Social Issue-Technological Solution: Wikis


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Wikis: Collaboration over Foreign Competitors Social Issue/Technological Solution for my Governor's School Application

One problem facing education in the 21st century is the lack of cooperation and collaboration among students. Many students are taught to do their work independently; while this is necessary to make sure that everyone learns something, many students graduate without the ability to collaborate with others. The increase of international competitors forces Pennsylvanians to collectively use their knowledge in order to have a leg up on the international competition.

Schools try to prepare students to collaborate by assigning “group projects.” However, while group projects provide some cooperative experience, the work for most group projects is spread unevenly. In many cases, each member of the group does part of the project, and all of the pieces are emailed the night before to an “assembler.” This person is responsible for putting together all of the pieces of a project, proofreading all of the work, and filling in the gaps.

Also in many group projects, a handful of students do most of the work. The students who get a free ride learn only how to slink out of work and everyone loses the chance to work together. Often times the project will turn out worse, because one student completed large parts of it without any other input. Furthermore, the teacher is unable to detect the distribution of work, because students will cover up for their fellow students and lie about who did what.

Wikis are great tools to help groups work together. The largest and best known wiki is Wikipedia. As of November 2007 Wikipedia had 9.1 million articles in 252 languages comprising a combined total of over 1.41 billion words. Wikis are also expanding into the enterprise. By the time students complete school, more companies will have employees use wikis to help collaborate, share ideas, and stay on the same page.

Collaboration is becoming increasingly important in the workplace. Simple tasks are being increasingly replaced by machines or out-sourced labor. However, these machines are often designed in the US and these workers often work on the behalf of Americans. American companies have long been successful due to their human capital. However, in order to stay competitive, workers need to work well together and form highly collaborative teams.

Wikis revolutionize group projects. On a wiki, each person is able to see everything the group has produced on a project. They can see everybody’s work to comment and proofread it. There is no “assembler” because the entire group can take on that task. Everything is centralized; there is no need to hunt down other people’s work.

Wikis also prevent students from sliding under the radar. The teacher can look into a wiki’s edit log to see what each group member contributed. This insures that each member will contribute to the project. Overall wikis help everyone to achieve a better education by learning how to collaborate, streamlining the process of putting the project together, and insuring that everyone does a fair share. These improvements will help American firms stay competitive over foreign competition.

Last year in World Cultures class, my group used a wiki to coordinate. Our project was the best in the class, as our group was very well prepared, and the paper was well written. The paper was edited over 80 times and there are many pages of discussion and video pre-production.