This is the fourteenth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.
What this wiki is for: The Science of Spectroscopy Wiki is a collaborative site for the teaching of spectroscopy to university-level and advanced high-school students. Definition (Wikipedia): "Spectroscopy is the study of spectra, that is, the dependence of physical quantities on frequency." It is often used in physical and analytical chemistry, and astronomy.
Why we like it: The evangelist and gardener of this wiki is Stewart Mader, an instructional technologist in math and sciences at Brown University. As we learned in a recent comment, Mader and his cohorts have created an environment that enables students "to learn about spectroscopy using a model that starts with real-world applications, gets them engaged and asking 'how does it work?' and then teaches techniques and theory." What we really like about this wiki is how it has attracted a global community of collaborators -- scientists, teachers and students -- to work on group projects. In effect, the wiki has created a global classroom.
What we all can learn from it: Just as wikis are enabling people to go beyond organizational boundaries, they can also enable groups to recruit the best participants across geographic boundaries. And while spectroscopy may constitute a small neighborhood in the larger world of education, the contribution that the wiki has made to the teaching of this subject might inspire folks from other fields to do the same. We will soon tire of using the phrase "long tail," but it is very appropriate here. Niche matters, and Internet tools can help people to find one another. [Note: Tomorrow, Mader will present a paper on the wiki, at the excellent HigherEd BlogCon.]