More and more teachers are implementing online activities encouraging students to be more active outside of the classroom. The shortage of time in many conventional writing classes made many teachers rely on Wikis, Blogs, and Google documents to encourage the sense of collaboration among students, having hopes that they will learn how to edit and revise their classmates’ writings.
During my previous education, my classmates and I were mainly doing our group works via Skype. Sometimes we were talking and discussing aloud, irritating the family members, just for editing a paragraph in the research paper. But now, after getting introduced to Google document, Skype chats went away, instead late night typing sound disturbs the sweet sleep of the siblings, which is much preferable than the chatting voice! As for wiki (and all the other web pages in the same category), I had never used it before and just recently I have been introduced to it, and still struggling to find out how exactly it works.
Wiki (which is different from Wikipedia) is a web page looking like the blogs, enables the users to discuss a topic, share their writing activities, edit and revise them. In one sentence, it is a page for collaborative authorship. The ability of the page is similar to Google document both having a revision history recording the edits done by the students. However, after surfing the internet some minutes, I found out that Wikis are more versatile having more practical options. In the recent years, in many universities and schools, Wikis have become a common educational tool, especially in distance learning. The research carried out to find out whether using Wiki has any effect on students writing or not. The evidence indicates that using Wiki for collaborative writing may increase the revision behavior of users making them do more in-depth rather than superficial edits (Wichmann & Rummel, 2012). Moreover, working with Wiki, sharing a writing on the web is an enjoyable and a productive process for many students (Lee & Wang, 2013).
As a teacher-to-be, I am not sure which website I will choose to apply in my classes, but in this state, I will definitely choose Google documents as I have an experience of working with it. However, there is no huge difference between the two as the main functions of both are the same. For using network-based activities digitally literate students are needed, hence, I profoundly believe implementing them in high schools and universities will be more effective.
Now the question may raise how to use either wiki or Google document for writing activities? For clarification, consider the following activity.
Topic: Summary writing
Proficiency level: High-intermediate
Audience: YSLU second year students from translation department
Type of activity: Group work
- Ask students to make groups of three.
- Assign them to read the 2 chapters of a book, for example “The Translator’s Invisibility” by Venuti.
- Ask each group to create a Google doc or Wiki, add group mates and you (the teacher) on the page.
- Ask them to work on the summary collaboratively (edit and revise each other’s writing, check the grammar structure, orthography and writing style).
- Remind them that all their steps are recorded in web pages for further participation check.
- Give them a week for completing the assignment.
In such kind of activities, the teacher should keep in mind that not all the students will participate actively, and there will be an asynchronous communication among them. Hence, to ensure homogeneous participation, there should be a separate grade for it. Moreover, to make the experience more successful for students, the teacher should give the needed instructions and assessment rubric at the beginning, check the students’ participation at least one time before the deadline, and send encouraging emails asking them to work more on their writings. Moreover, for making the shared tasks more enjoyable, it is better not to give the students read and answering questions, as these types of activities are considered tedious and not collaborative (Lee & Wang, 2013).
To sum up, collaborative writings on the shared documents may boost students’ motivation and develop their editing skills. And to answer the question “which one to choose? Wiki or Google docs?” I have to say whichever one meets the goals!
Check the following websites for more information.