The Life of a Wannabe Academic

Detail of the life a new academic. The progress from graduate training to professor. Includes reflections on the job hunting process, research in technology and education, and what it is like to be a new college professor.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Web 2.0

With the downtime that I have imposed on myself this summer I have spent quite a bit of time on the Internet. I do have to say that a lot of what I do on the web would be considered to be a part of the Web 2.0 phenomenon. For those unfamiliar Web 2.0 is a phrase that was developed by O'Reilly Media to explain what they thought was a new use for the web (blogs, social networking, wikis, etc.). Here is the Wikipedia entry:

I was exploring Wikipedia the other day (probably pressing the random article button or looking up some piece of information) and decided to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the homepage. There I found several of Wikipedia's other projects (Wikibooks, Wiki Junior, WikiSpecies, WikiDictionary, WikiUniversity). Now I may be a bit behind on keeping up with new items on the web, but I was intrigued especially by the WikiBooks link. My grad school advisor is currently working on writing a WikiBook about the advent of these different Wikis and their uses and the potential of their use in schools.

I wanted to see what there was and found that there were quite a few textbooks available. Excited I clicked to explore them thinking perhaps this could be an alternative to requiring college students to buy expensive ($100+) textbooks and found myself greatly disappointed. The books that were there (for psychology at least) were not good. Very little information beyond a general introduction or they were just simply links to pages in Wikipedia.

There was one stellar example of a Wikibook: . To me this is a good example of the use of this medium at least to begin. It is still pretty text driven, but there are several links embedded in the text to Wikipedia pages for students to delve deeper into some topic. Personally, I'd like to see these WikiBooks take more advantage of the features of the Internet (streaming videos, interactive demonstrations, etc). However, doing so would require experts in the field to give great contributions basically for free.

Another site that I found if the Psychology Wiki:
This site has more information than many of the Wikibooks on Wikipedia, but is still in need of updating. It is relatively new having only begun in January 2006. But with a year under its belt there are several thousand pages that have been contributed. For me this site seems a bit cumbersome as a user. You need to click quite a bit to get to where you want, and even if you do eventually get there, many times there is no content yet. Additionally it seems to me that if there is information there, it is pretty limited to just the absolute minimum. This might be because there are not enough psychologists who are willing to take the time to contribute.

In any case I plan to keep an eye on these wiki tools. I might even begin contributing. I can see how these might be a useful tool in the classroom. As far as replacing the 'old-fashioned' written textbooks, I do not think that will happen for some time. For that to happen, the whole idea of academic textbook writing and the publishing business must change (it's hard to convince someone to write a chapter in a book for free!)


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