Tag Archives: wiki

1 Month of Wave: Post the first

I now have a Google Wave account.

I got it a few weeks ago, but haven’t really had the opportunity to try it out in a meaningful way. There’s no point in playing alone… Wave’s potential lies in the ability to collaborate with others. “Potential” is really the key word here. My first experiences with the features and user interface have left me hoping that it will evolve in the right way, but it does fall short in some ways.

What is a wave? It’s hard to describe… it’s like an enhanced wiki tool that you could use in place of email, plus gadgets.

Actually, it’s much more complex than that, especially once you start taking into account the ability to make public waves (so now you have a public forum? a public blog?) and embed waves into other sites (like your existing blog).

This video explains the concept behind Wave pretty well (and it’s pretty funny, too). Also be sure to check the Google Wave Intro at the bottom of this post… it shows some cool features that will be possible in the actual release of Wave.

Can’t see the embedded video? Click here!

One thing to keep in mind is that it is in preview — not even in Beta! There are no guarantees that features will work (and, in fact, I’ve had some work one day and not the next), so you can’t really use it professionally yet. Many of us are just trying it out, to see what we think we can do with it, and provide some feedback on things that just aren’t working for us.

Things I like:

  • Wiki-style group collaboration on documents (asynchronous… and kinda synchronous)
  • The ability to embed tools like polls, map tools, conferencing, etc. (although I haven’t been able to try them all yet)
  • The ability to make your Wave public, and search public Waves on different topics. Very cool!
  • The ability to add things like Twitter into a Wave. Not sure I know what to do with it, but it’s neat that I can.
  • The group of folks attending Educause that decided to try using Wave for sharing conference notes and info… I’m TOTALLY spying on you all!

Things I’d like to see improved:

  • The total destruction of the darn “Done” button you have to click when you’ve made an update to a Wave. Doesn’t seem like a big deal when you’re testing Wave on your own and have a 2-line wave. When you are participating in a BIIIG wave that scrolls forever, and has various long replies, etc. the “Done” button is tricky to find.
  • Long complicated waves can be complicated to navigate. Not sure how to improve this, but I am finding it challenging.
  • Difficulty in locating changes to a Wave. I know there’s a green bar on the side. Doesn’t help if I have to scroll for 10 minutes to find it. Give me a ‘history’ page with a list of changes, like you’d see in a regular wiki. The playback feature seems like a cool idea, but has been useless for me so far.

There are other points, but I’ll save some for my next post. Overall, I do see its potential, and I hope that Google takes the feedback that they are given.

One weird thing that’s come out of this is trolling for account invites. I’ve actually had strangers ask me for a Wave account invite when they saw me post on Twitter that I had an account myself. Weird, no? Unless I know you personally or professionally, please don’t ask me. I want to use my invites to gather a group of people that I can test and collaborate with.

Can’t see the embedded video? Click here!

Some other first impressions:

This series is a (roughly) 1-month attempt to figure out what the heck to do with Wave, with some commentary along the way.

Event: Flattening the Classroom: Building Collaborative Learning Environments

Event website

This two-day virtual event focuses on effective collaboration. I’ve missed some of it, due to some technical difficulties, but what I did catch was pretty interesting!

Diane Chapman – What is Collaboration?

Collaboration – a dirty little secret?
I’m not sure I agree with this statement… at our school, the lack of a potential for collaboration in some of the campus-wide tools is the dirty little secret that isn’t such a secret anymore. A key point made that I do agree with, however, is that collaboration has to be PLANNED in advance. Sure – it can be fun to be spontaneous, but it can get messy very quickly without a plan.

“Plan for inevitable bumps in the road” – This applies to any technology, and is often forgotten when using it.

“Group think is NOT Collaboration” – I love this quote!! “Group think” is when a group gives in to a dominant idea, instead of everyone participating equally. Something that we have to teach groups to remember, and something group members have to practise. Going along with the ideas of the group is not the same as adding your ideas to the mix. Yes, it’s easier to go along with everyone and seems to get the job done faster — but it defeats the purpose of the whole exercise!

The role of creativity in collaboration: unique viewpoints, not equal to chaos, important to collaboration.

Noshir Sarosh Contractor – Understanding and Enabling Online Collaboration Networks

Social collaboration is not as much about who you know, or what you know, but others’ perception of who and what you know. These notions make up different kinds of networks, and the different ways in which they work. It doesn’t just involve a collection of people, but people, networks, data, and the relationships between all of these areas – a “community”.

The best collaborative ideas come out when the community is not made up of people from the same circle – but we still often end up creating social networks with people that are from our area of the world.

Michelle Pacansky-Brock – VoiceThread: Collaborative, Community-Oriented Learning Spaces

What is a voice thread?

Online media “album” featuring presentations, imags, documents and videos. Thse open up into collaborative conversations where users may comment in text, voice, or video. She has used this from w/in Blackboard courses. Users are of varying skill and comfort level – she is there to demonstrate “mastery” (goes along with first speaker, who says that modelling is very important).

Students commented that they liked to hear their peers’ voices and see pictures and images – gave a better sense of the community.

Beryl Levinger – Technologies That Enhance Collaborative, Interdisciplinary Learning

DPMI – an INTENSIVE program, that leaves students with many skills that will aid them in professional life.

Feedback is an important skill…

Use mostly synchronous collaborative technologies for co-creation.

Tool-rich – mastery of a set of tools within a framework, some applied collaboratively and online, but some individually and on paper.

  • Results Framework
  • Logical Framework

Community-oriented – creating social bonds that enable them to work together effectively, and enjoy their time together, seeds are sown for collaboration

Avowedly collaborative – harness collective intelligence, use of wikis

Cheat, steal and be lazy! – DPMI Motto, and my second favourite quote of the day!! – build on the thinking of others! (Ha! I just posted about this topic!) Shared ownership and empowerment to collectively take action.

The ability to collaborate is as important as the outcome of the collaboration.

Collaboration as a learned skill…

Uses Zoho Wiki, Zoho Notebook (a shell that links all of the students’ personal notebooks… where they post various media, notes, etc.), Poll Daddy, Zoho Polls (peer-to-peer feedback), students must present poll results in their final presentation and explain how they used poll results to affect the final product.

Wiki inconveniences (that Google Docs addresses) – wikis don’t handle spreadsheets and diagramming very well, are generally asynchronus (only one student can update at a time). Use Google Docs for this, but link to the docs from within the wiki so that all content is accessible from the wiki.

Twitter – has gotten some students to participate that would normally not (sometimes because they are not as fluent in English, and is an easier method of communication). Yet, feels like a distraction. Still experimenting with it.

CMAP Tools – Synchronous/Asynchronous for mapping relationships

Students appreciate the collaborative aspect of the program MORE after the program than during it. Down the road, they realize that the skills that they have learned in the program are valuable for the real world, and they are skills that not everyone learns.

Telling Stories in Land and Food Systems: Future Advocates & Citizen Journalists

Podcasting – repurposing lectures, but not dynamic use of the technology

Day 2

Janet Salmons – How Did WE Work? Assessing Collaborative Assignments

Students are wary of group work, because they don’t trust their groupmates (to complete their tasks, to take the project as seriously, to provide a certain level of work) or the instructor (to fairly assess group work, to protect the group members from ‘bad’ group members).

  • Assessment of collaborative work requires planning, checkpoints
  • Assessment not only of outcomes, but of the process itself.
  • Assessment of the group and the individuals (not necessarily the same thing! peoples’ contribution differs!)

Balance instructor-driven and learner-driven styles.


Why is it so hard to find an appropriate wiki?

 Good question… I’m not sure I can answer that on my own. I’ll admit that I have a set of features that I’m not willing to do without. There’s also a general lack of consistency across wiki tools, which make it hard to compare.

I have actually become a HUGE wiki user in the last year or so, tracking all sorts of projects and investigations on a wiki. Some are on my private wiki, that only I (and a few sys admins!) can see. Some have been posted to one of my group wikis, so my colleagues can possibly benefit from the things I’ve discovered. (FYI: I’m currently using a wiki tool called Confluence, which is a fairly "techie" wiki tool, and may or may not be exactly what we need for our wider University community). 

 What is a wiki?

At its core, a wiki is a collaborative document. Users can all edit the document, and work on it together. Their changes are tracked, so that the different versions of the document can be compared. At the end, there can be a cohesive product document that everyone worked on, without having to be in the same room together!

What can a wiki be?

Another good question. I think we’re still working on this one. It can be a collection of documents that track the progress of a project — or, the documents could BE the project. Wikis are great for evolving projects, where the information needs to be updated at different times, by different people involved. Wikis are great for growing concepts from different viewpoints. In education, wikis are often used for groupwork, for the development of the class materials by various instructors & assistants, for research projects, etc.

What features are important in a wiki?

Here are some of the things that I’m looking for:


  • Page hierarchy, so people can build a navigable collection of wiki documents. Since wiki pages aren’t physical, there doesn’t need to be a strict folder structure — just a nice user interface that allows the user to contextualize what they’re doing.
  • Easy to understand navigation of the content you’ve built!! I like tree structures and breadcrumbs (the list of links at the top of the page that link back to the outer layers of sections — you know, like an onion, and therefore Shrek), but they aren’t the only way to go.
  • The ability to easily embed various media types: quicktime movies, windows media, flash, audio files, youtube clips, etc.
  • An easy to use rich-text editor for editing text and embedding things (links, attachments, media, images, etc.) AS WELL as the ability to edit the code (not sure if I require wiki markup, or if I’m OK with HTML — the concept of HTML code for a wiki baffles me a little, but I think I can be cool with it).
  • The ability for a wiki administrator (not just the system administrator) to manage who has access to the wiki, and to what extent. Is it totally closed to the public? Is it viewable by the public, but only editable by a select group of users? That choice is important!
  • The ability for us to host our own server, mostly due to confidentiality issues, but also so that we can have things like authentication using our current my.ryerson accounts and the possibility of creating enrollment-based groups.
  • Auto-saving of documents while a user is working on them. I don’t know how many times I’ve been working on something, just to be kicked out of a system when I click the Submit button and having to re-do EVERYTHING because there was no auto-save.
  • An easy way for users to link to: other pages in the wiki, webpages, users’ email addresses, etc.
  • Change tracking and version comparison.

The key thing, for ALL of these features is that they need to be EASY to use, and ‘not too techie’. 

So, tell me… are these the same things you look for in a wiki? I’m not even sure anyone reads my posts, since I’ve never gotten a reply to my questions sent through the ether. Just like with the blog investigation, input is always welcome – whether you agree with my wish list or not!!

Always wikilicious,