Saturday, March 8, 2008

Wiki Wacky

This week's topic is the wiki so I begin with a connection to the mother of all wikis-the original wikipedia

The essential ingredient inherent in the word wiki- is quick. Using wikipedia is a quick, ballpark reference for students of all ages. Using wikipedia as your ONLY source is not recommended, but when we're engaged in helping students develop their critical thinking abilities, using wikipedia as one of several sources can be instructive. At the high school where I teach, I notice that students in the library, busy researching any topic, seem to always start with wikipedia. It is quicker than walking all the way to the reference room to pick up a physical encyclopedia, and will quite certainly be a more current resource. That's one of the very cool things about wikipedia--it's alive! According to the helpful information on the wikipedia site,Using Wikipedia as a research tool:
As a
wiki, articles are never complete. They are continually edited and improved over time, and in general this results in an upward trend of quality, and a growing consensus over a fair and balanced representation of information.

I found more defining details on the librarian's w
iki LISwiki:
Wikis are, in general, online content repositories that allow others to contribute and modify entries. The name comes from the "wiki wiki" shuttle buses at the Honolulu International Airport.

Wikis are online, collaborative environments that allow anyone to add, edit, or delete pages. Some Wikis require registered membership, and others are private, but many allow anyone with access to the Web to contribute. Wikis use a simplified mark-up syntax that allow users to contribute without special knowledge of HTML. Many Wikis now also offer What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) editing, similar to a word processor, which makes it easier for some users to contribute. However, many experienced Wiki contributors prefer Wiki syntax.

I had been wondering what WYSIWYG meant! In truth, since I could be the posterchild for inexperienced users of technology, it's a great thing to know that using a wiki is so accessible. I found the pbwiki youtube video bolstered my confidence even more. If these people could use a wiki so could I!

More research support from the librarian's wiki:

  • Though Wikis do require some experimentation, they are easy to learn for the average, computer-literate user (Chawner and Lewis 2006, 33; Raman 2006, 60).
  • Many free or inexpensive Wiki engines and Wiki farms are available (Casey and Savastinuk 2006; Raman 2006, 61).
  • Wikis support communication and knowledge sharing (Raman 2006, 63-64).

There are lots of educational uses for wikis ranging from teacher collaborations, student group projects, class creations (e.g. a wiki of book recommendations by individual students), administrators (e.g. school plan collaborative documents), Parent Advisory committee minutes and projects, etc. The possibilities are only limited by imagination and one's attitude of techno-bravery.

Since Elizabeth took on the leadership role in creating our group project wiki, I still needed to fully experience the process of creating a wiki in order to demonstrate my learning. Following Ronda's advice, I checked out the wiki matrix. Here I answered about 10 questions that got me thinking more about how much and/or how little I needed to understand to use a wiki. The questionaire helped me narrow it down to 20 wiki styles. I chose one that was recommended, but that I hadn't seen much about before.

Wetpaint ( lets anyone create a free hosted wiki website in minutes. Wetpaint sites are different from other wikis because anyone can easily add text, photos, or links to other websites just by clicking on the "EasyEdit" button and typing. Wetpaint eliminates the need to learn wiki syntax which significantly increases the number of people who can participate in helping grow and edit content to the site.

Okay, I chose because of the name. Anything involving/evoking wet paint has got to be fun and creative, right? As I moved through the site I was offered lots of information... but not too much, if you catch my drift. In fact, I tried to shut down my critical, cautious brain and just go with the flow.

Elizabeth was right--the hardest part was choosing a name. I had to think about what I might actually use a wiki for, non-professionally. I wanted to give myself the chance to just play with the format---without creating extra pressure.

I decided to make a wiki for my book group and came up with the descriptive, if somewhat dull, name of Victoria Book Lovers.The lovers part is a sly reference to the fact that we are a bunch of married couples who meet monthly to socialize and talk about the books we've chosen to read together.

We have been together 4 or 5 years and try to read a book a month. One of our founding members is a trained librarian (not me). She diligently keeps track of what we've read. I think the wiki would appeal to the members of this group because everyone can't be at every meeting, but people still like to comment on the book under discussion. Some members have emailed in their thoughts from as far away as New York and South Africa.

I can see just having a page for each book, maybe rating each one--thumbs up or down, and writing about how the in-person discussion changes how we think about books. I would also track the books that people had the most trouble reading---an awful biography of Jack Nicholson comes to mind. I think only 2 out of 12 made it through that one....I set up the wiki in under 10 minutes--seems easy---but when I try to return the next day I can't find it. starts to lose points for reliability. Obviously not completely user-friendly!

So I give it another try.This time I see that it is advertising-heavy and not as simple to use as pbwiki. Certainly less appealing for a school setting. I can imagine setting up a wiki in the school library for book reviews or recommendations.It would be quite straightforward to show students and staff how to access and contribute. No doubt many students could 'pretty it up'. I wonder about multiple editors and how that would play out in a school-wide context. I need to do more research and find out my details about school technology policies.

In sum, my favourite part of the wiki experience has been getting to hum wiki wacki woo* along with Jim Kweskin all week.

* a few of the lyrics from Irving Berlin's song:

Maybe she'll sigh
Maybe she'll cry
Maybe she'll find somebody else
Bye and bye to sing to
When it's cool and shady
Where the tricky wiki wackies woo
If you like-a ukulele lady
Ukulele lady like-a you.

Copyright 1925 Irving Berlin Inc - The ukulele was brought to Hawai`i from Madeira, Portugal in 1879. Three immigrants are credited with introducing the stringed instrument: Manuel Nunes, Augusto Diaz and Jose do Espirito Santo. These three played for the royal court and performed throughout Hawai`i. King Kal√Ękaua and Queen Lili`uokalani both played the ukulele and were instrumental in promoting it's popularity. There are three theories on how the ukulele (jumping flea) was named. 1) Playing of the instrument was described as finger movements jumping like fleas; 2) Edward Purvis was nicknamed the ukulele and the instrument was known as "Ukulele's instrument; 3) Purvis's fingers looked like jumping fleas when he played.


Jessica said...

Great idea about your book club! I'm having so much fun compiling all the great ideas people have had for wiki-uses... hmmm. Maybe I'll make a wiki for that compilation!

Val said...

As soon as I saw the wiki wiki busses it brought back fond memories of Hawaii.

Great points Steph. Wikis are easy to set up and look great. Easy for all to edit. I like your wetpaint wiki, the orange graphics are very appealing.

A couple's book club is neat. A great way to spend time with your spouse and enjoy books at the same time. Bob just finished and I'm now beginning, The Year of Living Biblically. It is very funny and at times Oh my gosh!! off the wall.

This wiki stuff is fun!

Katie said...

A book club is a great idea!! I may have to "borrow" that one from you!


elizabeth said...

Steph, I also love the idea of a wiki for a bookclub. We read so many different books in our bookclub that I can never titles when someone asks for a recommendation. I could send them to the wiki! I love the look of your webpaint wiki and your blog, you are so creative in your presentation.

Cindy said...

I also love your idea about creating a wiki for your book club. Not only could we keep track of all the books we have read and our connecting thoughts, if someone was away in their 'other' home in Mexico or on Vancouver Island, they could share their thoughts with us and we could add to them.

Linda Morgan said...

I must say I liked the Wet Paint name, too - how did it compare with pbwiki, in your opinion?

Thanks for the book club idea, and for letting me know about WYSIWYG !

Ronda said...

Hi Steph,

Your additional images and videos look great on your blog. You have really expanded your repetoire!

It was a great experience to collaborate with you on our first wiki!

Ronda :)