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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wiki’s – The Good, The Bad and the Lovely

Well let’s get the lovely bit out of the way. The lovely bit is really the simplicity. With the predefined setup and limited set of commands/ tags it takes a lot of the time wasted over cognitive decisions of design and fretting over technical competence out of the equation, leaving the wiki page author to concentrate on the business in hand, which is the writing.

I’ll address the Good of wiki’s by focusing on the strengths of a wiki. When asked wiki users could come back with many different responses to the question “what are the strengths of a wiki?” I believe the strengths listed below will encapsulate the many responses to this question.

The first three strengths are arguably subjective and could be open to an alternative view. However it is generally accepted through my reading and experience that the following three characteristics of a wiki are indeed it’s strengths in promoting and encouraging group collaboration:

1. Simple technology – only need internet access and a web browser.
2. Simple and easy to use (creating and editing pages, linking to pages and websites, inserting images and documents)
3. Easy to learn how to use

In addition, the following identified strengths are less open to argument, as they are a matter of fact.
4. Easy to rollback and compare with earlier versions (mistakes can be rectified, malicious vandalism can be deleted)
5. All changes are logged and therefore traceable.
6. All members can act as moderators and guardians of the wiki.

So we come to the bad. Bad is really to strong a word for what I want to convey which is that the success or failure of a wiki for all it’s inherent strengths will be determined by how the wiki is used, regulated and valued by it’s users. It is encumbert on the wiki organizers primarily and the wiki participants subsequently to create and maintain a flourishing wiki that achieves it’s purpose.

In order to achieve this wiki organizers need to draw on best research and practice of co-operative/group/ collaborative learning and apply this to wiki teaching and learning activities to gain best results.

How can they do this? Well hopefully I’ll come up with a few ideas in subsequent blog.

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