Although journalism students are skilled communicators, I often find that they do little communicating with one another. Lack of clear communication between staff members can lead to all sorts of problems — missed deadlines, duplication of effort and hurt feelings. These problems are compounded when a publication staff that is split over more than one class period. And while nothing beats good old-fashioned face-to-face communication, I have found that a classroom wiki page is an incredibly useful tool for making sure everyone is “on the same page”.
A wiki page is simply a web page, or series of web pages, that can be edited by anyone with the appropriate permissions. The site can be open to the public, with contributor access limited to members of the staff, or private. Several free wiki options exist for the classroom including Wikispaces and PBworks — which is the site I used before being my school district implemented its own wiki site and insisted I use it. These options are simple and user-friendly, using a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor and offering features like privacy settings, calendars, RSS feeds and file and photo uploading.
Both Wikispaces and PBworks offer tiered pricing plans, with free options that limit the storage space (2GB for unlimited users on Wikispaces and 2GB for up to 100 users on PBworks) and features, as well as classroom and campus pricing. I really liked PBworks’ features and ease of use; if I had my way I would still be using it.
My yearbook and newspaper staffs use their wiki pages for a number of things: they can record deadlines on the calendar, reference their entire staff manual, including rubrics and other important forms, make important announcements to the rest of the staff (or just make silly comments or vent frustrations), keep track of minutes for club meetings and story assignments from brainstorming sessions, read the latest journalism news via the RSS feeds and blogroll…the list goes on and on. And although anyone on staff has permission to edit any page, those with administrative access have the ability to go back through the site history to undo any changes that the tricksters want to make to the site (“What deadline? There’s no deadline on the calendar for today.”).
A wiki page takes next-to-no time to implement, and I believe our wiki sites have gotten us out of several jams this year with staffers being spread over different class periods. It’s been a wonder for improving communication and organization amongst staffers — and the best part is, it requires almost no work on the part of the adviser.