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What's all the buzz about Wikibooks? I found at least 10 examples.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
What is going on with free books? Below I list just a few things that I am aware of. There is much more but I do not want to post too much here. I am writing about this in one of the chapters of my WE-ALL-LEARN book. Here are 10 examples that I am aware of.

Example #1. Ok, I have been researching Wikibooks (and the developers of Wikibooks--called Wikibookians) for a couple of years now. Recently, Wikis and Wikibooks have been getting a lot of attention as ways to avoid using textbooks. My friend, Professor Dwight Allen at Old Dominion University, has his students develop a book on social and cultural foundations of education instead of buying one ( Students write 1,000 word chapters on different topics (3 students per topic) and they vote on which one goes into the final Wikibook. The best ones are on display at the Wikibooks Website (see The students write the book for 4 weeks and spend the remaining 10-11 weeks reading the book that they wrote. How ingenious! This is a form of granting power to the students and building a curriculum around participatory learning.

Dr. Allen and his colleagues are on an AERA (American Educational Research Association) proposal with me on Web 2.0 technologies; actually 2 of them (NY City March 24-28, 2008). The abstract to one of them is below:
"The Wikibooks project initiated at Old Dominion University (ODU) is now one year old. During that time, course developers have come to several important conclusions – the most important of which is that undergraduate students are highly engaged and motivated by the Wikibooks process as it has been applied in ODU’s introductory course in education. The fact that students are collaborating with their peers on their own course text (i.e., in this course, students read the book that they write online), empowers students to a much higher degree than most traditional instructional methods that emphasize passive consumption rather than active creation and synthesis of knowledge. Likewise, the fact that the students’ articles are read and rated by their entire class (or others), rather than just by their professor, has motivated the students to more effectively write and take ownership of the content of their articles. In addition, the students are excited by the notion that their wiki articles can be cited as electronic publications on their resumes. This process and final product has both impressed many ODU faculty members and been warmly received by the participating students who find the Wikimedia software extremely easy to use. Just the same, previous research indicates that many questions have yet to be answered with respect to the applicability of wiki technology in other educational settings. Will wiki-based instructional models work in K-12 education as well as graduate college courses, and if so, in what subject areas? Further, at what age can students be trusted with the responsibility of creating a major instructional tool for their peers? Next, can a Wikibook created for one class be used in other courses to achieve some other instructional goals? In this discussion, we will explore the breadth of applicability of Wikibooks technology and wiki-based instructional methods. In addition, we will discuss some of the possible boundaries beyond which wiki technology is either no longer appropriate or requires additional consideration."

Exciting stuff! Come to our session at AERA.

Example #2. Also at AERA will be Michael Orey at the University of Georgia. With combined interests in free online books and participatory student learning, researchers at the University of Georgia are working on many Wikibook projects. For instance, Michael Orey at the University of Georgia has been doing something similar in having his students write a book on see the Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching and Technology (EPLTT); He has been working on this project since 2001 as an HTML document and later ported it over to a Wiki environment. The EPLTT book started with 12 chapters and currently has 32 chapters containing animations, narrated presentations, graphics, videos, and other media that now support the understanding of the content in those chapters. Now this book includes chapters on such as cognitive tools, reciprocal teaching, motivation, creativity, scaffolding, and behaviorism. This book is so well done that AECT (Association for Educational Communications and Technology) is marketing it off their homepage.

Example #3. Michael Orey is also creating a Wikibook for the world on educational technologies. In fact, it is "The World Almanac of Educational Technologies' and you can sign up to write a chapter for it about ed tech in your country (see This also started out in HTML but was soon converted to a wiki. Chapters completed include those from Brazil, Korea, China, and the U.S. while many others are under contract (e.g., Rwanda, Ghana, the UAE, Taiwan, etc.) It seeks to examine applications of technology around the globe, thereby impacting teaching and learning in many perspectives.

Example #4. Orey's last Wikibook project, “Foundations of Instructional Technology” (, was just initiated. Some things are started on the current state as well the history of IT. You might help there too.

Example #5. In addition to these 3 wikibooks at Georgia, a recent project at the University of Georgia, the Global Text Project (GPT) ( This GPT project was spearheaded in January 2004 by professor Richard Watson at the University of Georgia (he is an MIS professor in the Terry College) whose graduate students wrote the first version of the book, “XML: Managing Data Exchange.” Students both at Georgia and at other places around the world have continued to enhance and extend that book. According to Watson, with $200,000 of funding from the Jacobs Foundation in Switzerland, some initial piloting of the ideas are about to be tested in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Indonesia. Textbooks already have been developed in business, agriculture, education, and science (Garrobo, 2007); including ones in Classical Mechanics, Introduction to Physical Oceanography, Principles of Toxicology, Introduction to Economic Analysis, and Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education. Two new books in business fundamentals and introductory information systems will soon be available in English, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish.

It not only has students contribute to the writing of an online text in a collaborative and participatory learning experience, but to solve other problems such as localization, English-centric content, and prohibitive costs of traditional texts (i.e., these books are free). According to Michael Orey, "One of recent successes of the GTP is the authoring of several texts by faculty from the University of Chile." As a next step, the GTP is working with a university in China and the Middle East to translate these books into Chinese and Arabic. Their initial goal is to have every book available in Arabic, Chinese, English, and Spanish; translations would be adapted to the local culture, thereby addressing the localization problem. GTP is now working to establish name recognition and quality controls.

Instead of a portal of online free books, the Global Text Project intends to develop more than 1,000 free open-source digital textbooks for the people of this planet. The goal is to help educate disadvantaged populations and those in third world countries who simply cannot afford paper-based books or access the ones they need. And students are helping in the process. Remember final assignments in school that you put a lot of work into? Now think about the final course projects and other scholarly work conducted by graduate students around the world in their various classes that is often discarded when the class ends. Now instead of the semester wasted efforts, their examples, glossaries, exercises, sample tests, and other resources generated might serve as supplemental materials for a free book that a professor is writing. Or perhaps have the students themselves write the chapters. Colleges and universities could not complain that the professor is using the students for material gains since the books are free. And, equally importantly, the students would gain from a real world experience. And their creative energies and talents would be set free rather than contained or confined to a single course or program.

There is more. I will stop on that one here...let's talk about my classes and wikibooks for a moment.

Example #6. Orey is looking for critiques of his learning theories Wikibook and so my fall P540 Learning and Cognition class will be doing that (see Dr. Mimi Lee's class at the University of Houston (she is a former IU IST student) will be joining in. Students will be paired to give feedback to each other on their Wikibook chapter critiques. Then we will post their final critiques to Wikispaces at my Wiki-RIKI research site ( These posted critiques will be a Wikibook of sorts.

Example #7. The next step, our students will edit an existing learning theories ( or learning theorists ( from Dr. Dale Fowler's class at Indiana Wesleyan University. Minimum of a 3 sentence post since my research shows that American students tend not to think until the third sentence (sentence #1 is usually I agree with so and so, sentence #2 is usually, "I think," "I believe," or "In my opinion," and in the 3rd sentence, they finally have something to say worth reading.)

Example #8. In the 3rd phase of the project, they will create their own Wikibook on the Practice of Learning Theories (POLT). Students will again be matched up across sites for feedback purposes. I have 8 students from Afghanistan in this class (they are visiting IU this year) and so I thought this might be fun for them to write about and share. The best chapters (and ones that students permit) will be ported over to the Wikibooks Website ( We plan an ending awards ceremony and to designate best chapters for "Wikibook Outstanding Work” (WOW) awards. WOW Chapter authors will receive “Oscar” awards for their outstanding performances. Judges will select up to 12 outstanding performance awards at the end of the semester. There will be 6 categories with 1-2 awards per category (Most Practical, Most Complete, Most Interesting, Most Creative, Most Inspiring, and Most Media Rich).

Dr. Lee and I attempted a Wikibook a year or 2 ago and it did not go too well since we did not plan it out as well ahead of time and we lacked experience in it. We also made it optional. This time is it required and we have more scaffolding.

Example #9. I am also doing a Wikibook in my Web 2.0 and Participatory E-Learning course (see with classes from Indiana State University, Kyung Hee University, and I hope 1-2 other places. This book is tentatively labeled Web 2.0 and Emerging Learning Technologies (WELT). Let me know if you have a class that is interested in joining in.

Example #10. Yesterday, the Chronicle of Higher Education today noted one professor who is tossing his books in favor of Wikis. See:

“Students have turned to wikis — Web sites edited by members of the public — more than most professors would like. Now at least one professor has tossed out textbooks in favor of the controversial Web medium. Gerald C. Kane, an assistant professor of information systems at Boston College, encourages his students to use a commercially provided wiki for conducting research and collaborating with other students, reports Computerworld." In his course on Computers and Management, students do not buy paper books but simply use his Wiki where they post papers and can read each others' works. They can also suggest test questions. Kane indicates that this allows him to be more of a guide than a lecturer. Here are the other references to his work:

See more in articles about him in Computerworld:
1. Wiki becomes textbook in Boston College classroom: IT prof says Web 2.0 technology boosts collaboration among students (August 15, 2007)

2. "My wiki is my textbook," by Heather Havenstein on Wed, 08/15/2007 -

According to Kane, “The class is organized around Thomas Friedman's book "The World is Flat," and offers special emphasis on Web 2.0 tools.” I like that idea, since I am writing a book that is extending Friedman's World is Flat book to education.

For more on Gerald Kane, see
His class wiki: (I cannot find his wikibook)
Wiki homework information (job aid):

So those are 10 wikibook examples--they indicate that learning is changing. There is more focus on students contributing to and participating in their own learning. It is about time! Sure questions abound here in many areas including the reuse of content, the accuracy of said content, and how to identify the contributors of the content so that grades can be posted. But do we really need grades anymore? I am serious--why do they exist today?

Ok, many more Wikibooks are being built by people like you. I am sure that there are hundreds more. Please share more with me via email or in responding to this post. Thanks so much!
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 8:01 PM  
  • At 10:22 AM, Blogger jamie billingham said…

    I love the idea of wikibooks and wiki's in general. (Note first sentence is my agreement lol Jumping ahead to the point now.)

    I Have been starting wiki's for the past 3 years. First with a professional group as a way of organizing our collective thoughts and practices around a set of government imposed standards. It didn't fly despite the many hours I spent uploading the original text and sending out short screen casts showing just how easy it was to use. ggrrr

    Next I tried to get a wiki off the ground with a smaller group of more tech savy folks. I added a course in Moodle which has a wiki app. No wings, again.

    Recently, while I was taking a course on Reflective Practice in Teaching I gave it one more go. Appearently uploading colour coded word doc on WebCT was the preferred method of collaboration.

    My hope is that with the more wiki's and wikibooks being developed and used at some point the teaching and learning community at large will finally "get it". Tools like these are the way to build both intellectual and social capital and they allow for currency. What's not to love?

    Thanks for the links, Jamie

  • At 9:00 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Jamie, send me an email, and I will send you 50 ways to work around WebCT (or with it if you like).

    The next generation of course management systems will not be course management systems but personalize learning environments and tools like WebCT will be in the background and less on administrator minds or so I hope. See my earlier posting on CMSs and how boring they are!!!

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Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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