It is very timely for me that the topic this week is wikis. In the tools we have discussed, we have moved from sharing of content to working on that content in a collaborative way. I just had a conversation with a fellow professor in my department on his recent experience using Goggle Docs (not a wiki, but I’ll discuss that later). The course that he was using the tool for involved assigning a unique species to each student for a project, but they were allowed to choose the one that they preferred. In Goggle Docs, students could go and claim a particular species and then no other student could chose that species for their own project. He couldn’t believe how much easier this was to the old method of receiving multiple emails to sort through or having the students post within an ANGEL discussion board. I then proposed that he continue to use Goggle Docs for student posting of their projects as that would allow the students to encourage each other in their learning. This is a summer course, so it should be interesting to watch how it evolves. Coming from a scientific research background, I can imagine how this tool could be used in writing and editing journal articles. When I was writing journal articles in the late 1990s, we would email with the multiple authors of the article to work on editing. This was an excruciating slow process and made it difficult to track changes.
I began to wonder in our readings this week, how Goggle Docs compares with wikis. I found a youtube video from a presentation by Chris Penna that helped to compare and contrast wikis and Goggle Docs. I have virtually no experience with wikis beyond reading them (although I see I will soon use wikis in this class!), so this video explained the greater ability for collaboration with wikis and Goggle Docs, but which tool to chose would depend on the nature of the lesson plan. Is a final product webpage with links desired (wikis) or a document (Goggle Docs)?
A few points stood out to me in the readings for the week. In the piece by Vicki Davis, a major advantage of using a wiki over a synchronous tool such as a chat was that you could work on something together, even if members of the community were in different time zones. An additional point that seemed crucial to the nature of a wiki was that you shouldn’t use the pronoun “I” in a wiki since a wiki is for “we” because it is a collaborative work. In the Schweder and Wissick reading, I explored many of the wikis described in the article. I hadn’t considered the ability of wikis to organize websites in the way that was described, almost as a collaborative bookmarking tool. I immediately thought of an application for this in my own college committee work, as we recently updated a college webpage on Professional Development opportunities for fellow faculty. A wiki would work so much better for this, as any member of the committee or the campus community can update the offerings without the training or permissions necessary to update a college webpage. Those opportunities that are off campus can also include the appropriate links. I’m so excited about this possibility that I just sent off an email about it!
In smaller communities using wikis, maintaining proper use seems easier. In the McCrea reading, Valerie Burton described how it became easier to monitor the wiki with time and experience. As with other tools we have learned about, a good recommendation would be start small and gain experience with using wikis before rolling out a huge project. Figuring out how many students works best for each wiki or part of the wiki will probably depend on the task and student age and skill level. In the larger communities, it was easy to see in the article What Wikipedia Is Not that many of the guidelines for use were determined with time and experience. Some issue that was not anticipated caused the creation of a new guideline.
I look forward to learning more about using wikis as we move through the course.