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JotSpot could bring Wikis into classroom

Google purchase of Wiki developer will make sophisticated, easy-to-use software apps available to teachers and schools for free.
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In its quest for Internet dominance, Google has scooped up JotSpot, a startup focused on using Wiki technology for business workgroups. While JotSpot was focused on business users, the Googlization of the software may yield positive benefits to students and teachers using Wiki software in school projects, reports eSchool News.

Wiki technology is most famous as the technical underpinnings of Wikipedia, but the basic concept - letting multiple users edit and annotate a shared document - is obviously applicable to group and class writing projects in schools. The problem has been that Wikis have really been something only accessible to geeks. JotSpot's mission was to make wikis usable by average business users. The acquisition by Google suggests wikis will soon become useful to many more people. While Google already offers collaborative online word processing at docs.google.com, JotSpot delivers much richer collaborative environments.

"Our vision has always been to take wikis out of the land of the nerds and bring them to the largest possible audience," Kraus said in an interview. "There's no larger audience that you can reach than one you can reach through Google."

Kraus said Google's acquisition of JotSpot "validates the notion that people want to do more online than just read. The web is moving from a monologue to a dialogue."

"It's exciting to have [JotSpot] integrated with the rest of the Google tools, probably for free--it's really cool," said Tim Wilson, director of technology for the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose schools in Minnesota.

How would wikis be incorporated into the classroom? Easy access to a wiki creation tool through Google might allow teachers "to pursue this technology if they are in a district where the tech leadership wouldn't generally have the skill or the interest to install a wiki service," said Wilson.

"It's a great resource, potentially, but it's also a potential point of contention in districts," Wilson said referring to some security issues that schools may have trouble with.

Concerns have been raised about the a universal identity which could heighten privacy concerns, making it easier for governments to obtain one's search history, email messages, word-processing documents, and now wiki data with just one subpoena. Kraus said users could delete accounts before migrating to Google.

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