I'm looking to create a collaborative type project for my students and am wondering what would be the best platform for them to use - a wiki or google doc? I'm familiar with google docs but not with wikis. Could someone help me to determine the differences between the two and what situation would be best to use them in? Thanks!

Tags: collaboration, documents, google, wiki

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Hi Kendra

I have read through all your fantastic replies that you have had and thought I would add a couple of points myself. I have recently worked with Google docs with younger students on a literacy project writing a short story. In groups they needed to plan and create a 300 word essay using only Google docs as the communication tool.

Many discussions evolved from the issues that the students had with non-verbal communication, understanding through text only and collaboration/compromising to complete task. The main frustration was (as mentioned in a previous post in this thread) the constant jumping of the page when there were multiple edits occurring. The constant saving and refreshing is excellent as it creates a revision history, but it also creates a disengagement from some students as they believe it is the technology that is letting them down. Revision history is only good in so far as retrieving the documents that have been deleted (very useful if a student makes a mistake) or edit incorrectly, but for evaluating participation and involvement within the task it is difficult as the data can not be exported to another document or spreadsheet.

Unfortunately I have not had as much experience with Wiki's as i would have liked to (next project). My understanding is that you are able to treat them almost like an editable webpage were each person collaborates together. I have included a link from the commoncraft show Wikis in plain English which I find explains it very well.

I would be very interested in finding out which way you went and what project you are doing as i am considering using wikis myself for my next project.


Hi Kendra, I read through most of the posts but I did not see anyone mention that you might be barking up the wrong tree with your Google apps.

For multi-person collaboration, the best thing to use is Google Groups (from your GMail account, look at the navigation bar on the top left; the one with Documents, Reader, More etc. Click on More----->Groups.)

Google Groups have two basic function: A Discussion Function and a Page Function.

The discussion function is pretty much a glorified mass email. Essentially someone starts a discussion on the group (usually you allow anyone in the group to start one...although, as an admin of the group, you can control who starts discussions) and people respond to the discussion. When a discussion is commented on, everyone involved in the discussion gets an email. Google keeps each discussion in its own thread so you can see who is contributing and in what way.

The Page Function is more permanent. As the admin, generally you will be the only one who can create pages (although you can allow other members to create and edit pages as well). Pages generally are not changed or collaborated on.

So what Groups allow you to do is both collaborate (discussion) and create a final product (page). Everyone can work on it at the same time, and really only one person is working on the final product.

Hope this helps
Google does offer interoperable apps though. Gmail has an IM function within it so I allowed my students to invite only their group members to a group chat window. They were able to coordinate their editing tasks to minimize overlap and communicate when they were saving. Once each student saved they notified their partners via IM and the rest would refresh their pages to display the saved changes.

What I found most useful about this was the ability to embed Documents and Presentations from GooogleDocs directly into GoogleSites to create a website/wiki showing their work. The ability to leave comments at the bottom of each web page allowed for peer review and editing.

As to Etherpad, it is a useful communication tool and runs super smooth - but it looks like Google will be releasing Google Wave later this year - appears to do the same thing and more.
I would like to know how people feel about using PBwiki v. Google Sites?
Hello all -

I've been playing with the various Google apps and am stuck on something in the Google docs app. If I set the notifications tool to tell me when the document is updated, it doesn't tell me who did the updates. I would like to see which students have contributed. Is there a way to see this? Thanks!

Betsie N
I stumbled upon a document created by Google outlining this very thing, but from the earlier posts, I'm not sure collaborating using GoogleDocs runs as cleanly as it seems here. I'd be interested to know if this answers your question: http://www.google.com/educators/learning_materials/WR_revisingguide...

Hi Kendra!

I'd love to hear what you decided to use. I am a big fan of Google Docs. I love the way students can contribute and work collaboratively. Of course, I'm just waiting for Google Wave as I can think of SO many possibilities to use it with students. :) Let me know if you went the wiki or Google Doc route.
Sorry if it has been posted before (didn't see it), but my district blocks ALL wikis except wikispaces.com. I, too, really like the ability to see who added what when, but alas, I've been pretty confined to using Google docs. I like Google docs except I think the mechanisms for sharing are a bit clunky and if no one leaves comments about their changes, all you know is that changes were made.
Hi Kendra,

Why is it Wikis or Google Docs? It should be both! I just wrote 8 Ways To Use A School Wiki to Increase Communication, Collaboratio... which you might find interesting. However, I would look at it like a wiki being a collaborative file cabinet where all members can add files and Google Docs are the files (pieces of paper) that all people can edit. One school I work closely with closely CIS 339 integrates the two beautifully.

Good luck and keep us posted.
I use both (see www.divini.net/chimica)
I prefer pbwiki (now is called pbworks, http://pbworks.com)) for younger student classes to whom I teach just one year (because it is easier to use and less demanding for accounts.
I prefer google docs for older students I teach academically a subject (chemistry) for longer time. This is because it has a more complete set of collaboration and communication tools (as gmail!). Moreover you can easy control the sharing and keep unpublished the collaborative shared work, until you'll decide they should be published or simply shared with more people. The same is not possible with free version of pbworks, so students' works and corrections, errors, reviewings and comments are public from the beginning.
Free wikispace plus accounts for educators...

You make great points here. It isn't a question of which is better. It is a question of which is best for a given situation. Isn't this the goal of technology literacy? Identifying the best technology for a given situation. We need to avoid the tendency to get "attached" to one technology.



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