Knowledge building using wikis in a computer-supported collaborative writing task

Woo, Jeong Won
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The purpose of this study was to investigate how Scardamalia’s (2002) socio-cognitive determinants of knowledge building emerge in a computer-supported collaborative writing task, and to understand students’ perceptions of knowledge building experience and the use of tools, including wikis, to support the collaborative writing process. The setting of this study was a graduate level online course on Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL), in which all course activities were conducted collaboratively in an online environment. Data sources included: transcripts of online inputs in the wiki areas; interviews with 15 participants; participants’ reflective journals; transcripts of asynchronous online discussions and synchronous chats. Data were analyzed using content analysis for the transcripts of wiki areas and grounded theory approach (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) was used in the analysis of data from the interviews. Results of the data analysis indicated that the three groups in this study participated in the collaborative knowledge building activity in different ways. The three factors that influenced their participation in the activity included: group dynamics, collaborative writing task, and collaborative writing tools. These factors interacted with each another and impacted their knowledge building discourse in the following ways: improvable ideas, constructive use of authoritative sources, epistemic agency, and embedded and transformative assessment. As a result of their engagement in knowledge building discourse, participants successfully completed the collaborative writing project and shared a strong sense of community and co-ownership of the knowledge product. The findings of this study may shed light on the strategies and environmental factors that encourage knowledge building discourse as well as the synergetic combination of technology tools and knowledge building task. In addition, understanding the process of knowledge building in a computer-supported collaborative writing task and the participants perception of knowledge building and the use of tools may help instructor better prepare learners to become collaborative learners and effective knowledge workers.