In a previous post, I talked about trying “research wikis” for an assignment in one of my classes last semester. I wanted to test the thinking that, since information is now a commodity, what matters is what you are able to do with information. So what happened?
A very good amount of research materials was accumulated in all three wikis – one for each of the three assignment topics. The materials were contributed by a good number of different students from different groups. (It was a group assignment, by the way.) That shows that many of the students put in a good amount of effort researching their topics. I did not see any indication of “free riders” relying on the research of others, without contributing any research of their own.
Since every group had access to the same research materials, did that even out the quality of the submitted assignments? Absolutely not. As with any other assignment, there was a full range of quality. I marked assignments that were well written, insightful, and demonstrated a clear understanding of the subject matter. On the other end of the spectrum, there were assignments that required a good stiff drink for me to get through. Those assignments merely cobbled together a mish mash of various bits of information without any shred of understanding of the subject matter.
What this demonstrates to me is that, in the information age that we are living in, what really matters most is what we are able to do with the wealth of information available at our fingertips. We need to able to not just access information, but understand it, evaluate it, critique it, extrapolate from it, build on it, etc. These are the skills that we should be developing in our students.