Wiki-based Newsletters (Updated)


As ubiquitous online access spreads, it's obvious that old publication methods are falling out of favor--except, perhaps, in public schools. As soon as I write that, I know that there will be some who will object and say, "But wait! We publish our newsletters online via blogs! They are great!" Since blogs aren't available in all school districts, what tools are available and usable?

Here is one query I received via email:
I am doing the school newspaper and would like to put the newspaper onlineso that only school students/teachers/parents can access it. My students are working with Publisher/Word/Excel to achieve an attractive paper. Which one would be better suited for what I am looking for to upload their articles and news reports. A wiki space or a moodle or is there a better solution?

Before sharing my response, here is one that a colleague shared with me:
Miguel, I set this up for a couple of folks last year and it worked
out really well. We did it a couple of was multiple sites
for each class that then compiled (linked) into one site. Another was
by using docs and groups, they would draft, plan, revise, and
collaborate on a document, (embedded on a site, where only those with
permissions saw the planning) then using the template we created
(sorry I now longer have access to it) we published the document and
embedded it into the page for that group or class. does that make

Google Docs now has all the capabilities of a wiki. The only thing it
doesn't do well is video, but you can link to it.
Look forward to hearing what other folks are doing around this....

More to come, I hope, via Plurk conversation here.

One neat idea about using wikis is that they also have RSS feeds, and, as such, folks can subscribe to changes in content. If you want to get real fancy, you can add a based RSS feed and bookmark new articles yourself. That's not as "automatic" as letting the wiki itself provide the RSS feed, but gives you greater control over what end users see in the RSS feed...and you can always bookmark other stuff they need to read.

Although there are a wealth of tools available for printing web pages to PDF, what if you were to use the site to make the job easier? It's not perfect but if you must have a print copy...would it do in a pinch?

And, here is my response sans some of the introductory and identifying content (Note: I'm grateful to my team for contributing ideas to this blog post!):

Some of the questions that come to mind:
  1. Will this newsletter be print oriented (a piece of paper to be sent home with students) or online? The location URL can be sent home to parents or linked via the school webpage.
  2. Why isn't it being posted on the campus web site so everyone can see it?
  3. A wiki-based newsletter would allow embedding of audio and video. Why not use that and teach?

Option 1 - If anyone can view the newsletter, print the document to Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) and post it on either:
a) the Campus web site
b) a wiki set up for that purpose. Eventually students can be granted rights to post the newsletter in PDF themselves. Here is one example of what that could look like:

Option 2 - If only parents and select guests can view the newsletter, print the document to PDF and make it available online via Moodle. This would enable a username and password to be created that restricted access to only those that had it.

Option 3 - If anyone can view the newsletter, use a wiki--rather than Publisher/Word--to publish it. Here is a sample one:

Regardless of the options you choose, I hope you'll let us know so we can provide support and share in the excitement of publication!

What would YOUR response have been? Do you have any wiki-based or Moodle-based newsletter examples online to share?

Other ideas I didn't mention because they were not allowed as options in the school district that the person who emailed me works in. These are recommended in order of preference (you may want to skim this article which shares more information about each of the choices below).
  1. GoogleDocs - Publish your PDF via GoogleDocs and make it public for the world. What I like about this solution is that it's free and is less likely to disappear or switch its business model (e.g. like did recently).
  2. - Print to PDF and then post it there. Here's an example from the Plurk conversation linked earlier in this blog entry.
  3. - Print to PDF and post it online there. I don't like their new pricing model, as I blogged here.
  4. Docstoc - I haven't tried this one....
PDF embedded removed...causing problems in blog entry (embed tag kept disappearing). Check out some examples online.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


Allanah King said…
Oh you clever man. Why didn't I think of that such a great idea!

If you made the main body of your newsletter into a wiki the things that are just repeats can be just copied on each page and the links you've got to school things can be video or interactive.

The wiki could be protected so only staff know the passwords so it couldn't be sabotaged and teachers and classes could add their own stuff- saving secretarial time.

You could then group email the link to parents every time there is a new publication and only delivering the paper version to the families without internet.

Each newsletter could be a new page on the wiki so there then would be an archive of newsletters and people couldn't say they didn't get theres.

I bet it could work great.

Think epic like Ewan McIntosh says.
JeanTower said…
Wayland High School (Wayland, MA) does an incredible online newspaper - it is more like the Huffington Post than a HS paper posted an a web site. Check it out at:
They have won awards for this site.

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