Thursday, February 3, 2011

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Blogs and Wikis in Education


I had my first blog when my husband and I moved to the United States. I was planning to stay in touch with my family and friend living in Taiwan by posting my diaries on my blog. It didn’t last too long because my husband didn’t like our live revealed on the Internet. However, following up different blogs has been part of my life to keep up with the world. I don’t have too much personal experience of using Wikis. Most of my Wiki knowledge was acquired from the Internet or other users’ experiences. 

Accompanying with the popularity of blogs and wikis, more and more educators start to integrate them into academic activities for educational purposes. One of common characteristics of blogs and wikis is that they allow teachers to reach out to the community or even the whole world and bring the community with the same interests into the classroom.  Blogs are more intended for web-based journals written usually by a single author and typically within a specific theme or area of interest. On the other hand, wikis are a type of writing cyberspace and allows users to express and edit the postings and are designed for collaborative authoring by everyone in the group. After I did visit a wide range of blogs and wikis and combined research, I found out that despite of the fundamental differences, both of blogs and wikis share some common advantages and disadvantages, my reflections on them are shown as the following points.

Advantages
1.      Free or inexpensive. Many providers offer free blog or wiki services. Even with advanced features, they charge a quite affordable price.
2.      Offer an easy publishing tool for posting information as well as getting feedback to and from public. Both of them are easy to learn and use with pre-designed templates and step by step user guidelines.
3.      Enable educators and learners to expand the learning circle with parents, communities, or even the people around the world who has access to the Internet. They allow users by sharing their articles, views and comments to build a network with similar interests.
4.      Digital achieve. It eases the frustration of navigation for the posted articles and discussion in relation to particular topics. With recent change feature, wikis have the capability to track every edit and to revert back a previous version of postings.  
5.      Provide collaborative learning environment and promote communication skills in some aspects. Wikis and blogs create a common goal of participation and help learners develop social skills about group consensus and compromise. Students are encouraged to being authors and develop communication skills, especially in writing and reading, while class activities take place in virtual setting rather than traditional classroom.
Disadvantages
1.       Confidentiality and quality concern. All the postings go to public unless the site owner limits the access. It’s time consuming and involves a lot of efforts to maintain the quality of the site quality and keep it on task. Public publication can also result in becoming an easy target for spam or vandalism if not manage properly.
2.       Plagiarism and copyright issues. The publishers need extra caution not only to make sure all the postings are original or the quotations from others are clearly remarked, but also for prevention from outsiders stealing their intellectual properties.
3.       Hard to grade and assess. It can be overwhelming for educators to grade either too many or too few entries are posted by students.
4.       Users can be distracted easily. Once the students get connected with blogs or wikis, they also have access to the entire virtual world and can get diverted away from their tasks easily.
5.       Lack of listening and speaking skill training. The activities are mainly conducted in text writing. Not all language skills can be comprehended in blogging or wiki related coursework, especially in listening and speaking. Writing may be more casual than traditional assignment and can lead to sloppy writing similar to email or text messaging.


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