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Wikis in Education

A wiki-wiki is a website that makes editing easy. They work as online, collaborative spaces where students and teachers can work together, sharing text, ideas, pictures, and artifacts of learning. You're reading this on a wiki right now, but of course you may want your own class wiki.

The examples below are all possibilities, each with their strengths and weaknesses. If you have students in grades 6-12 and want a secure, closed environment, I'd recommend using our Moodle server.

Advantages of Wikis

What if every webpage had an edit button on it? How would that change the way you think about the WWW? A wiki, by definition, is something that was designed with ease of use in mind. So, that's a goodie! But wikis were also designed to be collaborative spaces. Just like this handout. If you don't like something I've written, and want to improve it, click edit and go at it.

Consider for a moment a written document - something someone has typed-out and printed. This is the model for our word processors. A typed memo, or a research paper. One person creates it, one person edits the document. And then it's printed and frozen, or "set in stone." They only way to edit that document is to get a colored marker, and then it's messy. That's a draft. To make the changes permanent, you go back onto the computer, and edit. From PC to paper and back to PC.

With today's technology, that's counterproductive. If we take the printed page, or the model for what a "document" is out of the equation, we have a different perspective.

A wiki lives "in the cloud," on a web server somewhere. It's only accessible via your browser. Keep in mind, web browsers were designed to be read-only applications. It's no wonder that it took so much time (since 1994-96 when the first wikis emerged) for the thinking behind documents to change.

With a wiki, everything is in flux. Nothing is permanent. The model for wikis might instead be a bundle of related documents that an organization (your church, your classroom, or your department) places value and can change. Wiki documents don't have to be linear because wikis are built around the concept of hypertext. Hypertext is text that's embedded with links.

Think about the Wikipedia. Each article is full of links to other pages in the -pedia that are related. Links that are red are things that ought to be related, yet the article doesn't exist yet. In this way, a wiki can take on an organic type of growth that expands and grows as the needs of the organization change and require it to metamorphose.

We're not saying wikis are automatically better than printed documents. Sometimes a formal letter printed on letterhead it apropos. But in our learning environment centered on twenty-first century skills, a wiki may support problem-solving, collaboration, and communications skills.

Choices for your Class Wiki

A lot of teachers across the world use this solution - some of which come with fees. Wikispaces has supported educators with their wikis. You can create student accounts for your wiki, limit editing to your class, customize the look of your wiki, and embed media.

I'm limiting this server for those who want to try a large-scale wikipedia type project. We host this on our own server.

Wikis are a learning module inside Moodle. If you're interested in taking advantage of all the other things Moodle offers - like assignment turn-in, tests and quizzes, or the glossary, then Moodle is secure and allows up to 9 different ways to configure your wiki. This is closed - so the content can never be shared or published.

"Peanut Butter Wiki Works" basic plan offers one space for up to 100 users.

Another wiki offering, some educators like it, I've never used it.

Super simple, no frills wiki for small, short-term assignments.

Yet even more guides and resources for using wikis.

If you have, or want to introduce your students to } Google Apps for Education, their sites module is one of the easiest Wikis to use. You can create a new site for each class, and limit editing and viewing privileges on a user by user basis. Sites can be private, or readable by the world. Great solution if you already use Google Docs and Spreadsheets with students.

Ideas for Your Wiki

  • Peer Assessment or Feedback of Writing, Photography, Art, Music and Audio Recordings
  • Building a class notebook
  • Writing Wiki-enabled stories (think - Choose Your Own Adventure)
  • Lab Reports in Science (assuming students are working in a team)
  • Group Work Reports (have students working in small groups? Have them report to the class in the same wiki)
  • Sharing with Other Classrooms (since wikis can be on the open Web, why not share writing, fact finding, personal experiences, photography, art, and music with other classrooms in other parts of the country, or world?)

Wikis Support G21 Teaching

Project-based learning and wikis? We think so!

I'm reproducing the following from a list I found from Nancy Kraft on Criteria for Project-Based Learning.

  1. Encourages the use of higher order thinking skills
  2. Utilizes hands-on approaches
  3. Accessible for all learners
  4. Students are responsible for their own learning
  5. Students have ownership of their learning
  6. Teacher is a facilitator of learning
  7. Self-assessment of learning is encouraged

"John! Are you saying that if we use wikis, we'll get all of those benefits, just... automatically?"


But wikis can easily support these criteria! Students know their writing is going to be published. They are required to think about the quality of what they write, to evaluate it for appropriateness. This is turning up the volume on Bloom's. Students creating their own content is hands-on. Instead of reading a webpage, they're making their webpage. With a wiki, content is available online. With a device, everyone can access this. There's responsibility within your classroom in many ways - etiquette and behavior during class discussions, for example. The wiki makes contributions from different students more transparent. And there's responsibility in what you post.

There's also the potential for ownership of learning when students began to value what they are sharing and contributing in a wiki space. It's also important for teachers to allow students to create the content in wikis, where they can be real facilitators. And of course, wikis are great tools for sharing individual content that can be reviewed, assessed, or modified by other students.

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Page last modified on January 20, 2011, at 01:00 PM