Ingredients for a Live Syllabus

I’m not sharing the site for a course I am teaching just yet, but here are some tools you can use to create a website for your class that feels “more alive” (to use Andreas Dieberger’s phrase in regard to wikis). There are only 2 steps. This will probably not work at the K-12 level, however, since they tend to block all social software sites and tools.

Create a wiki for the class or classes

There are free hosted options such as pbwiki, wikispaces, wikidot, and wetpaint, or you can host your own using tools such as mediawiki or deki wiki.

At the moment, I’d recommend pbwiki. You don’t need to know html to embed interactive widgets (see the next section). However if you are already comfortable with html, wikispaces supports embedding widgets as well and is improving all the time.

If you can and want to host your own wiki, deki wiki has more out of box support for embedding widgets (see next section), but mediawiki is hugely popular (it is the software wikipedia uses). You can embed widgets in mediawiki, but it requires manually installing and configuring many extensions.

Add your syllabus, schedule, materials, etc. to the wiki. You can have a single password or multiple user accounts to allow student editing of the pages (to do things such as write essays, submit assignments, practice web editing…).

Add a group chat room and other interactive widgets

Wikis now are beginning to support the embedding of ajax, flash, and java-based widgets, such as:

  • chat rooms (meebo rooms or gabbly) – pbwiki supports gabbly out of the box. This is nice for things like sharing a url in a computer lab during class, or allowing students to collaborate outside of class time.
  • calendars (google calendar)
  • videos (youtube, teachertube)
  • pictures (flickr, photobucket,…)
  • powerpoint slides (slideshare)
  • math formulas and equations
  • voice chat (pbwiki supports yackpack)
  • maps (google maps)
  • spreadsheets (google calc, pbwiki supports embedded spreadsheets)
  • Any one of 13,000 google gadgets such as date/time displays, weather, yahoo chat widgets, polls, etc.

I do not see a way to embed a simile timeline widget in a wiki just yet, however.

Posted in teaching, technology
3 comments on “Ingredients for a Live Syllabus
  1. Roebot says:

    I’m intimately familiar with Ed and Ins Tech. I often advise schools to use the MindTouch Deki Wiki VM because it’s behind their firewall and they don’t have to worry about any privacy issues. It’s free and installs in minutes. . As you know, Deki Wiki is also significantly easier to use than the other engines you mention and has a a richer feature set. Of course, I’m biased too. 😉

  2. Doug Holton says:

    Yeah, I really want to try Deki Wiki more seriously for myself. I still can’t decide between it and media wiki for hosting my own wiki 🙂 But hey that’s a good problem to have.

  3. Doug Holton says:

    Update: It looks like there is a Google widget for the Simile timeline. You can search the above link to the google directory for “simile”, or else try this link directly:

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