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When do you use?

So can someone explain when one ought to use a wiki and when one ought to use GoogleDoc? They seem to do about the same thing to me.

wikisp.gif    logo_docs.gif 

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Reader Comments (18)

You know, Doug, I have thought the same thing for the past few weeks. One difference seems to be ease of access by potential authors. The author of a Google Doc must invite collaborators to edit the document. Wikis work a little differently...potential users simply click on the 'Edit' button on the wiki and have access. In addition, there's (often) no need to create an account to edit the wiki...there's no need for an email address. Again, with Google invites there needs to be an address to send it to.

I tend to think of wikis as quick and dirty publishing where it's OK to air dirty laundry as it's going through the editing process. Google Docs keeps that hidden a bit...only the collaborators can see what's going on.

I realize now I'm rambling...

September 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Thank you! Thank you for asking that question. I've been wondering the very same thing for a couple of days, but hated to ask. It makes me feel so much better that someone I feel is so "on top of things" needs clarification too:-)

September 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKitty Forbus

I had to ask the same question when I first began using these tools.

The easiest distinction I can make is that Google Docs lends itself to document building. It's content that is pretty much linear, starting at the top and ending at the bottom. While Wikispaces better facilitates non-linear content with multiple pieces that link to one another or even outside material.

If you were to create a mind map of the two, Docs would generally be just a single item, while WikiSpaces would include several items linking to one another in varying ways.

I would like to see how others fine tune a description for this question - the end result would be useful in trying to explain this in future training sessions.

September 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChad

Chad explained it pretty well. I have my teacher's learning to build classroom wikis to use instead of web pages for their assignments. You can upload documents - like worksheets - right to the wiki. They are awesome.

Google docs are word processing documents that I want to work on with someone else.

Both are great collaborative tools and each have their own uses. I am thrilled to finally be playing with Google's new presentations!

September 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSherry

Chad, Sherry and Kevin,

Interesting and useful distinctions.



And, Kitty, anytime I can serve as the the clueless, I'm willing to do so!

September 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I mostly use wikis, but some of my staff really feels awkward, like middle-school awkward, saying that word, so then I recommend Google Docs.

And today, at the Classrooms for the Future Boot Camp, a fellow asked me about managing all the usernames and passwords needed to set up accounts on all these nifty web apps.

I told him to keep them archived on a Google Doc and embed that in a wiki, but then he asked if he should use Wikispaces, PBwiki, or TiddlyWiki, and then my head exploded.

September 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterken

What about Claris Works?

Talk about a "first world" problem.

The jury is still out. Move your entire district over to Google Apps, you get to play the Google Docs card. Hesitant? Keep it all in text format and play between Wikispaces and pbWiki until Google unleashes a *true* wiki product.

And keep everything you do in .txt in the meantime. 1996 all over again.

September 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Pederson

Glad you asked and glad others answered. I have been asked and am asking the same question. But in the end it doesn't really matter what it is but what it does. I just try to get people to focus on the task, their objective and then we go over a tool or two they can use like a wiki or Google doc. I find the less tech comfortable choose Google docs the more tech savvy choose the wiki. Hey whatever gets them writing, collaborating and sharing.

September 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBeth Knittle


Good common sense. Thanks!


September 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi John,

I still like Bank Street Writer on my IIe!

I like the concept of moving everyone to GoogleDocs (and GoogleMail and Google Calendar) etc. I'd need a bigger pipe to the cloud first!


September 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson


Keeping track of all my usernames and passwords for 2.0 site seems to be one of my biggest frustrations.

Thank goodness for sticky notes ;-)


September 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson


I don't think I saw this mentioned above... one key difference is that most wikis are best used for asynchronous editing and may have real trouble with simultaneous editors, but Google Docs are the perfect tool for simultaneous editing - they're made for it. Unless you're planning to print to hardcopy (in which case Docs is the right choice), I think this is the most important difference for educators and students looking to use these tools to collaborate.

In any case, I'm happy to see this topic come up and get such a response. I just submitted a 20 minute session meant to clarify this for the CUE conference in March. :)


September 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wagner

Hi Mark,

Had not thought of this aspect which could be important under some circumstances. It also seems easier to give a large number of people access to a wiki whereas with Docs you have to subscribe each person individually.

Thanks for the comment,


September 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Wow! This is a tough one. A long time ago, I tried to explain when you would use a discussion board (idea building), a blog (idea publishing & conversation), and wikis (collaborative document building). Things have certainly gotten more complicated.

For what I'm about to suggest, there really isn't a technical reason. As has already been said, there isn't much that Google Docs can do that most wikis can't and "back at ya!"

If I'm considering a document to be collaboratively produced, that has a deadline, and will likely be printed (which forces a deadline), then I'd send folks to Google Docs. However, if the document is ongoing, constantly being contributed to, grown and improved by a community of collaborators, and it's point of access will always be the network, then I'd send folks to das wiki.

2ยข Worth!

September 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Warlick

For me it is an easy decision wikispaces is not blocked. Google Docs is blocked. Just today I started setting up a Wiki for our Science PLC. I showed it to the science PLC member for 1st grade, she wants to know about setting one up for the 1st grade team. They are spread across the building because 1st grade pod was full and they added 2 more classrooms.

I'm going to approach our Kindergarten team leader about doing one for them. Both groups use technology all the time. They use good number of short videos, they team plan so they need to share lesson plans and teacher generated materials. Our limited space on school servers is filling up. I think a Wiki would be very attractive to them.

September 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

I think a wiki has more sophisticated design features built in-you so can create menus, a table of contents, link documents easily, add graphics, embed surveys. A google doc is like a word processing program while a wiki is like a web page.


November 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaava Frank

I'd agree. Good comparison.



November 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

As a point of clarification, you can post a link to the google document in an email/on website wherever for people to view and edit without have a google account. I think the big differences have been listed and that it really depends on the goal and then deciding which is the better tool (asynchronous vs. synchronous editing, longer term v. deadline, ease of layout...).

November 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElana

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