User:Playnice nz/Guide to gardening and wiki facilitation

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Guide to gardening and wiki facilitation

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Your contributions are welcome!

Please share your ideas, knowledge and experience by contributing to the discussions and resources on this page. Your ideas and contributions are extremely valuable to make this page relevant and useful to the WE community. Ideally everyone contributing to this page will do so in respectful and appropriate manner following the "Wikiquette". If you are new to wikis and WE visit Wikieducator tutorial to find more about wikis and get you started.

About this page

The aim is to reflect on the experience and process of facilitating a wiki page as part of the course FET8611- Emerging Environments for Learning. It is also attempt to outline some effective facilitation strategies and is open to the community for use, improvement and contributions.

Ownership, contributions and history of the page

This page is created by Vasi Doncheva while learning how to develop and facilitate wikis. In my opinion, there was no better way to learn about the use of wikis. Facilitating a wiki page and contributing to others in the supportive and nurturing WE community gives the WE members the opportunity to experience first hand how wikis empower collaboration and knowledge creation in a distributed and open learning environments. Please comment on this page by using the talk/ discussion page. You may reuse the content under the WE copyright policy. It is open to anyone to freely edit, contribute or reorganise the page.

Guide to gardening and wiki facilitation or How to design, establish, facilitate and maintain a wiki

Please, grant me the serenity to accept the pages I cannot edit, The courage to edit the pages I can, And the wisdom to know the difference The Wiki Prayer (Lamb, 2004)

No experience in gardening - Join a gardening club!

Find other community members with similar background or interests and invite them to form a small group to support and help each other and gain community momentum as well as establish positive expectations. Promote your group to the wider community through your group wiki page that could help you attract more members and build an active and supportive learning community of people sharing similar background, interests, ideas and aspirations and bringing a wealth of diverse skills and experiences that you can all benefit from.

Beautiful gardens are for people to enjoy – Invite and welcome visitors!

Invite others to look at your page by including a link to it on your KG user page, group page and in communications like emails, messages, comments and contributions you make to other pages. Inviting people to use your wiki is a good way to guide their first interaction with it. It creates an opportunity to make the wiki visible to others and attract them to visit and become familiar with the topic you are exploring. When you invite people, briefly indicate what is needed in the wiki, and which valuable information can they add or modify better than you can. This approach is likely to attract more contributions as people feel they can add value to the wiki.

Monitor the visits and contributions to your page to identify the people who are contributing and linking to it by looking at the HISTORY and putting a watch on the page so you get an email when someone edits it as well as checking the BACKLINKS to see what links to your page. Welcome new contributors and thank them with acknowledgements in the text of your page, with a thank you message or by adding a comment or even better by contributing to their wiki page. Welcoming new people that have contributed demonstrates appreciation of their time and input and helps to bring new members as well as encourages more active contributions.

Visitors getting lost - Plan carefully your landscaping!

Design a wiki page structure that will provide a good balance between order and chaos. Lack of structure could be discouraging contributions but so could be too much structure. I followed the advice offered on Wikiptterns and started with as little structure as possible and only added more when it appeared to be needed. A simple set of headings with a bit of content and some conversation starters proved to be enough for people to see how information should be organized and "what goes where." Format and structure could be your best friends or enemies. Try to make the wiki more visually appealing and desirable to use by making content clear and easier to find, and maintaining good organization and format. I have added some useful tips to the ones provided by Davies (2004) below:

  • Define the goal, purpose and the scope of the wiki.
  • Add titles or section headings for better organization.
  • Separate paragraphs in order to make texts easier to read.
  • Clearly outline how the wiki could be used, contributed to and reused.
  • Add images or diagrams to illustrate content or concepts where appropriate.
  • Ask the contributors to add their avatar and reference their sources.

Plant your garden - Seed it with content!

Most visitors are not likely to be attracted to an empty page. The "Seed it with content" pattern suggested by Lynnwood(2007) relies on using some amount of pre existing content to seed the wiki. Not all types of seed content work in wikis so you need to pick well. Look around, visit other wikis and you will be able to identify what works well. From my visits to other knowledge patches, I conclude that guides, user manuals or how to wikis are the once that attract the highest number of contributions and remain vibrant and alive longer.

The important question is though: “How to restructure the seeded content to best facilitate wiki based interactions and contributions?” I personally find the wikis written like a paper or an article more difficult to contribute, not being sure where or how to include my thoughts and uncertain if they will be of any value. My recommendation to encourage interaction and contributions is to use a seed that is a combination of content and conversation starters. Some tips on how to encourage interactions and contributions to a wiki are: • Seed the wiki with some content but do not over plant it. • Ask people to respond to what you have written. • Use conversation starters to initiate interaction. • Make is easy for people to contribute by asking them to do specific things. • Start a topic and ask people to share their experience, ideas and opinions.

Keep your garden’s appeal - Maintain your garden so it does not overgrow or become bare!

By its nature wikis are work in progress, but it is suggested that even though they are free for anyone to edit, people are reluctant to change what others have written or remove what they think is not relevant Davis, 2004. If wiki content is only added to and no editing of existing content or structure (weeding) takes place the wiki is likely to become difficult to navigate and read, leading to confusion and overgrowth. This is likely to reduce contributions and interactions because the users are finding the wiki chaotic.

As defined in Skyloom (nd) ,“WikiFacilitation is using various topic structures and participant input mechanisms to consciously give structure to a discussion, both spatially and temporally, in order to more closely mirror satisfying real-world interactions and to achieve specific group-approved outcomes”. Facilitation and scaffolding are critical in keeping the wiki alive and the garden vibrant and colourful. Funch (2004) suggests that wiki needs "scaffolding to hold the conceptual and organizational elements in place, especially during the early phases. It may be argued that it is the lack of this scaffolding feature which prevents many potentially useful pages from "getting off the ground" and staying up." Below are some tips on effective wiki facilitation:

  • Use various topic structures and tools to consciously structure a discussion in order to attract contributions and different viewpoints.
  • Anticipate and manage the phases of the discussion by structuring the topic to fulfil a specific purpose
  • Restructure as a purpose is completed and move to next phase.
  • Continuously refactor to distinguish and summarize different tracks of discussion and incorporate into a topic and wiki structure.
  • Maintain "boundaries" of discussions and contributions by moving "off-topic" and "out-of-sync" threads (as defined by topic purpose) that may not be relevant to the current phase of conversation to a general comments and contributions area (Lynnwood, 2007).
  • Monitor the level and quality of the contributions, providing ongoing feedback on how well the wiki is developing and indicating if it is in need of a little boost (water and fertilizer) or a major revamp (replanting).

Where from here - The implications for teaching and learning

“I accept chaos. I am not sure whether it accepts me.” Bob Dylan

Wikis are powerful and flexible collaborative content development tool that empowers learning and knowledge creation in a distributed learning community. From a broader educational perspective, wikis allow faculty and students to engage in collaborative activities and knowledge creation that might not be possible in a traditional educational environment. The versioning capability some wikis have can show the evolution of a thought process or a concept as students and faculty interact and contribute to the wiki.

My first experience of facilitating a wiki convinced me that wkis are here to stay. The more people embrace the open nature of wikis adoption rate and use is likely to accelerate and evolve. Their future potential seams limited only by one’s imagination and time 2005).

Related web sites


Davis, J. (2004). Wiki Brainstorming and Problems with Wiki Based Collaboration. Retrieved September 10, 2007, from [1]

Educause. (2005). 7 things you should know about… wikis. Retrieved September 18, 2007, from [2]

Flemming, F. (2004). Collaborative Patterns. Retrieved September 18, 2007, from [3]

Lamb, B. (2004). Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not. EDUCAUSE Review, 39 (5). Retrieved September 25, 2007, from [4]

Lynnwood, B. (2007). Wiki Facilitation Concept Development. Retrieved September 5, 2007, from [5]

Skyloom. (2007). Wiki Facilitation. Retrieved September 10, 2007, from [6] (not dated). Seed it with content. Retrieved September 19, 2007, from [7]

Wikipedia: Etiquette (2007). Wikipedia: Etiquette. In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopaedia, Retrieved on 18 Sept 2007, from [8]