Wikis: Where Collaboration Is Happening Today

The first two presentations that I went to today both focused a bit on collaboration. First, I went to Web 2.0 and E-Learning which had a segment about how online collaboration can benefit the classroom environment. Then I went to Collaborative Editing Tools and Techniques which focused on collaboration options for the publishing world, be it web publishing or print publishing. Although each of these presentations focused on multiple types of collaborative environments, they shared one strong suggestion in common. Both said that wikis could be successfully used as collaborative tools for essentially any environment.

Of course, the wiki that we’re all most familiar with is Wikipedia. But there is wiki software available for groups to use whether they are trying to set up an information-sharing space for a classroom, a business or a publishing group. (TWiki and Wikka are examples of Wikis that work well for Mac users.) The basic idea of these is that you can create a place where information is stored and others can access that information and add to it. As Wikipedia shows, this creates a true “Web 2.0” interaction where the people on the site are both users and publishers of information.

For the classroom environment, the wiki can be a way of setting up group projects. Each person in the group can enter the wiki and alter the information until the entire project is complete. This allows students to learn how to collaborate in the same way that they eventually will need to do in the professional world. It can also be used as a way to offer feedback to others in a classroom so it is particularly useful for writing papers and reports and doing peer editing before the final draft is submitted to the teacher.

In the world of publishing, wikis can be set up which allow for the use of important editing functions. For example, a wiki often has a “history of versions” which allows an editor to see what changes have taken place at different stages of editing. You can see this on Wikipedia by going to the “history of versions” for any given Wikipedia page. You can then ask for a “comparison of versions” which allows you to see what the specific differences are. In addition, you can set up “associated discussions” which allows you to comment on those changes. In an environment that is smaller than Wikipedia, this can be a useful tool for online collaboration between people in remote locations.

Collaboration is increasingly important for all different types of people. As Adam Engst said today in the presentation on collaborative tools: “Everything today is collaborative”. There are very few instances of something being created by one person and going straight to the end person who is consuming that creation without other people in between. This means that we need to enhance our ability to make use of collaborative tools in order to increase the efficiency with which we work. From what I heard at the presentations today, the best way of doing that across the board right now seems to be through the use of wikis. Although specialized industries will have their own ways of collaborating which may be more effective, wikis are a general platform that the average user in any situation should be able to understand.

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