SITT takes a closer look at wikis

Wikis took the stage Thursday morning at the Summer Institute on Teaching and Technology. These Web documents, named after the Hawaiian term meaning "quick," allow users to create and edit a project together, usually without restriction. As a piece of software with great potential but new to many instructors, wikis touch on the core themes of SITT.

All week, the institute has been hosting presentations and workshops on teaching and on how instructors can use new technologies in the classroom. Now in its 11th year, SITT has introduced faculty to such educational tech tools as SmartSite—the new course management system—blogs, podcasting, and wikis.

Sarah Richter, a nutrition graduate student at UC Davis, showed how students used a wiki to present a course-long group project. "At first, the students were not that excited, but by the end of the class, everyone felt pretty positive about the project."

Students read what previous groups had posted and could go back and edit earlier entries.

Wikis are not just for collaboration, said Michael Giardina, analyst and writer for the campus department of Information and Educational Technology. "There's no reason why [wikis] can't be used for personal things like writing a novel or storing a recipe," he said.

Since wikis are online, users can work on their documents from any place with an Internet connection. Wikis also track each change and update, leaving a history of earlier versions behind for quick file recovery.

As a forum, SITT encourages people to ask about and discuss the day's issues. This was obvious Thursday. The wiki presentations spawned an extensive conversation that quickly grew beyond the scope of the scheduled topic.

A question about the difference between a wiki and a blog segued into concerns over students' ability to discriminate between legitimate sources and convenient sources, w hich in turn raised a discussion about the different role libraries now play in an online world. The audience became the panel.

The rest of the day included events on evaluating freshmen seminars, the Breeze Meeting software, and using SmartSite with wikis. The day's schedule ends with the Art of Teaching visual presentation contest in the International House from 4 to 6 p.m. Winners will be showcased.

Friday, the last day of SITT 2006, will look forward. SITT director Jon Wagner will talk about new directions for the Teaching Resources Center. Similarly, SITT coordinator Andy Jones will speak broadly about the future of teaching at UC Davis.