Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TiddlyWiki: Your Own Portable Wiki

Wikis are a great way for small groups and classes to create collaborative web-based documents. They’re meant to be highly hyperlinked documents and their content history and open editing tools allow groups to compose together as the wiki grows organically.

There are times though when you need something smaller—the structure of a wiki is fine, but you need something more individual and better suited to smaller topics. TiddlyWiki is a simple, personal wiki that offers a lot of benefits for the classroom with a tight technology budget:

  • No Internet access required for the writers or readers.
  • Free, open source tool.
  • Works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  • No server needed.
  • Customizable using a variety of plugins.
  • Do everything within a standard Web browser.
  • Built in support for searching and tagging.
  • Translations available for Spanish, and other languages.

The technical profile is great, but what about pedagogy? TiddlyWiki supports process-based writing—students can write, revise, and edit as needed, and basic text formatting (like bold and italics) is supported. The TiddlyWiki Timeline keeps a list of all the chunks of text (tiddlers) that have been changed, in reverse chronological order (e.g., most recent changes first).

The built-in features in TiddlyWiki make it a rather simple tool to use. All content is saved in a single HTML file. Students can save their files on jump drives, CDs, or a local or school hard drive. Files can also be emailed as attachments or uploaded to a web server.

Students would need to know a bit about how wikis work. Knowledge of simple HTML formatting would be ideal as well. After a bit of experimentation however, most media-savvy students would be able to use the tool.

That brings us to how you might use a portable, personal wiki in the classroom. TiddlyWiki is described as a microcontent tool. It’s ideal for shorter, focused kinds of writing. While a regular wiki would be useful for a class encyclopedia, TiddlyWiki is great for a single encyclopedia entries or a collection of related entries.

Students might use a TiddlyWiki for any of these projects:

  • Book reports—compose different sections of the TiddlyWiki for characters, setting, plot, themes, and so forth.

  • Literary analysis—break out different aspects of any literary element (or compare several elements).

  • Research journal —create a page with notes and bibliographic information for each primary and secondary source.

  • Reports—make the standard sections of a research, lab. technical, or business report into pages in a TiddlyWiki .

  • FAQs—publish frequently asked questions, as part of a research project or book report alternative.

  • Class Notes—take notes for each class session on a new page in a TiddlyWiki.

  • Journals and blogs—make a new page for each journal or blog entry for an electronic option that requires no Internet access.

That’s just a start. Once you try TiddlyWiki, you’re bound to think of other options—as well as ways you might use it as a teacher. You might use the tool as a paperless option for sharing class assignments and handouts for a specific unit. By customizing the basic TiddlyWiki file, you could create a template for a project that students might use to publish their work or as a prewriting organizer.

Here’s what you need to get you started with TiddlyWiki:

TiddlyWiki Site
Homepage for the tool. You’ll find the download file, examples, additional tools, and help files.

The site for TiddlyWiki plugins to change the appearance and navigation as well as to add tools.

A great resource for tips, suggestions, and tutorials for TiddlyWiki.

A customized, simpler version of TiddlyWiki.