choose to look elsewhere for teaching tools. Course management systems
don’t always represent the easy route, and in some cases can require a lot
of time and expertise to master. In terms of ease of use, the tools devel-
oped by private companies are often superior.
A wiki is an interactive web page that can be edited by any of
its members. With a wiki, all previous versions are saved along
with a log of changes made. This means that if you don’t like
some changes that were made, you have the option of reverting to a
previous version. A wiki is searchable by key words or phrases, a function
that allows you to find all information on a particular topic with the
click of a mouse. A wiki also allows you to set permissions, so you can
determine if you want it to be public or private.
Dr. Couros incorporates wikis into his teaching because he finds
them collaborative and empowering. By keeping his course wiki open to
changes for a certain period of time, Dr. Couros allows students to help
create reading lists, discuss how assignments should be structured, and
even negotiate over submission dates. The advantage of not being locked
into a course management system is that his course is available to credit
and non-credit students alike; students who took the course three years
ago still contribute to the wiki, enriching the learning experience for cur-
rent students. Dr. Couros chooses to keep the history of his course’s wiki
accessible to new students, thus allowing them to learn both from their
peers and from work carried out in previous years.
Verdict: Wikis are intuitive, flexible and easy to use. Expect to feel fairly
confident with basic wiki operation within a few days. They encourage
students’ ownership of their learning process and work best when used
as a place for recording objective and factual information.
Due to their ease of use and the fact that the software is free,
blogs have become one of the most common types of websites
found on the Internet. Blogs allow you to experiment with
writing online, where you can moderate comments and have threaded
discussions. Blogs automatically post content in reverse chronological
order and create archives of old posts so they are easy to navigate, and
they can be easily expanded or developed through the creation of new
pages. Blogs can also be kept private, even if you’re using an external
hosting service. For example, Google Blogger gives you the option of
keeping private any group with fewer than 100 readers.
Blogs are an excellent tool for formative assessment and are useful
in gauging student expectations prior to a course and measuring satisfac-
tion afterwards. Not only can a blog facilitate reflection and discussion, it
can also have a variety of other purposes. The links tool makes it easy to
offer links to online readings and websites, and the blogroll allows you to
link to other blogs that may be relevant to your area of discussion. Blogs
are also an ideal location for FAQs. Your responses to these questions
are then available for all students with access to the blog to see.
Verdict: Blogs are as simple to establish and maintain as wikis. The main
difference is that wikis work best as a repository for factual information,
whereas a blog is an ideal platform for reflection and discussion.
Podcasting is often the first step into the world of course-casting,
a term that describes the distribution of lecture material via
podcasts (downloadable audio files), video podcasts, or webcasts
Dr. Matrix at Queen’s started course-casting after discovering that
students were recording her lectures on their mobile phones for later
review. By producing her own recordings she feels she has better control
over the content and, at the same time, can provide a customized learn-
ing experience for students with diverse needs. Dr. Matrix notes that for
students with special needs, knowing a podcast will be on hand can help
alleviate the stress of having to keep up with a quickly delivered lecture.
Podcasts and video podcasts can often be easily created on your
computer with the built-in microphones and cameras, and with standard
software or an inexpensive upgrade (such as GarageBand on Macs and
Quick Time Pro for Windows). They can then be uploaded to a website,
blog or wiki.
Verdict: While adding podcasting to your repertoire can be a great way
to provide your students with other ways of accessing and reviewing
material, the tool has less obvious benefits to someone who is a social
media beginner. You also need to ensure you can still provide incentives
for students to attend lectures.
Bookmarking is the current system many people use to save
the addresses of websites they may wish to visit in the future
to their own computer. Social bookmarking is a system where
these addresses are saved to a website instead, facilitating easy retrieval
and information sharing.
When you create a bookmark, you assign tags (or categories) to each
resource that best describes the content of that resource; for example,
a site about the preparations for H1N1 could be tagged as “H1N1,” “pan-
demic,” and “public awareness.” If you are making your tags public, your
social bookmarking service will indicate that you are the creator and pro-
vide access to your other bookmarked sites. This allows users to create
social communities based on just about any interest and learn from each
other’s bookmarked websites or resources. The tag system also allows you
to search for all public resources that have been assigned a particular tag.
Social bookmarking allows you to share and retrieve information
from a framework created and maintained by colleagues and peers. It
can encourage collaborative resource sharing and can facilitate the dis-
tribution of resources, reading lists, bibliographies and papers amongst
Verdict: An easy tool to use that can offer organizational and collaborative
benefits. Before incorporating social bookmarking into teaching, keep
your bookmarking private and try using it to first organize your own
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