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
current 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
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 automati-
cally 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 satisfaction 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 distribu-
tion of lecture material via pod-
casts (downloadable audio files),
video podcasts, or webcasts (material that is
“broadcast” rather than downloaded using
streaming media technology).
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 learning 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
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 any 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,”
“pandemic,” and “public awareness.” If you
are making your tags public, your social
bookmarking service will indicate that you are
the creator and provide 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 distribution of resources,
reading lists, bibliographies and papers
amongst your students.
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 online resources.