14 September 2010

"Wiki, Wiki, Wiki--WHAT?" Tharp on New Media

I recently read Tara Leigh Tharp's English Journal article about wiki pages she used in a classroom project. Tharp teaches 11th grade and AP English in Tennessee, and she noticed her students' high levels of digital literacy. She therefore conceived a collaborative project in which her students worked in groups on wikis to analyze books they'd read. I've just written a paper about my thoughts on her article, and I'll post one of the paragraphs here.

The time of Tharp's article's publication, May 2010, is a critical time for her claim. Tharp was partially motivated to her project by observing her students "in both public and peer-to-peer networks such as MySpace, Facebook, online gaming, and blogs" (40). Today's students grew up with computers and feel comfortable using internet, but many of their teachers do not boast the same level of digital literacy. Hence, teachers often underestimate the potential of classroom technology. Tharp's project employs wikis to bridge the gap between generations. However, though her students may surpass her in general digital literacy, the wikis themselves were as new to her as they were to her students. Thus, she "felt unequipped to set a standard for when, where, and how often students should contribute to the wiki" (45). Young or old, each of us has trouble using a medium that is entirely new to us. Tharp's article not only introduces classroom wiki use but expounds the logistics thereof. Thus, teachers who would otherwise shy away from wikis can feel comfortable because she pairs her glowing success story with her methodology. Teachers working in the midst of a sweeping current of technological change are the best possible audience for Tharp's argument.
I was excited to discover this article, because it describes exactly how one teacher successfully incorporated new media into her classroom. Further, this article has helped to pull me away from my facebook fixation. I am more open to the possibilities of media I've never heard of being the norm in India when I go, much like the minitel (pictured below) was in France. I've never used a minitel, even though 40 percent of the French population did in 1999.

So what is this to me? Am I looking at classroom project that I can analyze and report, somewhat like Tharp? Am I going to conduct interviews to explore existing attitudes toward educational technology? Will I spend my time observing classrooms and quotidian technology use? A class project would likely be the hardest to pin down--and the most fun!

Tharp, Tara Leigh. "Wiki, Wiki, Wiki--WHAT?' Assessing Online Collaborative Writing." English Journal 99.5 (2010): 40-46. Web. 30 Aug 2010.


  1. I feel pretty comfortable with technology and social media, even though I don't actively use a lot of what's out there, and I use Wikipedia all the time ... but I have to admit the concept of a "wiki" still eludes me.

    Is this Tharp article a good place to start learning about the practical logistics of creating and maintaining a wiki, or would you recommend another launching point?

  2. As for how to actually use a wiki--I don't know myself, and Tharp doesn't explain it. If you're wondering how best to incorporate a wiki into your classroom, then I suggest her article, but if you want to learn how to use a wiki I suggest you try google wave (which is not quite a wiki but is similar). You can buy "The Complete Guide to Google Wave," an e-book, for $9 here: http://completewaveguide.com/ and here's a blog post about how to use google wave http://mashable.com/2009/05/28/google-wave-guide/.

    Hope that helps!