Tech Tool #4: pbwiki

pbwikiI use wikis a lot. They are free, easy to use, and handy for so many things. For instance, I am creating wikis to use as presentation/resource materials for student and faculty workshops. When I do research for faculty on just about anything, instead of sending a single email to one faculty member, I write it up on a wiki (either a new one or one that I have already created) and then send the link to the faculty member. That way, instead of dissemination valuable information to just one person, I’m releasing it to the world! When another faculty member requests the same info, guess what? I just provide the wiki link instead of having to write another email.

Here’s an example: I have a wiki on pbwiki.com (my favorite wiki software, by the way, and I’ll tell you why in a minute) called http://boisebarbara.pbwiki.com where I have put information and resources for various projects and questions that I am trying to answer for BSU faculty. (As you can see, this wiki links to other pbwikis I have created.) I can use this information and resources over and over again. While it might take a little more time and planning up front to do this, in the long run I’m actually conserving my time and energy, since I don’t have to reconstruct the information each time. I like it.

Other wikis I have used and like are wikispaces.com and wetpaint.com. Wikispaces has a nice comment feature that links to members’ emails that is quite handy, and wetpaint offers attractive templates and a structure that looks similar to static web pages. However, the reason I like pbwiki the best is because they offer advertisement-free web pages to educators (wetpaint does, too, but you have to write them to request it) and you can view and edit the wiki markup code if you want. Wetpaint doesn’t allow you to edit the code, a real drawback for me.

What IS a wiki? Essentially it’s just a web site, but offers an easy way for multiple people to contribute and edit. Not just anyone can edit your wiki, however. Only people you’ve given the password to can do this. Wikis can be private or public, too. Wikis include history on all pages so you can revert to a previous page if you’ve messed up on an edit. Most wikis offer a comment feature, sort of like a discussion board. Wikis now offer visual or WYSISYG editors (looks similar to tools found in Word), which make writing and editing a breeze. Wikis are DYNAMIC, which means you can SUBSCRIBE to them. That way, new content can be accessed via your feed reader and you can be notified each time new content is uploaded or something gets changed. It’s a very democratic way of collaborating, since everyone essentially has the same permissions. Wikis are very easy and quick to set up, and you can get going in a matter of seconds. You’ll need to organize your structure somewhat, but everything is always evolving anyway, so no need to get too hung up on that.

Try out pbwiki if you haven’t tried wikis before. And in the meantime, Academic Technologies will be offering hosted wikis through the new Apple Leopard server. And later on in the semester, we’ll be offering wikis within the Blackboard course management system. If it sounds like TOO MUCH fun, well . . . it is! See you tomorrow.

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