These two weeks I’ve been teaching my CVG students how to use wiki to co-document, co-develop games and co-author documents.
Last week (4 March), I introduced several wiki-based online projects, including Wikipedia, WikiNews, WikiAnswers, Wikimedia Commons, and OpenStreetMap. I assigned them to write game-related news stories and submitted to WikiNews. I also asked them to track what happened to their submission, and blog about their experience. I’ve collated the results and put them on our class wiki. Most of the students’ submissions were deleted right away by the editor(s) because of “no context, no news”. Foster’s “18+ Certificate for Australia” was the only one that remained after the editor operated his axe. It wasn’t ready to be published – he needed to “put in context, improve style, provide sources”. But Foster didn’t resume work on that piece, so on 10 March, that work was deleted as well.
When viewing the recent changes on WikiNews, I felt sorry for adding more work to the WikiNews editors as they had commented:
“Sorry, we don’t do rumors.)”
“Is this even news?”
“Please put this “article” out of its misery.”
“god… what’s with all the gamer crap today. I mean I love video games but half of this is dumb crap.)”
Having seen the results, I thought perhaps I should have done some internal quality control before asking students to directly contribute to the WikiNews. However, had it not been my students, others would try as well. And, people learn how to work with or work for these communities through contributing. So I didn’t feel that sorry anymore.
How did my students take such a defeat then? They seemed to take it lightly, sort of. As Karl’s blog entry revealed – “Very professional work there from the moderators at Wiki News. It’s not really surprising that Wiki News is a struggling site if this is the kind of levels of professionalism they are working to “. They also questioned the standard WikiNews used to judge whether an item is news worthy or not. They felt gaming news have been largely left out. They suggested to contribute to Uncyclopedia in the future.
This week (11 March) they were asked to co-author a game design document of a cooking game. Again, I advised them to use the wiki on wikispaces.com. But the whole project didn’t go well due to technical, organisational and environmental issues.
1. Technical problem – I thought since we had only half of the students this week (the attendance rate was low this week), perhaps the wiki system would perform better than last week. Obviously I underestimated the technical problem. Students, again, experienced the poor system performance and their edits were constantly removed (by the system). Ignoring the technical issue showed my poor risk management (not identifying the technical problem as a risk, no Plan B). I haven’t got any other alternatives to offer at that moment.
2. Organisational problem – It took the students a while to identify a team structure, different roles and responsibilities in this game project. Dan and Thomas were brave enough to take on the challenging lead designer and lead artist roles respectively. By now they must have learned that these two roles are not as easy as they sound (see Dan’s blog entry). At the design stage, they are actually very demanding roles. One needs to demonstrate strong coordination and communication skills in those leading roles. Often, one also needs to inspire and motivate team members. Yesterday’s atmosphere wasn’t great because of the weather (hence poor attendance rate – I’d love to think that people refused to come to the dark and crowded HT006 because of the good weather). So a strong leader would have to do something extra to move things forward. Perhaps one hour is not enough for that, or perhaps it’s too much for 1st-year undergraduate (so that I had to step in more).
3. Environmental problem – Well, I’ve blamed the weather, now I’m going to blame the room, the building and the space. I regretted not splitting the students into smaller groups (as Brett wisely suggested). The classroom we were in wasn’t ideal for communication and group work. It’s too easy for people to mind their own business instead of doing team work. Some people could hide in the corner chit-chatting, and others could sit in front of their terminals navigating on the Internet or playing games. Without good tools and working environments, even world-clas game developers can do very little.
So, to improve the future activities, I have to come up with some more robust wiki system that can afford 40 people editing at the same time, and take students’ attitudes and abilities into account when designing any group activities. I’m still very fond of using Web 2.0 tools (wiki, blog) for teaching and learning purposes, but I have to manage them better (not just in terms of using them, but use them in situ).