I spent a fairly intense day exploring and working on my first Wikispace wiki. I can see lots of potential. Click on the link above and sneek a peak at my first effort of getting a shell started. It is more experimenting and imagining. It all can be changed and I don't need to figure it out all by myself either. I need to invite some collaborators really soon.
What am I going to use it for first?After some reflection I decided to set up an all purpose wiki for my teacher-librarian and technology teacher duties. I feel I can immediately integrate wikis into my life by using it as a collaborative place to post tutorials for teachers and staff. I discovered Jing through my course readings and am finding all sorts of ways to use it. I often am asked to write up instructions about new technologies or tools in our school. A wiki is a great place to post this information which more often than not can now take the form of a screencast. At staff meetings there invariably is someone sharing what they learned at a workshop or just picked up along the way. A lot of good ideas, solutions or procedures shared in this environment fall through the cracks. Now staff can be post it to the wiki.
Another ongoing need is regarding scheduling for the library and computer lab. Some slots are reserved on a weekly basis, others for a term and some for the year. Many teachers lesson plan at home and think of using the lab or library at the last minute. With a Google Calendar embedded in the wiki they can see what is available. Hopefully I can figure out how they can sign up online as well.
I can also see using this wiki as a showcase for student and class work. Students and teachers will be able to upload their own work rather than ask me to post work to our school website.
I believe these are the first baby steps that can open up the world of wikis to everyone in the school. Truely collaborative projects will hopefully follow.
I have created part of the wiki shell today and will continue to play. Hopefully I can share it with staff when I get back from my leave of absence.
Making it HappenWhen I signed up for my account I chose the option of making my wiki look like a website. Sign up was incredibly fast and I could begin working immediately. I found out that I didn't have all the full privileges of an educator's account right away. It all looked like the upgraded version until I looked at adding members. It said I could only add five members. I went to the upgrade link and was immediately upgraded to an account that allows me to create up to 100 members.
I hadn't realized how advanced a wiki could be. This wiki has more options than any online editor I used for creating a website. I can see using Wikispaces for creating a new school website as a collaborative effort among staff. It would make for a much more dynamic space and the look and feel would not be too unsightly (don't judge attractiveness by my example). It would break the bottleneck we have for updating our website which just has one webmaster. In the past, I had considered replacing my fairly static old library website with a blog. Now I can see the possibility of a wiki with a blog feed would be even better.
I tried out a number of widgits and tried to link my wiki to a Google calendar, linking to my Diigo tags and adding images and screencasts I had made with Jing. It certainly takes time. I never used Google Calendars. I was able to create a separate calendar just for library and technology and then made it public. I found out the hard way that if you don't make it public you just end up with a blank space on your wiki.
Wikispace allows you to add a tagroll anywhere on your wiki. This tagroll represents all the tags for all the pages on your wiki. It is great way to navigate around. I put a flat table of contents widget at the top of my first page. This makes a table of contents list out of all your Heading1 titles on that page. This is extremely useful if you start getting really long pages and don't have time to subdivide your content into more pages.
Adding pages was quick and I liked the fact that you could rename your pages as often as you liked. I still need to make some of the page names shorter since they clutter up my navigation bar.
I added my Diigo tags to my Library page by using the widget option called other HTML. I copied the embed code made available from Diigo and adjusted the tag colours on the Diigo site to match my wiki colours.
I will need to spend more time wrapping my head around project pages. I like the fact that you can create IDs for up to a 100 members of your wiki and they don't even need to have email accounts. I learned you can create a template or a content page that will show up each time you create a team. I am pretty fuzzy about how all the projects work especially how you make them public. The help menu is extensive but I started have my eyes glaze over after a while. I think you need to upgrade to a paid account to customize the settings to make projects public. Otherwise have the project people create a page and copy and paste information from their project area to the page. Post a comment in you have knowledge in this area.
I do some Scratch animation with my students so I tested embedding a Scratch animation into a project page. I first had to learn to upload to the Scratch site and then link Scratch to the page. It works great. So now kids can create their own portfolios on the wiki. As I said before I just have to figure out how to publish the projects so the world can see them. Until then I have a project showcase page.
All that work and no one except members can see it!
I wanted to see what my new wiki would look like when I logged out. It looked like very little since everything was private. I went into the permissions settings and found out I had to pay one US dollar to get wiki verified to go public. It was a little surprising. I wonder if I still have a basic account or if the charge is levied on educator accounts as well? It is more a headache than a financial hardship though. I paid the buck and now everyone can see but only members can edit.
I think I will add wiki pages for each classroom division and post some information about how wikis are used in education. After that I will see if the wiki idea gets some traction.