Thursday, September 20, 2007

How not to plan a successful wiki

One of our professors, Manuel Lizarralde, was recently in the DCC scanning hundreds of pages of books to PDF so he could "travel light" on his trip to Peru, for a semester-away with a group of students. I had not heard of this before, and thought it was a great opportunity for the students. On the Sunday before his Thursday departure I got the idea of providing him with a digital camera and an iPod with mic, for the use of the students to capture their experiences.

I offered the idea on Monday, and he gladly accepted it. Later that night I thought of starting a wiki for their experiences and use. I ran this by Manuel on Tuesday, with a quick demo, and he agreed to try it. Manuel was too busy to learn wikitalk though, and had emailed a student, Leia Crosby, to try and contact me for some basic instruction. I put the wiki together on Wednesday morning, and late afternoon Leia called me by cell phone, rushing between trip preparation tasks. We agreed to meet later that evening. Short on time, I spent about 35 minutes teaching her basic wikitalk. The next morning the students left the college about 7:30 am for the trip to Peru, and I came up with a logo for the wiki.

I was not sure what to expect, but I think it has turned out pretty nice so far. Here is the SATA (Study Away Teach Away) Peru wiki.

Many of the pictures are Manuel's, but some are the students'. Almost all the entries are from the students (Manuel signs his), with Leia teaching the others basic wikitalk. Due to slow network connections from Peru, Manuel emails the images to his stateside wife, Anne, who posts them to the wiki, and usually also inserts them in the students' writings. These are totally theirs, and not edited, but they seem a little too busy for page layouts, so Anne helps out here. Below are the students, in front of their current location in Cusco.

We are not quite sure where this is going, but it's an exciting project. Usually we plan things in great detail to ensure success, in this case there was no opportunity. The lack of planning actually seems a positive attribute this time, as no limitations were placed on the wiki's direction and purpose, which can evolve and grow with any changing needs over time. I do wish I had a full hour to teach Leia wikitalk though!


Bryan's workshop blog said...

What a great case, Frank. It's exciting to read the days.

Frank Fulchiero said...

Thanks, I wish we had more time for pre-planning, but in this case it worked out.
The students will delete the "empty" dates, they often did not have network access, and were in the Amazon for a while...

We'll put a link to the next and previous page at the bottom of each date, to make the "page turning" easier.