In a search for articles that discuss uses of Web 2.0 tools in the work of learning advisers I found one about a collaborative academic project. Staff at the Writing Centre at London Metropolitan University set up an evolving essay online with one of their student mentors as the writer. They wanted to open up the writing processes the student (or any academic writer) goes through – planning, notemaking, drafting, revising but importantly, thinking.
The student wrote a psychology essay, using a wiki, over 6 weeks. The project was carried out over two and a half years and is still available at http://anessayevolves.blogspot.co.uk She kept a blog and other people could comment on both the blog posts and the wiki. The authors claim it created “a project-focused knowledge-building community” (p. 67) and that we can see the student writer, prompted by the contributors’ comments, developing awareness and competence in writing. They say she developed awareness and ability to follow academic conventions and ‘moves’, expressed positive and negative feelings and overall developed a sense of identity as an academic writer. It’s interesting that both student and staff contributors to the wiki didn’t actually edit the essay, which had been the initial intention – they preferred to make suggestions and encourage.
The project seemed to enable participants to reflect on the process and confusions they themselves go through. One tentative claim made is that people are more ready to disclose feelings online than in the real world – not sure that I agree with this.
However this project lays bare the social aspects of writing – and in fact people may collaborate on texts (reports, news publications, articles) in their future workplaces so that’s one justification for a project like this. Now, are blogs and wikis the best ways to get collaboration going in my own teaching / learning project about post-graduate supervision?
Harrington, K., O’Neill, P., & Reynolds, L. (2011). Using wikis and blogs to support writing development: The online evolving essay project In S. Little (Ed.), Staff-student partnerships in higher education (pp. 16-30). London: Continuum.