Saturday, May 06, 2006

Wiki Woman

Some really useful Wiki sites are popping up all over the Internet. The origin of the word "wiki" comes from the Hawaiian term "wiki wiki," which mean fast, but takes on a different definition on the Web. A Wiki is a Web site that allows any user to freely enter and edit content. Wikipedia is the most popular and established wiki around with more than 1 million entries, and growing.


A new Wiki that I just found and particularly like is www.shopwiki.com. Each ShopWiki user can -- and is encouraged to -- post and edit buying and gift guides. By contributing content to the site, you become a part of the wiki community and, therefore, have a vested interest in disseminating accurate and objective information. If you feel someone has misrepresented information on the site, you are free to edit the incorrect text out of the guide. You can also open discussion on certain things by using the comment option.

Wiki sites have great potential in education. The King Lear Screenwriting Project is a great example of using a Wiki site to allow students an opportunity to easily and quickly collaborate on a project. Author/teacher, Andrea Bird, explains:

"The text students initially worked on was an electronic version of King Lear copied from a website, with each of the 5 Acts copied as a different document. A pen drive was used to copy them onto the students’ own user areas. Another option would have been to put them onto the school network and have students copy them from there.

One significant problem that the scene editors began to face was how to share the scenes so that they could be passed around for editing and re-editing. Initially, we had decided that everyone would email them to me as word documents and that I would then collect them together and put them onto an area on the school intranet. However, not only did this put all onus on me, it also meant the whole group could not see the edited scenes as they were submitted, and so had no sense of how the play was taking shape.

As a response to this problem and with the encouragement of researchers on the Enquiring Minds project mentioned earlier, I set up the King Lear wiki. I posted the King Lear Acts from the word documents to the site, creating a hyperlink for each of the Acts and then introduced the site to students. The site has enabled them to edit the scenes online or (as we have discovered only one person can be editing an area of the site at a time) paste their edited scenes on to the site in the appropriate place and cut the original corresponding scene. Wikis have the capacity to evolve and one useful addition to the site has been a chart, posted by one student and developed into a table with columns by another, where the students can keep a record of who is editing which scenes and what stage they are at in terms of editing.

I anticipate the site will offer a number of benefits. When we come to distribute scenes to actors and other parties involved, photocopying should be minimal. Students can be responsible for learning lines from the site, and can be individually responsible for printing out scenes as and when they need them; changes can also be shared and collaborated on without the distribution of new paper copies. One issue with a project like this (running alongside students’ academic studies) is maintaining interest and enthusiasm through pressure periods (e.g. the January exams). Another benefit then, should be that as changes can be tracked on the site, when the site remains inactive for a significant period you can pick up on lull periods, and reignite interest as and when necessary."

1 comment:

kim said...

Hey! We have a wiki at work now. Did I forget to mention that to you? Just started playing around with it to see if it will work within the dreaded firewall system, but it's easy to see the benefit for those projects that we're working on collaboratively.