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What’s a Wiki?

Wikis in the Classroom

Definition: A wiki, according to the definition at Wikipedia, (the most well known wiki) is a collaborative website where the users can contribute. If any user who is at this type of site would like to contribute to the page, make corrections, or additions, the “Edit This Page” button will change this page from a static web page to a word processing document. It is just that easy. However, most pages are restricted so that only invited guests can contribute. Most wikis are more open to collaborators but requests to join the wiki are required. This is a safeguard for the organizer to be able to have some degree of control over the content and the writers.

A wiki is an example of Web 2.0 technology. Other examples of Web 2.0 are blogssocial networking, and folksonomies. The whole process of this type of technology allows a community of people to share information easily, collaborate, and connect with others with common interests. The purpose of a wiki is to facilitate participation in an easy-to-use online environment by a community of people who care about the content because they have ownership of the process and the results. It is important to note however, that many teachers use wiki rather than other types of website development tools because of it’s ease of use. There is no coding required to create a wiki, so for teachers who want an easy way to create a class website, even if they are the only editors – a wiki is used. Don’t let the “wiki purists” tell you that’s wrong! You can start a wiki as the only editor. Maybe later, you can use it with your team or your students.

Features of a wiki:
•  quick definition: webpage with an edit button
•  easy to correct mistakes
•  easy to allow people to contribute
•  does not prevent the making of mistakes
•  “wisdom of crowds” – collaborative (wikipedia)
•  “notification” – asked to be notified when changes occur – that’s how stuff gets fixed in 2 minutes.
•  web 2.0 applications work with old computers – no need to spend money on software

You want a wiki?

Here are places you can go to create your own wiki:
WetpaintAll of these wiki hosts allow for teachers to have their wiki free of advertisements. That’s important! Make sure you look into the support side of the site to create an education version as you do not want ads on your wiki and if you ever want to allow students to edit, they will not need email addresses to become collaborators.

Adoption Issues

Because the technology is designed around collaboration, in the “real world” wiki applications include sales processes, technical documentation, work group collaboration, and event planning. Below are many examples of how a wiki space is used in a school. In the past several years, hundreds of thousands of K-12 educators have signed up on wikispaces (not to mention all the other wiki websites available). They use their wikis for a variety of purposes including digital portfolios, group projects, and demonstration of learning across a wide variety of subjects.
Open vs. Secure – the less control the more powerful the tool, the more control the more security, different levels of control are available. This wiki is protected, meaning that only authorized users can contribute. Anyone however can read the wiki, which is why we do not use names or identifying information.
Quality, Accuracy, and Moderators – New users need to understand that a wiki is a tool, like email and a word processor, no more or less accurate than those tools. The collaborative nature of this type of work offers the opportunity for review by others, including the moderator, which in this case are the teachers. This is a real sticking point with teachers particularly in the case of using wikis as sources of information.

Process and Obstacles

If you are going to use the wiki for collaboration, the first step is to invite people. To participate in most wikis, including wikipedia, the user has to have an email address, user name, and password. In this case and with most educational wikis, the website administrators take care of the user list so that students’ email addresses are not needed.
•  The home page and the navigation bar on the right side is the framework or template for people to start.
•  Personal profile pages that identify the user with their user name and contact information are important in most wikis because then the community or guests can identify the writers, lending credibility to the content. Naturally, student collaborators will need to be careful with profile information, if any is provided.
•  As new pages are created, the navigation bar grows and the content gets organized as needed.
•  Encourage visits. In this application, parents are compelled to visit to and other teachers or students can be welcomed to contribute. You are creating a presence on the Internet. Make sure your content reflects your community in a positive light (which is a good lesson for students).
•  Create a scaffold or template for people to fill in the blanks. Most wikis do this.
•  When parents or other teachers ask for information that is available on the wiki, email them the link to the specific page, training people to check the wiki and increasing the value. For example, classrooms can use each others’ wikis as resources to learn about different topics.
•  Adoption spreads as users invite or compel other users to contribute.Roles
 – a person who can train others or help them get started
WikiGardener or WikiGnome – those who like to fix typos, find citations for quotes, fix broken links, and add links
WikiFairy – someone who makes format changes to make the wiki more visually appealing.
WikiTroll – those who like to insight a reaction from others by posting controversial content or doing disruptive things. WikiTrolls do not exists when wikis require a login with a secure password because they are not anonymous

Wikis Worth a Look – Examples of school and classroom wikis

Check out this list being created by Scott McLeod of Wikis used in education
Maggie’s Lit Wiki – a good example of a teacher using wikispaces as a class web page
Making it Real – a fourth grade teacher uses wikispaces to make her classroom transparent
B7Bobcats – great example of a class website
The Third Dimension
7th Grade Math – This is a great site for math
304Sophs – English teacher used this for his class as a resource for notes and literature study. Read more about how Damian Bariexca used wikis in his classes.
La6Stewart – Ms. Stewart’s 6th Grade Language Arts Wiki
Collaboration Nation – Middle School Social Studies
Collaboration Central – 5th grade class wiki
Arbor Heights – A school website created from a wiki
Google Earth for Classroom Use – Collaboration among teachers
Ms. Barnett’s Class Web Page – High School
Dinosaur Wiki – Grade 2 Class Project
Broken World – World History Class
Mr. Freccia’s Class Web Page – All High School teachers should do this!!
Glengarrypedia – wiki as a study of this novel
Studying Societies – World History Wiki
Wiki Junior Books
Corpus Wiki – student portfolio
Red Cedar Writing Project
Primary Web 2.0 – wiki providing resources for using web 2.0 tools in the primary classroom
District 142 Technology Wiki – a district wiki created with the Instructional Technology Coordinator and the computer teachers

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