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It's a fun clip--love it when Colbert makes up new words.

Depending on your audience, I wonder if the satire will be effective or if it might not let some reaffirm what they currently suspect--that wikis ruin content. Some people don't get satire.


That's a good point Richard. And to be clear, the presentation will be on how wikis can be a useful tool in the writing classroom. But I can see how Colbert's satire may have the unintended consequence of confirming some instructors' prejudices about wikis.

Perhaps I can use it as a prompt to an opening discussion of some of the problems instructors see in how students use wikis in their research and writing. Perhaps a little wiki catharsis in the opening will make them more open to the idea that wikis can be beneficial.


Wait a second.

You're using what amounts to the best argument against the usefulness of Wikipedia as a means of promoting its usefulness?

When you state that "Colbert's satire may have the unintended consequence of confirming some instructors' prejudices about wikis," you seem to imply that you do not share those concerns, thus promoting your own prejudices [in favor of wikis] ahead of those others.

Don't get me wrong...I love Wikipedia as much as any other net-whore. But you cannot honestly think that reality should be formed by consensus that may or may not be based on actual evidence or expertise.

Or do you?


No, I don't think reality should be a function of consensus. And I share many of the concerns many instructors have. I usually tell my students that wikipedia may be a good place to go when one is just starting research on a topic. But there are obvious problems with citing wikipedia as an authority.

So, to be clearer. I thought I would open with the Colbert satire as a way of addressing the problems that do, in fact, exist with wikipedia. But then I wanted to transition to a presentation of how wikis can be used in the writing course.

I think many of the instructors think of wikis solely in terms of wikipedia. They maybe haven't considered how wikis can be used for writing portfolios, or presenting a project, or for online collaboration.


Initially, it does sound ineffective to present counterarguments to wiki usage, but in fact, the collaborative ewriting criticisms must be dealt with. Otherwise, people will leave the presentation doubtful. Wikis are a useful counter to the writing-as-isolation myth. More than consensus, wikis promote accountability and verification as well as collaboration. It's true that too small of a group results in closed-mindedness; Wikipeida works so well because it connects so much expertise.
As an example, we can ask Jason in this public blog to consider what we see could go wrong with his presentation, thus the more knowledge he'll have in promoting and acknowledging wiki limits. Taking a project public (as writing ultimately is) does this. It's an important step in evidence-making. Colbert's satire is funny because he's playing the autocrat, and we know no single person can rewrite what a civilization knows about elephants.

I'm all for acknowledging to your group why you like wikis in education. Writing teachers who accept social construction will really take to wikis, I think. In my opinion literary and creative writers perhaps less so. Still, the audience might enjoy the challenge Colbert provides. Since people know Colbert is satirical (or can be told), a disproving of his "wikiality" might be fun at the end of hearing your presentation.

Best of luck...

Lee McClain

You guys are way ahead of me--I'm just thinking this clip would be a fun way to introduce to internet research skills to basic writing students. Thanks for posting it.

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