Book Reviews

Book by James A. West & Margaret L. West
Reveiw Kathleen Carpenter
Northern Arizona University
College of Education


Wikis can be described as, “a collaborative web space where anyone can add content and anyone can edit content that has already been published” (p. 3). As a professional academic advisor the book, Using Wikis for online collaboration: The power of the read-write web, is potentially a resource for advisors who work collaboratively on projects or  teach college-level courses.

Chapters one and two provide information about Wikis from setting them up to defining groups that might use the. This information should be familiar to most professionals living in the 21st century.  
One thing I did not care for was the sweeping generalizations made about millennial and non-traditional students. For example, “millennials will be more likely to value social collaboration during the process. Adults will be more capable writers and editors” (p. 26). Are the millennial students also adults? There was no supporting evidence provided for the numerous generalizations made about these two groups, quite frankly it was a turn off to the book.   

The information that I found relevant to advising is in the first two chapters that discuss “key behaviors” for working and learning in “digital commons.” “Being open, peering, sharing, and acting globally” (p. 23) are behaviors that I see when working with undergraduate students. The same behaviors that the authors contend prepare a student for Wiki work (p. 22) are also behaviors that students continually shape and hone during their academic tenure in higher education. It is always a good thing that advisors revisit and discuss these common behaviors. 

For those advisors who teach, the authors do a nice job of providing several chapters on project-based Wiki use (chapters three-five). Of particular interest to an academic advisor who does not teach, chapter four, Wiki Projects for Critical Thinking (p. 88) discusses writing collaboratively.  This chapter provided information about “group writing projects.” The College of Education Student Services at Northern Arizona University houses five professional advisors, and we recently wrote a conference proposal for the National Academic Advising Association regional conference. We huddled together in one advisor’s small office to discuss and plan our presentation, instead we could have used a Wiki to collaborate and write our proposal. Consider, that one could adapt a project “to a virtual group presentation” (p 90) without having to remember who had the flash drive with the presentation!

I would have liked a chapter devoted to using Wikis in professional collaborations in higher education, especially in working with distance education professionals. However, for advisors designing a course that uses Wikis, and who have limited experience with online collaboration, this book is helpful. For everyone else, much of the information used in this book can be found by searching “Wikis” through a Google search or as the authors pointed out, searching on Wikipedia, visitwww.wikipedia.org (p.3). 

Using Wikis for online collaboration: The power of the read-write web (2008) Book by James A. West & Margaret L. West, Review Kathleen Carpenter. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass 86pp. $27.00, ISBN # 978-0-470-34333-3

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