New Learning Technologies Buffet (Wiki Yum)

Sometime before the end of December. my colleague Tom Foster at Chandler-Gilbert asked me to co-lead a workshop for Maricopa library staff. Tom has helped me a lot, so of course I said “yes”. Then last week, he reminded me we had a week to prepare for our session just completed. So what does one do in a pinch, to create quickly some online workshop materials? Quick?

Ride the bus… wiki wiki that is.

This workshop was for library technical staff from all of our colleges. I am still not sure what they do, but apparently there are some divisions among reference and circulation people. They provided the broad, nebulous request, to “do something with new technology”.

So we went with a “buffet” theme. Starting from scratch just 2 days ago, I turned to PBWiki to hoist the site. PB is great because of its simplicity, plus you could have a group work on it by just providing a single editing password (and avoid the problems of having a wide open wiki). Their wiki syntax is pretty easy, and I very much like things like creating a SideBar page that becomes a fixed sidebar on all pages. They have file uploads and give you 10 Mb of space for a freebie account. And apparently, there are still a lot of wiki names you can get for your site, I never thought I’d be able to get “learntech”. Sadly, you need a new email account to create a second PBWiki, but I have a box of unused addresses under the desk.

So the site we ran with was called the New Learning Technologies Buffet at http://learntech.pbwiki.com/. Each page sticks with a food theme using images from the flickr Creative Commons pool. The topics included:

What was intended but got left of because we ran out of time and I was not going to pull and all-nighter for this, was Podcasting, RSS, and Social Bookmarking. As is, we only covered about 35%.

The format was simple- a brief overview (plus links to more examples), a list of links to examples of the technology, and then suggestions for where they should go to create accounts, try them out etc.

Our intent was for this to be not much of us talking, and more of them doing. We asked them to create wiki pages for themselves to jot notes as they went, and then add their Wiki page names to the side bar (see the instructions).

It’s been a while since I spent time hunting and scrounging (e.g. Googling) for new examples or interesting uses of technology, so I had fun finding some new twists on things I have looked at for a while.

This was a pretty enthusiastic bunch, and were still focused despite issues with Windows log ons, the old Mac laptops with Internet Explorer as a browser (it cannot render any modern web page right), and batteries that faded out. They all got something created on their own wiki page, but most of it was playful, not introspective thoughts. But the whole point here was to give them a quick taste of a lot of things, and many of them will come back to look at them more seriously. Maybe.

Other discoveries:

  • People new to wikis have trouble getting the WikiName or CamelCase or WikiWord thing right. It needs to be explained very clearly. PBWiki is not as flexible as some other wikis as to what a wiki names is, and we still had folks creating pages in lower case, or with spaces or other characters that break the wiki.
  • Three of four times, people got confused and started editing the main page, wiping it out with phrases like “What do I write?”. I had not previously sorted out how to do reversions (it is actually easy in PBWiki, but you have to start with a not obvious link). It would be nice if one could lock pages from further edits.
  • For blogs, people just love Adaptation to my Generation (formerly the Daily Photo Project) where the guy posts a photo of himself taken every day, in the same location, same expression, since 1997. Why would any one do this? Why does he where the red shirt 3 days in a row? It is just miinf boggling but wonderfully human, and clearly demonstrates that you are the master of your own blog.
  • UniBlogs and EduBlogs are just a fantastic deal. Get a WordPress blog.. for free. Bless you Sir James.
  • Most everyone has a strong opinion on WikiPedia. They get less torques about WikiTravel.
  • Some other new wiki -powered gem sites: Design Encyclopedia, wikiHow, and of all things, JuggleWiki. Mapping a Bus Route in Shanghai is supposedly a wiki, but not reading Chinese, I just have to trust the link that lead me there.
  • One of the most eye popping things that gets an Aha look is to share with them Using a Wiki To Plan a Camping Trip. They nod vigorously when I try and compare the same task done via 120 emails fluttering (and someone forgetting to pack the beer), but how many really go out and try to use a wiki?
  • Writely rocks. Writely rocks. Writely rocks. Writely rocks. Writely rocks. Writely rocks. Writely rocks. Writely rocks. Writely rocks. I’ve had an account but never used it much, but I am sold on it. It takes the shared writing that you get out of wiki space and ands a different layer of sharing and publishing. I started by uploading a basic word document, then showing how it looks and can be changed in Writely, and then explaining how it could be edited by anyone else I invited by email, and ultimately exported to PDF, RTF, or even published to a blog . Writely rocks!
  • There is so much to show in flickr that you can knock people over, and still you are grazing the surface. The tags for cameratoss are mesmerizing. Recipes to Share, especially ones like Tarte au citron blow people away at what you can do with hotspots, not to mention what Beth Harris creates with Art history students.
  • The list of third party apps cooking up desserts with flickr’s APIs is seemingly endless. Newly discovered gems include FlickrPapr (make wall paper images from smaller flickr photos), delivr for creating flickr image e-portcards.. yet the perennial favorite is Spell With Flickr.
  • Even more endless are the manifestations of Google Maps mashed up with other data sets– the uber home being Google Maps Mania. I discovered new gems like the Road Sign Math site (people take photos of mileage signs that are actually correct math expressions if you insert a few operands), and a site that helps you locate taco trucks in Seattle

So I learned a lot doing this 😉

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so)


  1. Hey Alan,
    Looks like you already did what I was planning to do for our wiki workshop. This is a great example to follow, and looks like it was a lot of fun. Wish I had seen it a few weeks ago. Would have save me a lot of work. 🙂
    I hope you’re looking forward to doing it again.

  2. What a great post! Thanks for sharing all of these resources.It’s some serious Web goodness.

  3. Great post; looks like a fun workshop, and your post had lots of good treasures in it too. The flickr ‘cameratoss’ tag photos blew me away. Absolutely stunning. I was just about to download a bunch of them to use as a screensaver when I thought – hold on, this is ‘web 2.0©’, you dolt; someone, somewhere, has got to have already created a screensaver plugin for Windows that allows you to automatically download images from flicr through its API. And you know what – sure enough there already is – http://cellardoorsw.com/?page_id=4. Sweet. So now we know who to blame for the stupor I am falling into watching these images float across my screen 😉

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