Wikis and literacy development.

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An Annotation by Jeffery Ayer

McPherson focuses one the differences between wikis and blogs, the different types of wikis available (as of 2006), how reading levels of various wikis and electronic information should be considered by teachers, and inherent learning objectives involved when using wikis in the classroom.

First, McPherson clarifies that the overriding advantage of wikis over blogs is that a wiki

“permits visitors to add new information and, more important, edit previous authors’ submissions”

while a blog

“typically allows visitors to post responses to previous authors’ submissions – that is, visitors cannot go back and edit earlier blog submissions.”

In addition, there are two substantially different types of wiki pages, including public wikis, which are primarily created by anyone for just about any purpose, and then classroom-based wikis, which are created by teachers and students for various classroom purposes.  McPherson lists a number of examples that a reader could actually visit online to see and experience the differences.

McPherson’s greatest point may be regarding reading levels.  He strongly recommends checking a site’s readability before sending students to read its content.  By running readability tests by copying and pasting a chunk of text into Microsoft Word, a teacher can quickly calculate a source’s readability.

He goes on to point out that using this technology often increases classroom motivation, so where a student might give up on something that is just above his/her reading level, with this approach, a student is more likely to “stick it out.”  McPherson states,

“[C]omprehension of the wiki’s content is significantly compromised when students are faced with print ranked two or more grade levels above their own.”

McPherson closes with some important questions a teacher or librarian might ask to determine learning objectives with this technology.  They include the following:

  • “What information literacy skills are unique to this format?;
  • Can this literacy be learned faster or more clearly with another technology?; and
  • “Is this a good use of my precious time on these computers?”

He also closes by sharing the importance of teachers’ responsibility to prepare students to determine qualitative, credible information.  McPherson writes,

“students must be taught information literacy skills aimed at evaluating the credibility and authenticity  of a wiki’s information.”

In particular, McPherson points out a helpful website in this vein at

McPherson, K.  (2006, October).  Wikis and literacy development.  Teacher  librarian.  Vol. 34, Iss. 1.

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