Conceptual learning and the Diffen wiki

I was recently asked to provide usability feedback on Diffen.com, which uses an extended implementation of Mediawiki to provide a customised form of wiki. As the name suggests, Diffen is built around the idea of differences and each of the site’s articles provides a comparison between two key concepts.

Diffen logo

For example, I created a simple page comparing compare and contrast, two terms which often cause problems in ‘old world’ assessment. In the true wiki tradition, my brief article has been edited and substantially modified by others!

Each Diffen article has a comparison table which is a useful feature, although this is not available when you first create a new article. You can search for two different terms and create the page if it doesn’t exist. Users can rate the two terms and also hide or show similarities between them. The site does have Google ads but overall has a simple design. A few features are not always clear for the new user but it’s quick to learn how to use the site.

In the past I’ve found activities based around two apparently polarised opposites very useful as professional development activity. So I can see opportunities for interesting read-write learning activities based around exploring concepts such as Behaviourism vs Constructivism. It’s a pity that each article is limited to comparing just two concepts, but a nice feature is that characteristics are inherited – ie if you create a new article, the comparison table is automatically populated if one or both of the concepts are compared elsewhere.

Overall, Diffen is a great idea and I can see useful applications in my professional development workshops and elsewhere in education where conceptual learning is important.

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