Weathering wikis: net-based learning meets political science in a South African university

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Computers and Composition

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Elsevier Ltd.


University of Cape Town

Wikis represent flexible tools functioning as open-ended environments for collaboration while also offering process and group writing support. Here we focus on a project to innovate the use of wikis for collaborative writing within student groups in a final-year undergraduate political science course. The primary questions guiding our research were in what ways could wikis assist collaborative learning in an undergraduate course in political science and how we could support educators' in the effective use of wikis? Curiously, wikis may serve as a mediating artifact for collaborative writing even among students who are reluctant to post online drafts. The paper raises questions concerning the nature and limits of lecturer and tutor power to deliver transformative educational innovations in relation to the capacity of students to embrace, comply with, or resist such innovation. In analysing the negotiation of the use of wikis in the course by and among the lecturer, tutors, and students, we draw on two principles in activity theory, which Yrjo Engestrom argued are central to his model of expansive learning: multi-voicedness and contradictions [Engestrom, Yrjo. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity-theoretical approach to developmental research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit; Engestrom, Yrjo. (2001). Expansive learning at work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of Education and Work 14(1), 133–156.]. We add a third principle, transparency, to more fully capture what we observed.

This is the author's version of a work that was accepted for publication in Computers and Composition. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Computers and Composition, Volume 24, Issue 3, 2007. DOI: 10.1016/j.compcom.2007.06.001.