Wiki Software - #6a

On the practical side, once one has decided that a wiki is an appropriate technology choice for the educational environment, the next decision: what is the available wiki software? and which one is best for my purposes? I found a couple of articles and a website relating to these topics.

Both articles review some of the basic information about wikis previously shared in other posts, but they also extract some new material related to wiki software and potential use. I will share one in this posting and conclude in the second posting later this week.

Mattison (2003) brings up the feature of RSS aggregation and syndication, which at the time was apparently rare, but now appears to be more common – but certainly a feature to look for when comparing software. He also points out the characteristics of search and navigation tools within the wiki, which would be especially important for a large database of information (i.e., Wikipedia), but I’m not sure that it is that crucial in a class project. Eventually, he compares and contrasts various wikis, including Twicki and Zwicki, thus the title of his article.

So what did he conclude? In his words, “You can lead just about anyone to a wiki, but no one who's not sufficiently bold or has had previous wiki experience will take that first tentative step at changing someone else's creation. So group dynamics in a wiki require a dedicated group to start and keep the wiki alive as long as it's needed. Group or community wikis are first and foremost about collaboration: That's the whole point of the radical (and still controversial), open editing solution devised by Ward Cunningham” (Mattison, 2003). His comments are well taken, and though there is no one great wiki software, the need to think deeply about the use (i.e., collaboration), the wiki experience, and the group dynamics will help determine the success of whatever wiki software used. This goes back to the idea of the purpose being more important than the technology, per say. I’m still convinced there is an appropriate use for wikis in the post secondary vocational tech center environment and I want to commit to the best software to make the process as easy for first-time users, as possible.

One more note: Mattison (2003) exemplifies an excellent contrast between blogs and wikis to consider, “Wikis are by default open to anyone within the domain served by the wiki, but can be secured against unauthenticated (uninvited) users. Blogs by default are secured against open collaboration, but can be managed for limited collaboration, usually via appended comments or a threaded discussion forum.”

Mattison, D. (April 2003). Quickiwiki, Swiki, Twiki, Zwiki and the Plone Wars Wiki as a PIM and collaborative content tool. Information Today, Inc. 11, (4). Retrieved April 16, 2006 from http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/apr03/mattison.shtml


At 9:02 PM, Blogger Joshua O said...

I like the direction of your research, Marie. Available software will have a large impact upon your vocational Wiki in both content and implementation. Mattison seems to be correct considering the use of RSS aggregation. Many of the educational and financial web sites that I frequent are now offering RSS feeds for individual contributors and subject areas. This really helps to keep MyYahoo or other aggregator pages current. Concerning his distinction between blogs and wikis, which do you feel is the more valuable learning tool? I feel that it really depends upon the subject matter. Blogs are better for reflection while Wiki's are effective collaboration forums.


At 1:32 AM, Blogger Julie Romey said...

I posted a comment already, but Blogger does not like me ... I got an error message that gave me the feeling my comment had gone to the digital graveyard. Just imagine how big that place must be!!

Hopefully my other comment won't magically reappear, otherwise you guys will think I'm losing my mind and repeating myself!

Two things about your post hit me Marie:

1 - The comment Mattison made about "you can lead just about anyone to a wiki..." but you can't make them contribute (my interpretation) I experienced this myself just a bit ago. I came across a wiki that William Richardson (of Weblogg-ed) put together about blog sites being banned. He was asking for people to share what their districts are doing. Although I feel pretty strongly on the topic, I could not bring myself to edit the wiki. I would have had to add Oregon and then write what my district does. Why couldn't I bring myself to do this? Is it because it's out there for everyone to see and I feel strange making some sort of "expert" statement? I desperately wanted to talk about it though, so I posted a message in our General Discussion Forum on our course moodle. Why is that safer? Because it's a smaller, self-contained environment?

2 - Great clarification on the difference between wikis and blogs. I just keep coming back to there being a time and place for both, and I want to expose my students to as many different communication/collaboration options as possible. Now I just need to figure out how to tie wikis into electronic portfolios ...


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