Wikis as Personal Space
Thinking more about wikis . . . After my post yesterday and in light of my recent meanderings about personal learning environments, I've been thinking a little differently about wikis than most people.
We tend to see wikis as social spaces, because they allow multiple people to work on a single document and because they can be great tools for a cumulative gathering of knowledge. But getting to large-scale adoption can be difficult--management resistance, fears about using new technologies, changing old habits. All challenges to the social use of wikis.
Personally, I've been facing my own difficulties in getting people to adopt a wiki as a social space. They love having one place to go on the web to access information on a particular project, but they don't necessarily want to add to what's there. I've also found that people have to feel that they're personally getting something out of the process of contributing to a wiki. Benefiting "the team" isn't always enough of an incentive.
I think that part of helping people develop the skills to participate in a "social" version of a wiki might lie in encouraging people to use them (where it makes sense) for their own personal productivity and learning.
Increasingly in my practice, a wiki has become a tool for me to use for non-social gathering and sharing of knowledge (if we define social gathering as more than one person adding to the wiki). My wiki has become a personal space that I share with others when it makes sense. So here are some personal ways I've been using wikis:
- As a personal brainstorming tool--as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I have a "Michele's Ideas" wiki where I gather links, notes, etc. on various personal and professional ideas One section of the wiki has become something of an online journal for exploring my personal mission in life. I'm collecting videos, quotes, articles, etc. that feed my thinking about my purpose and where I want to be going in the next few years. I've also explored larger blogging topics by first outlining some of what I'm thinking in a wiki page and then using that as a place to gather links, videos, etc. In this capacity, a wiki is part of my PLE.
- As a personal project management tool--As an independent consultant, I manage a number of different projects that I have to coordinate with both clients and staff people from contractors with which I'm working. I've been using wikis to help keep both myself and other people involved in the project updated and on-track with what's been happening with each of my projects. This has saved me a lot of communication headaches, as well as keeping me more organized.
- As an eportfolio--Taking a page from Beth Kanter's book, I've been working on developing my eportfolio using a wiki. Right now it's something of an all-purpose portfolio but at some point I can see creating more focused portfolios with examples of the different kinds of work that I do.
- As follow-up to training sessions--In many of my training sessions I have staff work in teams to develop handouts and group notes based on what they're learning in the training. I create a wiki for these sessions where I can later upload what the teams produce, as well as provide staff with follow-up materials for further study.
While I agree that there are incredible social benefits to using wikis and I continue to encourage people to use them in that way, I also think that a strategy for getting people comfortable with the technology is to show them how they can use wikis to improve their own personal productivity and learning. At least that's what I'm attempting to do here.
Your posts this week have been very timely and helpful.
We've just installed our first wiki here this week. And there's a bit of a deer in the headlights feeling, I must say. How do we use this thing? What do we put in here? How are we *supposed* to use it? I say just do it....
I'm curious about how you're using wikis in your personal space. Are you creating lots of wikis for each area? Or are you creating wikis within wikis?
As I opened yet another Word document this afternoon to record some project info, I thought shouldn't I be putting this into a Wiki? Is this the end of my intense project folder structure in Explorer? Have you stopped using Word?
Posted by: Cammy | June 07, 2007 at 04:26 PM
Great postings on the personal learning environments and the use of wikis. We have been struggling a bit with wiki implementation as well. I think the process of defining what the wiki is designed for is really the hardest part of the implementation. And I wonder some times if people get hung up on the semantics as well. Is there a better term we can use than "wiki"? Those of us who play in this realm often are comfortable with the term. However, neophytes are probably a lot less comfortable and the term doesn't help by providing "definition" of what a wiki does.
Just some thoughts "out loud"
Posted by: Rallyfan | June 08, 2007 at 07:21 AM
I think it can be really valuable tool as a follow up for training and that's how I've been using them lately. The main reason - with tech stuff - there is so much info to digest and you have so little face time and you can't answer everyone's detailed questions. So, being able to say - well there is an entire article on that question on the wiki ... is a great way to make people feel they'll get what they need after words.
The trick is anticipating what the frequent questions are and having just the perfect resources linked.
Sometimes I will get anew question and then go back after the workshop and research or add something.
Wikis are a must have addition to the web2.o trainer's toolbag
Posted by: Beth Kanter | June 08, 2007 at 08:18 PM
Great ideas. I agree that many people do have trouble contributing to a wiki even when coaxed to do so. As an administrator in a school, I've tried to get the staff to contribute to our wiki by asking for input and adding pages where they can add information. So far, the only thing that has them sharing is the calendar where they post activities for others to see. I like your idea of getting them to use it as a PLE first. I know I use a wiki for my planning and for many other personal things. It only makes sense to introduce it this way and then have people add information when they are comfortable. As I do some thinking for next year, this is a great idea for staff to use for professional reflections, for gathering information for the growth plans and for just planning their years. Thanks!
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Posted by: owertscetsMeN | April 16, 2008 at 11:27 PM
The wikis are quite textual. Some people have problems using them, because some templates look shocking complicated. The actuall content of information is less than the template texts, hints and navigations. Therefore, we've created a visual tool for that:
However, I must admit wikis might be good for certain use scenarios.
Posted by: Konstantin Yonov | October 23, 2008 at 12:32 AM
Thanks for this post, Michele. Over the past two years, I have used TiddlyWiki (a personal wiki tool) for a multitude of projects, both professional and personal. I use these wikis essentially as one would use a notebook. There is one wiki in particular that is 100% focused on my work and tracks the essence of important conversations and a lot of other things. I've always thought of it as something to leave behind for my successor if I were to leave my current job or even to help brief a new staff member.
More recently, I started a new wiki using the same tool to draft a novel. I needed to be able to keep track of the number of words I was writing. It took me about 10 minutes to find the relevant line of code to add to the template and get an automated word count for this particular wiki. I like the fact that I can play with the template even though I'm really not a techie.
Posted by: Barbara Fillip | January 20, 2009 at 01:03 PM