In my final project, I interviewed seven people from different age groups (from 19 to 75) on how they use learning technologies in their daily life. I asked them whether they have taken an online class, had online collaborative learning experience, read e-books, subscribed podcasts and used Open Education Resource Wikis. It is only to Wikis that everyone said YES! They said they always go to Wikipedia for definitions and other information when they don’t know or feel confused about things. (Only one person was not sure which websites he was led to when he searched for definitions and explanations, but based on his description, I think he should have used Wikipedia).
However, when I took one more step, asking whether they have edited wikis, only one person said yes. He edited a wiki page about Taekwondo due to his rich knowledge and experience in this sport. (He is a Black Belt and has taught Taekwondo for many years.)
My personal experience also proves that reading Wikis is common/easy, but writing Wikis is another story. Why people hesitate to put their words on Wikis? First, I think some people are not aware that Wikis can be edited by users. One of the people I interviewed told me she just found out that she can create an account and log in Wikipedia. Second, even though some people are aware they can edit Wikis, they don’t know how to edit. This is partly because of technical reasons, but more possibly because of lack of expertise. The person in my interview edited on the Taekwondo page since he was confident that his knowledge could improve that page. Finally, some people hesitate to edit Wikis due to language barriers. (I don’t know whether Wikis are able to automatically translate writings in other language into English…)
Based on the above analysis, I am wondering whether students should still be encouraged to edit Wikis. My thought is that students under Graduate (Master’s and PHD’s) level don’t have to do so, if they are not confident about their knowledge and writing skill. There are many ways to encourage students to explore knowledge and improve writing skill, like Google doc for collaborative writing, and blogs for knowledge reflection and discussion (through comment). It doesn’t have to be Wikis. Given that most people resort to Wikis as the most starting point for knowledge and information acquiring, editing it means taking social responsibility. If requiring students edit Wikis, teachers should ensure the accuracy and reliability of the content before it is posted.
So, who should take more responsibility in editing and supervising the contents of Wikis? No doubt, they are experts, scholars, professors and researchers in specific fields. This group of people should realize that there are more eyes looking at their works on Wikis and contributing on Wikis is one of the most important actions to sustain OER and further than that, to create the flow of knowledge.