Critique and Conclusion

Critique and Conclusion

Wiki Writing provides a wiki novice with a solid historical and theoretical background of wikis, while also providing wiki experts practical "tips" for integrating wikis into the classroom. While much of the text is devoted to praising wiki successes, the authors do not simply proselytize wikis. Indeed, the volume’s cautionary tales are as valuable as the successes. For example, the contributors regularly discuss the problem of authorship in the wiki; Barton's suggestion to turn this potential issue into a "teachable moment" is productive. Barton posits that having students engage in a rational, critical debate with individuals attempting to alter their texts will further student’s understanding of argumentation and audience awareness (pp. 191). If students feel strongly enough about their text, they will be forced to justify it to someone they may not know. Another valuable lesson that Wiki Writing espouses over and over is that wikis are not perfect—but these "imperfections" can still lead to valuable lessons for students and instructors alike. The honesty the authors possess—they are frank in describing their student's displeasure and enjoyment of working with a wiki—can potentially help instructors realize potential stumbling blocks when including wikis in the classroom.

If there is a weakness in this collection, it is that only one chapter is written purely from a student perspective. Though the authors do attempt to be honest in their perceptions of wikis in the classroom, it would be useful to hear more from students like Elfving and Menchen-Trevino. Additionally, only a handful of chapters address how wikis can help other stakeholders in higher education; for example, Dan Gilbert, Helen L. Chen and Jeremy Sabol's "Building Learning Communities with Wikis" discuss how various learning communities can evolve as a result of wiki use in the classroom and Ben McCorkle's "GlossTechnologia: Anatomy of a Wiki-Based Annotated Bibliography" describes his vision of using the wiki as a tool for bibliographies. But the collection, by and large, fails to address how wikis can help administrators, librarians, writing center directors, and other key academic personnel—a stated goal of the text. Rather, it focuses more on explaining what a wiki is and, for lack of a better phrase, developing a wiki pedagogy. Additionally, the chapters seem to have some repetition regarding the history and explanation of the wiki; several authors touch on when wikis were created and how wikis have evolved. While having a historical background on wikis is important, having one chapter touch on this would be sufficient.

Still, Wiki Writing is a strong effort and would be particularly useful for instructors inspired to use new media in their classroom. Though some chapters are steeped in theory, most chapters discuss the author's experience with implementing wikis in the classroom. While the authors address how they used wikis, they do not insist that wikis be used for "x" assignment or in one particular vein. Rather, they generally describe what they perceive as strengths and weaknesses of the wiki. Overall, this volume is one that substantively adds to the already existing texts on new media pedagogy.