Wikis in the World Language Classroom: Transforming Teaching, Learning, & Learning to Teach Through Technology

by Cherice Montgomery, Michigan State University
May 29, 2008


What does it mean to be literate and why should world language educators care?






“Literacy has always been about using the most powerful cultural tools available to make and communicate meaning. At the present, those tools happen to be multimedia tools that use video, graphics, sound, and traditional text in a hypermedia format. If we or our students don't know how to critically use these tools to their fullest meaning-constructive potential, then we—and they—are illiterate" (Wilhelm, 2000, p. 7).





With the 21st Century now upon us, information (and our access to it) continues to proliferate at a remarkable rate (Dimkovski & Deeb, 2007; Lyman & Varian, 2000). The nature of that information, the tools we use to "write" it, the surfaces on which we inscribe it, the ways in which we disseminate it, and the manner in which it influences us are also being transformed. According to anthropologist Michael Wesch (2007), the sociocultural fabric of society is changing, and by extension, so is the definition of literacy--what it means to be well-equipped to function within that society.



In other words, the ways in which people communicate, interpret, and understand information have been fundamentally altered by its digitization, the convergence of emerging technologies, the global expansion of social networks, and the rapid development and diffusion of innovations they make possible (Burbules & Callister, 2000; Leu, et. al, 2004; Wesch, 2007). These changes have evoked new terms such as "hyperreading" (Burbules & Callister, 2000), new forms of multimedia authoring such as machinima (Lowood, 2007; Tavares, Gil, & Roque, 2005), new ways of doing business like goldfarming and Second Life (Wang, 2006), and new fields such as Digital Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition (DigiRhet.org, 2006; Grabill & Hicks, 2005; Hocks, 2003). Intensified interaction among people and ideas from diverse cultures and environments has produced new opportunities, but also more complex problem sets. Since such problems are the result of a synergy of contexts, their solutions are also likely to be dynamic and distributed among multiple fields, domains, communities, and cultures (Jonassen, 2003). To function in a society that is so globally complex and multifaceted, learners must possess profound understanding of a wide variety of subjects, skillfully select between multiple perspectives and frames of reference, and employ cognitive flexibility to analyze, interpret, synthesize and represent information from ill-structured domains in powerful ways (Jonassen, 2003; Spiro, Feltovich, Jacobson, & Coulson, 1991).

Yet, in spite of substantive attention to school reform and technology integration, change has been slow in the classrooms, curriculum, culture, and concomitant teaching practices of most American schools (and language classrooms) (Cuban, 2001; Tyack & Cuban, 1995). I propose that this is due to the fact that such change is multilayered and multifaceted. It requires not only access to new technologies, the development of new literacies, and the implementation of new instructional practices, but also the cultivation of new ways of seeing that facilitate the design and application of transformative pedagogies. This paper explores the use of a wiki as a tool for developing literacies that initiate, implement, and sustain transformative change in preservice teachers, world language methods courses, teacher preparation programs, and the K-12 schools they serve.



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Scholarly References

Burbules, Nicholas C., & Callister, Jr., Thomas A. (2000). Watch IT: The risks and promises of information technologies for education. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Cuban, Larry. (2001). Oversold & underused: Computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

DigiRhet.org. (2006). Teaching digital rhetoric: community, critical engagement, and application, Pedagogy, 6(2), 231-259. Retrieved March 12, 2008, from
http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/pedagogy/v006/6.2digirhet.html

Dimkovski, Martin, & Deeb, Kevin. (2007). Knowledge technology through functional layered intelligence. Future Generation Computer Systems, 23(3), 295-303. Retrieved March 11, 2008, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V06-4KGG5P1-1/2/a4fcc173abcf7bff01372c0461318cef

Grabill, Jeffrey T., & Hicks, Troy. (2005). Multiliteracies meet methods: the case for digital writing in english education, English Education, 37(4), 301-311.

Hocks, Mary E. (2003). Understanding visual rhetoric in digital writing environments, College Composition and Communication, 54(4), 629-656. Retrieved
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Leu, Donald J., Jr., Kinzer, Charles K., Coiro, Julie, & Cammack, Dana W. (2004). Toward a theory of new literacies emerging from the Internet and other information and communication technologies. In R.B. Ruddell, & N. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed., pp. 1570-1613). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Retrieved October 2005, from http://www.readingonline.org/newliteracies/lit_index.asp?HREF=leu/

Lowood, Henry. (2007). Found technology: players as innovators in the making of machinima, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning, 165-196. Retrieved March 11, 2008, from http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/dmal.9780262633598.165

Lyman, Peter, & Varian, Hal. (2000, December). How much information? The Journal of Electronic Publishing, 6(2). Retrieved March 11, 2008, from http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.3336451.0006.204

Parise, Salvatore, & Guinan, Patricia J. (2008). Marketing using web 2.0 In Proceedings of the 41st Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, p. 281. DOI: 10.1109/HICSS.2008.242.

Spiro, Rand J., Feltovich, Paul J., Jacobson, Michael I., & Coulson, Richard L. (1991). Cognitive flexibility, constructivism, and hypertext: Random access instruction for advanced knowledge acquisition in ill-structured domains. Retrieved November 3, 2003, from http://phoenix.sce.fct.unl.pt/simposio/Rand_Spiro.htm

Tavares, José P., Gil, Rui, & Roque, Licinio. (2005). Players as authors: conjecturing online game creation modalities and infrastructure In Proceedings of DiGRA 2005 Conference: Changing Views – Worlds in Play. Retrieved from http://www.digra.org:8080/Plone/dl/db/06278.49263.pdf

Tyack, David, & Cuban, Larry. (1995). Tinkering toward utopia: A century of public school reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wang, Patricia. (2006). A marxian analysis of world of warcraft: virtual gaming economies reproducing capitalistic structures. Retrieved March 12, 2008,
from http://triciawang.pbwiki.com/Papers

Wilhelm, Jeff. (2000, March). Literacy by design: Why is all this technology so important anyhow? Voices from the Middle, 7(3), pp. 4-14. Available: http://mwp.cla.umn.edu/techtraining/wilhelm.pdf



Multimedia References

Free Buttons. (n.d.). Blur metal. Freebuttons.com. Retrieved March 17, 2008, from http://www.freebuttons.com/index.php?page=freebuttons&buttonName=BlurMetal&color=3

Wesch, Michael. (2007, March 8). Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us Video - Final Version. YouTube. Retrieved May 3, 2007, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLlGopyXT_g