this is nice

I’ve used a few wiki systems over the years, and for a technology so simple I’ve at times found it surprisingly difficult to create the kind of pages I wanted and needed. The arrival of wiki editors facilitated things somewhat, making formatting a lot easier, but my other main challenges with wikis were:

1. uploading/linking to images

2. keeping my pages organized in some sort of navigation structure

A couple of years ago I blogged about PB wiki (peanut butter wiki), a free wiki that had some features I really liked which seemed novel at the time: public or private settings, a nice interface, and decent navigation. A recent visit reacquainted me with this tool, but setting up an account and getting to my new wiki space ( I couldn’t remember my old login) proved to be a bit laborious and a few more steps than I would have liked. I recall that PB wiki was quite active in continually improving their product ( I recall liking the education-oriented templates they offered), and the homepage boasts that it has more pages than wikipedia–which, let’s face it, is a considerable accomplishment. But like some other tools I’ve used (WebCT comes to mind) improvements sometimes get in the way of useability, and at some point *less* truely is *more*. I still think PB wiki is a great tool to suggest to students and instructors, but for the new-to-wiki set I would probably recommend Zohowiki.  I’ve been a fan of other products in the Zoho suite, but the Zoho wiki really does everything I would have liked a wiki to do.  Here’s a checklist.

1.  quick and easy to get started

2.  an extensive editor so I don’t need to know any wiki code to format

3. really simple image uploading

4. a comments feature at the bottom of the page (which I prefer over a tabbed discussion page)

5. public/private wiki option

The bonus *I love* features that make this my number one choice for teaching are:

1.  simple, clean navigation.  I didn’t get lost in my collection of wiki pages and could find them quickly and easily.

2. the ability to add pages and subpages to form a collection of pages hierarchically connected to a homepage (think about the educational possibilities! The homepage could be Course A, the subpages could be the weekly topics, the sub sub pages could be activities related to each week ).  Importantly, these are conveniently displayed in a navigation column on the right, as well as with breadcrumbs at the top.

3. RSS everywhere! On all the pages!  This includes a ‘recently changed’ section that appears at login. This means that if you are teaching with the wiki, and have asked students to have their own wiki spaces for project work or whatever, you can stay on top of their activity and know if they have made changes.

4. A ‘global links’ box that can be edited to include links to other wiki pages (think course topics, or student projects) , or  external URLS (eg. student blogs, or other reference material)

The limitations of wikis have caused me to use them in conjunction with other tools–a CMS or a weblog, for example.  I’m pretty sure I could teach an entire online course using Zoho wiki, and it certainly could be a great ‘just in time’ teaching tool option.