Ithaca College Faculty Members Win Grant to Examine Wiki Use by History Students
ITHACA, NY — The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded a $50,000 grant to two Ithaca College faculty members to examine how students’ use of wikis can help them reach and cross conceptual thresholds in their understanding of historical knowledge.
Michael Smith, associate professor of history and environmental studies and sciences, and Ali Erkan, associate professor of computer science, were awarded the grant for their project titled “Untangling the Web of Historical Thinking: What the Structures of Student-Produced Wikis Reveal.”
A wiki is a website developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to create and edit content.
“The use of wikis for collaboration among students has been well-explored, but we’re thinking about wikis beyond their collaborative potential,” said Smith. “The ways that wikis evolve over a semester — especially the links students are making — can reveal how students are learning to think about historical knowledge as relational and nonlinear.”
Smith and Erkan will use the grant to select and adapt an open-source software system to do further analysis of learning outcomes, including the development of visualization tools. This work builds on their research — which was initially presented at the 2009 conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning — examining the implications of the “digital native” paradigm for the discipline of history. Their explorations suggest that in order for meaningful disciplinary learning to emerge from the use of new media in history classrooms, digital literacy itself must be cultivated.
Smith is the coeditor of the book “Citizenship Across the Curriculum” and has served as a Carnegie Scholar with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Erkan was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for the 2011–12 academic year to conduct research in Istanbul, Turkey, in affiliation with Koc University.
The NEH is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities.