Context of the Problem
How to work with a wiki to improve EFL learners' writing skill through the practice with vocabulary How can the use of wikis improve the vocabulary and creative writing skills on L2 with beginners?
Through the years, everything changes, and in the field of education it’s not an exception. As technology helps to develop better and more comfortable ways of life; also better ways of developing a class through the use of technology is more and more common. For this reason, teachers have to know how to manage these different kinds of Web 2.0 applications in order to stay ahead of teaching methods. And in this research it will be analyzed how wikis can help to improve beginner EFL learners' writing skill through the practice with vocabulary. According to Sanders (2007): "A wiki (from the Hawaiian wiki, to hurry, swift) is a collaborative Web site whose content can be edited by anyone who has access to it". This is why it is easy to use a wiki to achieve a collaborative and complete learning. It is important for ESL learners to have a collaborative learning because it fosters teamwork, responsibility, complete feedback, and most important, they practice and improve what they need to. Also, as a tutor, a wiki is useful to see how much time the students are spending using the wiki and/or completing their assignments. This tells the teacher if they are motivated to work with wikis as well as to detect where they have problems.
If a course where wikis are used is carried out correctly, it can greatly help students to improve the desired skill. But it can also fail and transform in a complete chaos if due care is not given. Fulk (1993) claims that “younger, better educated people should be more receptive to a new technology because they are less likely to be anxious about using it” (as cited in Guo & Stevens, 2011. P. 224). Another aspect is the level of electronic skills the students have. if it is too great, boredom may appear, if it is too low, students face lots of problems when trying to get used to the wiki interface. Thus, if a complete and easy to follow input session is presented to the students, it will help them to understand the basics on how to work with the wiki.
Today, technology has overtaken a considerable part of our lives. It is always present in different ways. This is why it is easy to use a wiki outside a class. Most students nowadays have at least one computer with internet access on their houses. Thus, making it easy for students to work in homework or activities at home. Another function for the use of wikis at home is to improve their social skills, after all, one of the main goals within a school is to foster social skills. For Beldarrain (2006), "technology is the responsible for distorting the concept of distance between learner and instructor, and enabling learners to access education at any time and from any place. Emerging technologies also facilitate the establishment of synchronous and asynchronous learning networks using the internet (pp. 139-140).
There are several situations to face when using wikis not only for students, but also for teachers. Choosing the proper wiki presents a challenge. If a wiki is too complex to use, motivation diminishes. Thus, the knowledge of technology of a teacher plays an important role. An experienced teacher in technological resources is likely to find better options for their students. Testing is required in order to choose the proper wiki; in this way, a teacher decides if a wiki provides enough motivation and learning experience for the students. Lazda-Cazers suggest that "Classroom conversation and negotiation are an essential part of such a learning environment, and the instructor repeatedly inquires how best to support the learners by being observant and sensitive to their needs" (p. 197). For this reason, choosing the proper wiki for ESL students’ form part of a successful wiki-based course or activity.
On the other hand, students may face several problems as well; a clear example is the little interaction they might have with technology. If a student does not have a computer on his or her house, he or she is very likely to have problems using new technology because they do not have the proper technological contact needed to have a minimal required knowledge to understand the mechanics of a new electronic tool. This is another reason why using the proper wiki is so valuable. A lot of things rely on the wiki the teacher chooses. Another common problem that students face is to know the basic tools to manage the wiki. If the teacher do not know how to explain the basic tools from a wiki, it is very likely for students to face several difficulties trying to discover these tools by themselves.
Method and Materials
Questionnaire about Wetpaint.com project
1. How difficult was to work with Wetpaint.com?
2. Was it hard to find the information about the vocabulary provided by your teacher?
a) Yes b) no
3. Did you need special skills or abilities to learn how to work with Wetpaint.com?
a) Yes b) no
4. Was the input session enough to learn how to use the basic tools within Wetpaint.com?
a) Yes b) no
5. Did you learn new vocabulary by working at the Wetpaint.com project?
a) Yes b) no
7. Do you consider that the project was useful to learn vocabulary?
a) Yes b) no
8. Would you like to work with these types of projects again?
a) Yes b) no
9. Was it difficult to provide feedback to your classmates?
a) Yes b) no
The type of research used on this paper is qualitative. The participants are 6 students from "Programa de Fomento a las Lenguas Extranjeras" (PFLE) in the Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes (UAA). They are beginners (level 2) students between 18 to 21 years old. During three sessions, the participants take part on a vocabulary activity. Input is presented during the class. Students will use a group of words given by the teacher, after that, they will upload the information to a pre-prepared page on Wetpaint.com about each word. So, they can have a final product similar to a mini-encyclopedia. Each group of words contains information they can find on the web, books, articles, etc. Finally, they receive peer to peer feedback. The feedback will include design aspects as well as content aspects. This will demonstrate the level of knowledge they have of technology as well as their research capacity about vocabulary. As well, it will show how much time they will spend designing their pages, also if the student researched from more than one source. The data will be collected through the wiki itself, because the information will be already posted there. It will be analyzed to deduct the interest the students presented when using wikis.
The first material will be the group of words that will be used for each student; the words will be different for each student. The groups will be formed of five words from the English language. They will have to provide at least 200 words for each one of the five words in order to be fair with all of them.
The second material for this research is a questionnaire about wikis. In specific, about working with Wetpaint.com the questionnaire was applied after working with Wetpaint.com. The questions pretend to gather information about their experience working with wikis, as well as to know if they were able to learn new vocabulary while working on this way. The information is required to know if the students were able to have a nice and comfortable experience with this wiki, to see if further work with wikis can be carried out, or if using some other tools is better.
The last material used for the evaluation of this investigation is a recording of a focus group, where students had the opportunity to express their experiences during the different stages of the action research. Several opinions are presented to enrich the results and discussion section presented below.
Results and Data Analysis
Present the findings of the investigation using graphs, tables, etc.
For the first activity there were no problems, but one. One of the students never uploaded his words. For this reason only 5 results are considered. The rest of them uploaded their words successfully. The first point to have in consideration is that all of them retrieved the information from the internet. It is very noticeable because they left some colored words, or small details that are present in some web pages. The main reason of why students retrieved the information from the internet is because of the easiness to get information from that source.
The second material considered on this research is a questionnaire applied to the students after uploading their respective information about their list of words. On the first question, most of them considered easy to work with Wetpaint.com. The second question was related to the difficulties to get the information about the list of words the teacher provided to each one of them. The answer was the same from everybody. They didn’t find hard to get the information required because they had the option to retrieve it from any source they wanted. The third and fourth question revealed that most of the students did not need any special abilities to work with Wetpaint.com, the input session and the information provided by the teacher and their computer knowledge was enough to work on it. The sixth question mentions if the student learnt any new vocabulary, and all of them answered yes. Some of them learnt it through the words that they were looking for, and some others through reading the work of their classmates. Question seven gathered information related to the usefulness of the activity. And most students consider that the activity is helpful to learn vocabulary. On question eight, most students declared that they would like to work on this type of projects in the future. On the last questions, the results were divided; some of them believe that it is hard to provide feedback to their classmates, while some others consider it is easy to provide feedback on this activity.
The last material was a recording of a focus group, and the data collected from it was very similar to the one found on the questionnaire, some of the students expressed their feelings towards the use of the wiki and their reactions when working on it. They also expressed the words that called their attention, some of them because they did not know the meaning, some others called their attention because they never had heard of it.
To sum up, most of the results obtained through the application of this project match the expected outcomes. The students feel comfortable working with wikis; also they enjoy looking for words on the internet. And the most important outcome is achieved; students on a beginner level from the Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes from Programa de Fomento a las Lenguas Extranjeras can learn vocabulary through the use of wikis. All of these results show that it is reliable to use wikis to teach vocabulary with these students. But, on the other hand, students demonstrated they do not like to do further research when they have doubts about a word, and because of this, they find it difficult to provide feedback, because if they do not know the meaning of a word they are not able to provide feedback.
Discuss your results in terms of how they answer your research question(s) or hypothesis. Did your intervention work? What recommendations can you offer? How might others extend this research? Are there any limitations?
Technology is one of the most important tools nowadays. It provides us with an endless quantity of gizmos and gadgets that are becoming part of our daily life. The field of the education is not an exception. Several improvements have come to stay. Since the usage of whiteboards instead of chalkboards, the use of projectors instead of big paper sheets, the use of faster and faster computers, etc. Each teacher has its own electronic strategies to succeed on a course. The use of computer based projects is increasing greatly. According to Guo and Stevens (2011) “the use of the Web 2.0 technologies in teaching and learning in higher education has attracted considerable attention in recent years and many course coordinators have sought to utilize these technologies in their courses”. Teachers are adopting a lot of technological tools as aids during their courses. The importance of technology in classrooms is getting bigger every day.
The results obtained during this action research show that, as well as teachers, students are more attracted to technology, they know how to handle it and it does not represent a barrier for them. They feel comfortable working with online activities; they like to work with activities out of the ordinary.
Inside this big revolution, Wikis are emerging as a tool of common use between teachers all around the world. According to Su and Beaumont (2010) “a wiki is a web site, the content of which can be edited by visitors to the site, allowing users to easily create and edit pages collaboratively. This important characteristic opens a lot of doors if a course is decided to be carried out through the use of wikis. If any member of the wiki course can edit the information, it opens the possibility for collaborative learning to happen. A student can enter and leave feedback to another student, so he can check it later and make changes, thus, fostering peer to peer learning. Also, the teacher can provide feedback to a specific student; some others might have the same or a similar mistake, and correct it by seeing the teacher’s feedback. According to Noble (2005) “ Students are not only “in” groups, they “work” together in groups, playing a significant role in each other’s learning”. Playing an important role on a student’s learning is the main objective of collaborative learning.
A teacher also must also consider if the students will work individually or otherwise, how to divide the group. According to Gross “Think about how you will organize students into groups, help groups negotiate among themselves, provide feedback to the groups, and evaluate the products of group work.” Considering this, a teacher can have a better group control as well as a better course development. In the case of this action research, it was decided to work individually because of the length of the group, which was only of 6 students. This arrangement worked effectively because they were providing feedback and they checked the research their classmates did.
The students in this action research feel comfortable working on this type of projects. They do not present any major problems handling Wetpaint.com. This is because of the easiness the web page provides. Some of the main characteristics of the web page are “Comment and Reply Forums with Comment Ratings, Access Control, Keyword Search, Page and Comment Watching” Wikibooks (2003). These are just a handful of characteristics a user can find on Wetpaint.com. This demonstrates that a teacher should know what kind of wiki use for its course. If a hard to understand wiki is selected, the results might not be the ones expected from the course.
Students consider easy to provide feedback using Wetpaint.com. The results of the research show that students find it easy to provide feedback to their partners. They requirement for this research is to provide at least two feedback to different classmates. Even though they had to provide more than a simple sentence as feedback, most of them just presented simple sentences. It might be one of the reasons why they consider it easy to provide feedback on Wetpaint.com. According to Zamel (1985) “The most important aspect while giving feedback is adopting a positive attitude to student writing. While marking mechanically we may not realize that we are showing the student only his mistakes – negative points.” To find a balance on giving and receiving feedback, the teacher needs to be clear and precise on what the feedback should contain, as well as to point out the positive and negative aspects if feedback is going to be evaluated.
To sum up, in this paper a research about the vocabulary learning a wiki environment could provide with beginner ESL students. The results obtained are satisfactory, students achieved vocabulary learning through the research and posting of a list of words given by the teacher. They also mention their feelings and experiences with the Wetpaint.com web page. The feedback of this webpage is positive; working on the web page is a new and nice experience for the students, above all considering that they are not used to use this type of technologies for the learning of a language.
Another aspect considered during the development of this action research is the collaborative learning that could appear between the students. The results show that collaborative learning happens during the wiki activity. A question and their experiences demonstrate they have a small but meaningful learning, because they remember at least two words they did not know before working on the project. The feedback part helps to achieve collaborative learning; this is because they are asked to provide feedback, and therefore, they have to read some other words posted by their classmates.
On the other hand, the research demonstrates that students are not willing to do research on their own if it is not necessary. Some of them say that the project is hard to carry out in some parts because they do not understand some of the words posted by their classmates. It means the teacher must be precise and clear when preparing the course so this type of behavior does not show up.
Adhere to APA.
Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Alumni-ProQuest Education Journal. 27(2). 139-153
Feng Su & Chris Beaumont (2010). Evaluating the use of a wiki for collaborative learning, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 47(4), 417-431
Gross, B. (1993). Collaborative learning: group work and study teams. Retrieved from http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/collaborative.html
Guo, Z. Stevens, K. (2011). Factors influencing perceived usefulness of wikis for group collaborative learning by first year students. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. 37(2). 221-242
Lazda-Cazers, R. (2010) A Course Wiki: Challenges in Facilitating and Assessing Student-Generated Learning Content for the Humanities Classroom. The Journal of General Education, 59(4), 193-222.
Noble, A. (2005). Collaborative learning. Retrieved from http://www.adelaide.edu.au/clpd/resources/leap/leapinto/CollaborativeLearning.pdf
Sandars, J. (2007). The potential of blogs and Wikis in healthcare education. Education for Primary Care, 18, 16–21.
Wikibooks(2003). Retrieved from http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Welcome
Yang, K. (n.d.). Web 2.0 The Latest Internet Wave. Available from http://www.free-ebooks.net/ebook/Web-2-0-The-Latest-Internet-Wave
Zamel, V. (1985). Responding to student writing. TESOL Quarterly. Retrieved from http://www.buowl.boun.edu.tr/teachers/CORRECTING%20AND%20GIVING%20FEEDBACK%20TO%20WRITING.htm
- Blogs, wikis and podcasts – Collaborative knowledge building tools in a Design and Technology course
- Factors influencing perceived usefulness of wikis for
group collaborative learning by first year students
- THE BEHAVIOR OF WIKI USERS 
• Data Collection
• Results Retrieval
- This is just a reminder to refer to this video before emailing me your final draft. If you have any questions about APA, come by my office.--Bnleez 22:02, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
- Avoid citing from Wikipedia (or any other encyclopedia) and remove some of the headings as indicated above. --Bnleez 13:01, 9 November 2011 (UTC)
- Avoid subheadings in your Context of the Problem section but do include subheadings in your Method section. See me in class about your Wiki citation/reference. --Bnleez 14:59, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
- Haziel, I like to your research question you gave me today, but reword writing skills so it is clear that you intend on focusing on vocabulary. Say something like ...improve vocabulary when ELLs are practicing their academic writing? If you don't want to focus on academic writing, you can focus on creative writing, for example. But state this in your research question. --Bnleez 14:29, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
- Ok teacher so, I think I could focus on "...improve vocabulary through the use of technology"?
- Improving vocabulary through what type of technology? Technology is still a general term. Be more specific. --Bnleez 17:42, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
- Ok teacher so, I think I could focus on "...improve vocabulary through the use of technology"?
- Haziel, please upload your action research information above. --Bnleez 17:43, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
- Sorry teacher I thought I only had to modify my research question, because I had this info since friday, I didn't got it clear, but now here you have all the information you asked for. Also I already modified my *research question, I hope it is better now. Thanks teacher
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