Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Making my wiki sticky...

To me a Wiki page is another type of webpage, which should be created using the same rules of good web design and therefore the planning stage is crucial. It needs to be sticky, to attract colleagues and keep them interested.

So how do I design a sticky wiki?

I feel that I have three challenges. First, my topic isn't as cool as some of the technologies we are investigating, pfft ...Ebooks? Who cares! Second, the technology constraints of Knowledge Garden makes it more difficult to create a visually appealing site. Third, how many of my colleagues have an ebook reader, use ebooks or will have the expertise to comment?

What does the research says about making my wiki sticky?

1. My wiki should have a purpose that other people care about. I shall consider ways to make people care about ebooks!

2. Most wikis should have one or two levels. Not everything should be listed on the first page, it's confusing. I will have to use other tools, like boxes, bold, spaces to highlight important things and break up the information into manageable chunks.

3. I need to lose anonymity and introduce myself so people feel comfortable contributing. I need to give people something to 'do' or to feel free to play. I need to add easy explanations on how to contribute.

4. "Wiki loves itself. Link to as many other Wiki articles as you can, within reason. Also, search for other articles to find places where it makes sense to link to your article. Your article becomes stickier with each link to and from it" (10 Ways to Make Your Wiki Sticky)

5. My front page should have a short explanation of the purpose of the wiki and links to appropriate pages, not one long scrolling page (Best practices for getting others to contribute to your wiki). This is going to be more difficult in Knowledge Garden, put I will try to use content menus.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Its raining forums...

Ok, its time to come to terms with the three learning environments.

Peter says in his announcement: "Moodle, knowledgeGarden and Virtual Classroom forum to ensure that you are aware of most of the important aspects of the course environment.......details are included in the Moodle, knowledgeGarden and Elluminate forum" (Forum Post:by Peter Evans - Monday, 19 November 2007, 11:03 PM)

So why is three learning environments better than one? From a learner perspective, much time is spent learning the technology rather than working with content. From a teacher perspective, I can imagine that duplication of posting to different forums is time consuming and difficult to management. The fact that these learning environments are emerging means that each is still developing functionaltiy and "one size does not fit all" purposes.

On refection, I think it is posible to compare emerging learning environments within a historical context. For example, an emerging technology of the past 10 years has been the mobile phone. I remember when once we had a phone, a music device, a camera and a computer. Now we have a device like the iphone that converges all these technologies and more.

Perhaps soon a learning environment will emerge that brings together the best features of the learning tools we are using in this course, without reducing fuctionality of each and with a user friendly interface.

Where in the world..

Click to zoom in on my visitor map!
Create your free world visitor maps

Thanks to Jane and others in the group, I have discovered some devices that I call 'hooks'. I like to think of the application of technology, (aka, cool things) and I think this and other Graphic Generators are a good way to generate interest and 'hook' the learner into discovering more about the site.

I have looked at two different generators of this type. The one above that Jane demonstated in her site which is and .

Using templates always have their limitations. Using this blogger template means that sometimes things just dont fit without some modification of code. I wanted to put the nifty map on the right hand menu, however it was too large to fit. The clutrmaps seems to me to be easier to modify.

This exercise has taught me a few things:
  • Jane's post not only alerted me to a technology, but showed an application of the technology in an educational content which added value for me.
  • Graphic generators have me thinking about how 'cool stuff' can add interest to a site and need not be just 'noise'. Hooks are important to add stickyness to a site, and educational sites need to attract and retain their learners.
  • When looking at a new technology, look around for different versions of the same thing. Test out any variations in functionality to find the right fit for your purpose.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The learning environment 'gardens'

This picture is a visual representation of my impressions of the three learning environment gardens I am exploring.

Why is my picture resized so small in this blog? Not sure, but perhaps I have come across my first 'weed' in this software.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Are Three Course Management Systems Better Than One?

WebCT? ..Moodle?..Knowledge Garden..

These systems provide more than just URLs for locating content; they provide containers that shape both content and experience (Feldstein, n.d.)

To me the design of the ‘containers’ play an important part in the ‘experience’ I have never been a big fan of WebCT, from a user and designer point of view, as I found it too restrictive in design and scope. However I have subconsciously become accustomed to the uniformity of its design and icons and orientation. Orientation refers to the visitors’ ability to easily determine exactly where they are in the site at any time (Krug, 2000). On reflection, I have realized that, in Krug’s (2000) words, WebCT ‘doesn’t make me have to think’- I know exactly how the discussion posts will look, I intuitive know the icon for assignment submission etc…. which from a pedagogical point of view means that learners can spend more time working with the content rather than the tool.

First impressions of the Moodle experience is that it has a natural flow of information and a more web-natural look and feel. Guenther (2004), De Troyer (2001) and others have emphasized that sites should be designed for their audience, and this holds true for emerging education technology tools. This shallow design has clear navigation and explanation of labels and links for ease of student use. From a designer point of view, the freeware might lack the ‘bells and whistles’, and I am yet to discover if I am missing some vital element that WebCT has that as a student I just cannot live without.

Knowledge Garden is in a word…overwhelming. Consistent and well laid out key elements are fundamental to creating a good experience for the user. (Guenther, 2004). This text based system perhaps has a different purpose, which seems to be purely information driven. I need meaningful categories with meaningful labels, headings, white spaces and display elements to organise and help me predict the what, why, when, how and who of the overwhelming amout of information. It will take me time to learn the system – perhaps the Knowledge Garden has grown into a jungle, needing some pruning, weeding and replanting!

Krug, S. (2000). Don’t make me think: a common sense approach to web usability. Indiana: New Riders.

De-Troyer, O. (2001) Audience driven web design. Retrieved April 14, 2006 from Vrije Universitiet Brussels Web Site:

Feldstein, M. (n.d.) Course management systems and pedagogical models. Retrieved November 19, 2007 from e-Literate – What Michael Feldstein is learning about online

Guenther, K. (2004). Web site management. Online, 28 (1), 54-56. Retrieved April 12, 2006 from Ebsco Host database