Blogs, Wikis, and Google Docs:

Which one is right for your lesson?


This wiki was created to support a 20 minute CUE Tips session at the 2008 CUE conference and was updated for CUE 2009. Blogs, Wikis, and Google Docs can be powerful and easy to use tools for educators, but their features are overlapping and it can sometimes be difficult to know which one is right to meet a given need. This session is an effort to help sort that out.



Background


See the slides here: http://networktolearn.wikispaces.com/Workshop

The One-Way Web
  • Powerful resource for educators and students, but…
  • Information moves from publishers to consumers
  • Information cannot be edited
  • Read-Only Web
  • Web 1.0

The Two-Way Web
  • It is now as easy to create as it is to consume.
  • Anyone can publish, share, and change information
  • Read/Write Web
  • Web 2.0
  • This is changing our world!
  • Blogs, wikis, and Google Docs are part of the Two-Way Web. :)


NEW: The following information is now available in an easy to view comparison table - created with Google Docs!
Blogs, Wikis, Docs: Which is right for your lesson? A Comparison Table

Blogs


Nature
  • A blog is a web log, a frequently updated website. More - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog
  • Authors: Usually only one person or a small team can post. Each post is one author's voice. Others can only leave comments.
  • Collaborators: Usually visitors can comment. Sometimes a small team has the ability to post.
  • Organization: Reverse chronological order. The newest post appears at the top of the page and older posts move down until archived (usually by month). Most blog systems also support creation of a few static pages, such as an about page or class expectations page.
  • Updates: Frequency of updates varies, but blogs tend to be updated more often and more consistent than wikis and docs. Visitors return often to blogs that are updated frequently and consistently. RSS users can also subscribe to a feed so that new posts come to them automatically.
Benefits
  • Blogs are easily created and easily updated.
  • If you can email, you can blog! And adding images and files is as easy as adding attachments.
  • Some blog systems allow authors to embed media.
  • It's a Two-Way Technology - visitors can leave comments.
  • Most blogs allow teams of authors with various permissions.
  • Some blogging systems allow users to download a backup of their blog.
Drawbacks
  • No multiple authors on a single post (usually).
  • No history of revisions on a single post (usually).
  • Though archives are searchable and can be organized by category, it can be difficult to find old content.
  • Some blogging systems do not allow users to download a backup of their blog.

Examples:

Educational Blogs


Spectrum of Uses:

Subject Specific Examples:


Wikis


Nature
  • A wiki is a web page that visitors can quickly edit. More - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki
  • Authors: Many. Most wikis allow either anonymous editing or editing by a limited number of approved users.
  • Collaborators: All visitors can be collaborators, or access to edit the wiki can be limited to approved users.
  • Organization: A wiki site is an interlinked collection of individual pages.
  • Updates: Wikis are updated as needed, usually when new information about the topic becomes available, information changes, or a mistake is found. RSS users can subscribe to a feed so that they are notified of changes automatically.
Benefits
  • Wikis allow easy collaboration and sharing of resources.
  • Wikis maintain a history of all revisions to each page, including who made what changes.
  • Most wikis also provide a discussion forum for each page, though this is not always a threaded discussion.
  • Most wikis allow different permissions for different users.
  • If you can word process, you can use a wiki! And adding images and files is as easy as adding attachments to an email.
  • Most wikis allow users to download an html backup.
Drawbacks
  • Users can overwrite each others' changes if they are editing the same page at the same time. Wikis are best for asynchronous collaboration, not synchronous collaboration.
  • Though many wiki systems now have WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors, some wikis require addional knowledge of wiki syntax that is different than HTML. This is helpful for troubleshooting problems with WYSIWYG editors, too. Wiki syntax can be different for different wiki systems.
  • Though a history of revisions is available, archives of old content are not easily accessible by category or searching.

Examples:
  • Podcastarticle on Wikipedia
    • It's a great resource for a new topic you might not even find in an encyclopedia. (So wikipedia is great for current information.)
    • But, Adam Curry once removed any mention of Dave Winer's contributions to the history of podcasting. (So beware of bias, agendas, and inaccuracies in the wikipedia at any give time.)
    • But, Adam Curry was caught by wikipedia editors. (So over time wikipedia articles improve because the "white hats" outnumber the "black hats" and many volunteer editors care deeply about the accuracy of the articles.)
  • The Palm Srings USD tech plan was written on a wiki! (Note: The Long Beach USD tech plan is being written with a combination of a wiki and Google Docs - covered below.)

Educational Wikis


Examples

More On Educational Wikis


Google Docs


Nature
  • Google Docs provides an online office suite that allows you to access your documents from any computer via a web browser. It also facilitates collaboration and sharing. More - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Docs
  • Authors: Each document is created by an individual.
  • Collaborators: Docs can be shared with a small team of collaborators at one time (synchronously). A larger number of users can collaborate asynchronously.
  • Organization: Each document is separate. Users can view all docs that they create or collaborate on at their Google Docs home page, which allows organization in folders. A published document can be viewed as an individual website.
  • Updates: Docs are usually created and edited for a specific purpose, but they can be saved indefinitely for reuse at a later time.
Benefits
  • Google Docs are the best choice for synchronous collaboration on a single document - with some delay, users can see others changes as they occur! The system handles conflicting changes well.
  • A history of revisions is kept for all documents.
  • Each spreadsheet has a built in chat room for collaborators.
  • Each presentation has a built in chat room for viewers. (This has changed presentations! You can now share the link to the published presentation and invite others' into the chatroom... and the others can be in the room or anywhere in the world. Suddenly, presentations can be interactive and can create a permeable classroom by allowing experts and peers into the room - and allowing students' thoughts out into the world.)
  • Upload and export most word processing and spreadsheet file types.
Drawbacks
  • The history of revisions can be difficult to navigate. Old data may be difficult to find because it is not easily accessible by category or searching.
  • Only a small number of users can collaborate synchronously. (About 10 in docs and presentations, but Google says 50 can join a spreadsheet at one time.)
  • Docs only allow two levels of permissions: viewers & collaborators (plus owners).
  • Importing and exporting files is limited to only a few formats (but Microsoft Office formats are included: .doc, .xls, .ppt)

Examples

Docs in Education


Resources

Reflection


Which of these tools is right for your assignment(s)?
Or which assignments are right for each of these tools?


Additional Resources


Role of Online Shared Learning Spaces for Competency Development
The Whats and Whys of Wikis (A wiki by Jen Wagner, no relation): http://jlwagner.pbwiki.com/WIKIPresentation
Wikified Schools (A wiki by Stephanie Sandifer): http://wikifiedschools.com/

A graphic representation of which tool to use for different purposes in education, by Leigh Murrell and Heidi Beezley, who presented a similar topic at the CUE conference: http://sites.google.com/site/goomoodleikiog/the-pedagogy-of-goomoodleikiog




Contact Info


Mark Wagner, Ph.D.
President, Educational Technology and Life Corporation
5405 Alton Parkway Suite 5A-305, Irvine, Ca 92604
www.edtechlife.com
mark@edtechlife.com
MarkWagnerIM (AIM)
markdwagner (Skype)
markwagner (Twitter)
949-394-6071