Tim Stahmer has a good introduction to wikis in the newest issue of Technology and Learning magazine, titled “Think Outside the Blog.” (login or firstname.lastname@example.org and bugmenot via BugMeNot.com)
A couple of particularly interesting points from the article include:
- Wiki power is described in the positive – a wiki is something that lets authorized users contribute content. I think focusing on contribution instead of changability when opening the conversation could be a good first step.
- On Wikipedia: “The most famous example of a wiki is Wikipedia…Although Wikipedia’s success has been tarnished a little by vandalism, some misinformation, and fights over certain controversial topics, the wiki concept – an open site maintained by its users – has been a hit.”
- Highlighted benefits include: the ability to write and research collaboratively and concurrently without the limitation of having to always schedule face-to-face time, the presence of the content in the larger context of the web – thus enabling participation and visibility via parents, other schools and the general public.
- The article says that wikis are currently in use for school planning and interaction with parents, offering updates more continuously than printed newsletters and in some cases serving as a school’s entire web site.
The article then presents three options for schools interested in setting up a wiki:
- Hosting your wiki on a wiki farm, examples provided include Wikicities, Wikispaces and PBWiki – all 3 great recomendations. I’m especially excited that PBWiki, the wonderful host of BlogSafer.org (anonymous blogging guides for people living under repressive governments) got a mention here.
- Installing wiki software on your own server space, or asking your Internet Service Provider if they have wiki software ready to run (the article says wikis are popular enough that many ISPs now offer this).
- Setting up a wiki behind the school’s firewall for security reasons. The author points to a narrative of his own set up of MediaWiki, the software behind Wikipedia and Wikicties, on a Mac with OS X. Other good options to look at include PMWiki and Kwiki, though those may be less user friendly for absolute newbies.
I am really happy to see this article appear in print. It’s a whole lot better than the episode of CSI I saw last night about a blogger involved in a murder! In order for these powerful new tools to be used to their potential, they need to be taken seriously and be discussed in detail in a variety of settings.