the more likely someone will dip their toe in the water and fix the obvious. The polished whole should be the product of the group enterprise.
  • The magic isn’t the finished result, but the ability with current tools to trace back and forth through the ‘narrative’ of changes. In Google Docs you can contribute using different colour text which makes this ‘animation’ all the more easy to read. I found I got a fantastic sense of the thinking process, the logical changes, the ebb and flow, the occasional false trail corrected.

Have a go in Wikipedia

I was surprised how easily I signed in as an editor, found I subject I knew something about and jumped in with text and images. This felt like the first time I swam in a 50m pool.

My conclusion, shared amongst fellow students, is that the ‘modern’ blog platform, such as WordPress offers all of this, as in a wonderfully simple, bulletin board kind of way the OU’s own blog offering.

Six categories of eportfolio:

1) Assessment – used to demonstrate achievement against some criteria.

2) Presentation – used to evidence learning in a persuasive way, often relate to professional qualifications

3) Learning – used to document, guide and advance learning over time

4) Personal development – related to professional development and employment

5) Multiple owner– allow more than one person to participate in development of content

6) Working – combine previous types, with one or more eportfolios and also a wider archive.

Three kinds of e-portfolio (Matt Villano):

  • Developmental
  • Reflective
  • Representational

(A note on blogging. Spurred to say something about wikis based on my current experience in an international e-learning business with 70+ offices around the world I refer to the OU Student Blog I have kept since February 2010. Amongst its 1000+ pages there are 23 tags to wiki, or I can search ‘wiki’ in the blog. This reaches out to any notes I have taken during the FOUR modules I have thus far completed, where wikis, amongst many Web 2.0 tools are carefully introduced and discussed at length drawing on academic papers, the course content, input from out tutor, my student group and from the student cohort on this module who contribute to the vibrant asynchronous conversations in the various social learning environments offered).

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