Simplifying Content Development and Delivery: Using The Wiki

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One of the great benefits of being here on campus and working with such quality instructors is the collaboration that goes on.  If one of us has a great idea to better the teaching experience, we like to share. 

Christer Edwards, one of our instructors, recently shared his secret for creating and deploying his content.  He uses a wiki.  Now, I've heard of wikis, and I've played around with some in the past, but I've never really gotten into it.  The markup is different, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to take the time to learn it if I found I didn't like it.  So, I waited.

Then Christer showed me the S5 plugin for his DokuWiki page. For those of you who are not familiar with S5, is it an implementation of presentation software, but is run from the web using XHTML, Javascript, and CSS.  And it looks great.  It's simple and easy to use to create a quick presentation, and you can display it from anywhere you have Internet access.   That is what got me thinking. 

See, I really want to simplify the way I show my presentations.  I want to have them easy to get to, easy to deploy, and simple to set up.  I don't want to worry about plugins, software versions, or anything like that.  Just a quick and easy way to get information on the screen.  and S5 makes that possible.  And, as it is essentially a website, you can embed video, audio, just about anything in the page, and it works. 

Does it take the place of just about everything in a presentation?  Not really.  It doesn't have some of the cool animations, the ability to make presenterless presentations, etc.  But that's not really that important for classroom slides.  It's all about the content, the discussion, and getting the information out there. 

So, I gave it a try.  I first installed DokuWiki on my website (a very easy install, I might add), and installed the S5 plugin.  I'm currently transferring the content in my SEO slides to the wiki, and the presentation looks great.  I still need to settle on a template for the slides, but that's something that can be done at any time, after the presentation has been made.  That's what I like about this plugin, it breaks things up.

But, you can't just use a Wiki for slide shows, it would be kind of a waste, right?  The wiki needs to be so much more, providing tools that will help with development.  This is where it gets interesting. 

I've been thinking a lot about project management, as course development for new content seems to drag.  I wanted something to help me break the project into pieces.  I've been told that Agile Project Management is a great way to work if it's implemented well, and a very good friend of mine, Joseph Hall of told me how he has implemented it with a wiki.  Eager to give it a try, I started looking for plugins for various wikis to find one I like. 

Well, as luck would have it, DokuWiki has a plugin called AV Task Box.  Basically it's a text box that will add task information like the Title of the task, the priority, the estimated time it would take to complete the task, the amount of progress one has made on the task, to whom the task is assigned, and a description of the task for usage.  The syntax is easy to use, and if you keep all tasks on a main Task page, everyone can see which task is for whom, how far along they are, and when they can expect a task to be completed. 

I love it, and use it already for my course development (as of yesterday).  It helps me gauge the time I need to dedicate to a task, and I can keep myself on task easier with the box sitting there waiting to be updated. 

So, for the past couple of days I have been teaching myself how to use the wiki format.  A couple of other plugins I got were the Note plugin and the ODT plugin.  Note puts in a cool formatted note within the text that does not show in the slides (very handy).  The ODT plugin let me put a button on the bottom of the page to export that page to an Open Document file.

And one more thing..  I want to be able to edit this on the fly.  It is the web, after all.  I should be able to edit it from any web-enabled device, like my iPhone or iPad.  And I can, unlike other Wiki software I've looked at in the past.  I can access the Wiki from both my iOS devices and edit pages without a problem. The only thing left is to get the slide show working with gestures on the iPad, and it will be perfect.  I'm currently looking into that now. 

So that's my experience with Wikis, and why I've started using it for just about everything from note taking to project management.  I can definitely see why they were so popular.