Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Neverending Search
Inside Neverending Search

Research transparency: Shifting from blogs to wikis?

Which tool should I use? 

It is a question I hear nearly every day from our teachers. 

Last year, just around this time, I blogged about our efforts to blog the research process.  That worked pretty well for our seniors’ culminating research efforts, their Senior Sem projects.  In fact, I thought it worked real well.

But this year, teachers wondered how the research process would look in wiki format. 

(That, and the fact that Edublogs just wasn’t behaving the day we introduced the project, seemed reason enough for an experimental shift.)

Actually the teachers thought of other reasons:

  • While blogs offer us the advantage of voice and reflection and chronological progression, wikis offer our students the opportunity to build and edit their documents in one space. 
  • The page structure they establish anticipates their final product. 
  • Teachers found wiki building a very easy process.  They kinda love Wikispaces for Teachers.
  • And, we hope the wiki’s discussion tab will allow students to question and reflect.

In the left navigation tab we had each student set up the following pages:

  • Driving questions
  • Title, introduction, scope
  • New vocabulary
  • Working thesis
  • Preliminary sources
  • General information
  • Internet sources
  • Books
  • Progress reports
  • Final proposal
  • Working draft
  • Acknowledgments
  • Conclusions and findings

We strongly suggested they also create nav bar links to the Virtual Library and their teacher’s own wiki for the course.

Jeff MacFarland was one of the teachers who led the switch :

When it comes to technology, you need the hammer that works. Both blogs and wikis opened up audience for the sutdents. But wikis seem to be the better tool for organizing, for uploading and storing files. For the practical everyday stuff, in this situation, wikis trump blogs.

Kevin Martin, another Senior Seminar teacher suggested that wikis work for this project because students and teachers seem to be far more familiar with them. 

If we set up pages as we set up the wikis, students tend to be more organized. With blogs, they often forgot or neglect to tag or attach a category to each post.

The students discovered how nicely wikis played with our databases.  It was easy grab a full database citation entry and paste it into the resource areas of their wikis.  It was easy to store media: embeddable video, slideshows (or slideshow drafts), PDF articles, etc.

So which one should we use, Dr. V?

In my mind, either tool works.

They both work in helping us achieve our goals: inspiring students to inquire, to organize their efforts, to select quality and relevant sources, to make the research process more interactive and more transparent, to allow us to intervene at critical points along the road, to avoid research disasters.

Here are some early examples of what it looks like.


Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Buffy Hamilton says:

    Joyce, are your students using Wikispaces? Also, can you provide links to the examples so we can see them up close? Thanks!

  2. joycevalenza says:

    Buffy, write me offline and I’ll share. (These were protected.)

  3. Diane Beaman says:

    I read this entry and the previous one on research blogs with great interest. I really want to do this with some freshman physical science classes. The teacher is eager to collaborate but we are unsure of how to start. I would love it if you did a preconference workshop on it at AASL 2009. Food for thought!


  1. […] 3. What is one way you’re using wikis and other web 2.0 tools in your projects? Our students are using wikis as parking lots/looseleaf notebooks for their major research projects. (See this blog post.) […]

Speak Your Mind