What is Wiki?
Wiki is an online application that allows users to contribute to or edit its content. Meaning “quick” in the Hawaiian language, wiki is a creative and open environment where everyone has a voice. The significance of wiki lies in the fact that there is no assigned “leader” or “head writer”.
The founder of wiki, Ward Cunningham, described his creation as “the simplest online database that could possibly work”. And it did.
Yet what makes wiki so unique (in most cases anyone can add or change content on a wiki website) has also given it a bad reputation among most educators. Wikipedia, for example, is the most commonly known wiki website and is often blacklisted by educators as a credible reference.
Why Teachers Should Use Wiki in the Classroom?
Incorporating wiki into the classroom provides a very different kind of online experience for your students. Essentially, you put them in the driver’s seat.
By giving students more control over a project’s outcome, you are encouraging them to be producers, rather than just consumers, of information. This reversal of roles ultimately helps student master content.
On the road to effective use of wiki in the classroom, your first step is to find a wiki site suitable for you and your students.
Check out this short video by YouTube user Vanessa Van Edwards for a short overview of what a wiki is and how it can be a beneficial educational tool for teachers.
If you have concerns about student safety online I highly encourage you to read What Should Teachers Do To Keep Students Safe Online?
The Top 3 Wiki Sites For Teachers
Designed specifically for use in the classroom, wikispaces is a social writing platform that also acts as a classroom management tool by keeping teacher and students organized and on task. Not only does this site provide easy to use templates, it’s free and also has a variety of assessment tools. Teachers can also use wikispaces to create assignments and share resources.
At its most basic level, this website is free to users. Some of its features include easy to use website templates with unlimited pages, free web hosting and domain name, control over ads, and the chance to earn some money with ads, which can be used for the next class trip.
With over 300,000 education based workspaces, this wiki-like website offers educators a range of options that encourage student-centered learning. Students can build web sites or web pages that can be shared with other students and staff.
An often overlooked fact is that Google Docs can function similar to a wiki if you prefer not to use any of the previously mentioned platforms. This YouTube video from Mathieu Plourde discusses why Chris Penna, an educator at the college level, uses Google Docs in place of traditional wikis.
8 Top Tips for Using Wiki in the Classroom
Now that you've chosen a wiki publish platform, what's next?
- Set Clear Expectations
Before setting wiki guidelines and sharing them with your students, consult your school’s policies on social media. Provide students with written guidelines that must be adhered to. Let students know that if they publish inappropriate content, there will be consequences. Asking students to sign a contract is also an option.
- Start Small
Take baby steps. Everyone will benefit from gradually increasing wiki use in the classroom. By starting small, teacher’s can stay on top of monitoring classroom wiki, thus remaining in control.
- Ask for Help
Although wiki is fairly easy to use, there are times when you’ll run into stumbling blocks. Ask for help when you don’t understand something. You’d be surprised at much your students and colleagues might know about wiki.
- Read other Wikis
As a class and individually, explore other classroom wikis. This will give you ideas and inspirations for your own wiki pages.
- Let Wiki Work for You
Wiki is more than just a learning tool for students; it’s a communication tool for teachers. Use wiki to keep parents informed and post assignments and other class related content. Your wiki page is easily edited and updated so there’s no more need for a last minute trip to the copy machine.
- School-wide Wikis
Use wikis to showcase field trips, class events and school-wide events, such as the prom or last week’s football game.
This site has a wealth of information on wiki for the classroom. Simply type in a search term such as "wiki tips for the classroom". If you don’t already have a Pinterest account, learn more about it through The Teacher’s Guide to Pinterest.
Do lots and lots of group work. Create assignments that require students to work together, continuously communicating as part of team as they would in the real world. For example, a media class can work in teams to create an advertisement for a product of their choice that involves print and/or video. For a science class, have students work together as a research team investigating the sudden drop in the local wolf population.
12 Top Wiki Activities for the Classroom
- Historical Figures
Instead of just another boring academic paper on an historical figure, make research and documentation fun by creating wiki fan pages. Students can add and edit text, post photos and famous quotes, as well as links to the references they used.
- Student as Editor
Turn grammar into a challenging and competitive game. Have students use wiki to edit text with grammatical errors. Teachers can put students into groups and those with the most edits wins. Individual edits can also be counted.
- Join the Debate Team
Using a written set of guidelines, teachers post topics that students can argue by using wiki online forums. Teachers will monitor the discussions/debates while students learn online debate etiquette.
- Create a Collaborative Story
Start with one sentence pulled from a hat, “The girl looked beyond the dusty field and saw a team of horses approaching, their riders hands tied behind their backs.” From here, students add and edit text to create a story. Set a minimum amount of words each student must submit. Chances are, you’ll actually have to set a maximum amount of words.
- Poetry Class
For English class, the teacher can post a poem online and have the students discuss its meaning. Students can also post their own poems for peer review.
- Book and Film Reviews
Students can use wiki to write assigned book and film reviews. Other students can add to as well as comment and discuss the reviews on a monitored forum.
- Word Problems
For math class, teachers can post word problems on wiki. Students work individually or in groups to solve the problems.
- Wiki Worlds
For history and social studies, students can create pages for historical events such as famous battles or specific periods in history, creating entire worlds based on historical facts.
Wiki pages can be used to study geography by giving states or countries their own wiki page. Have students include useful and unique information about each geographical area.
- Fact Checking
The reason why wikis is often blacklisted as a reputable source is because not everyone who contributes to a wiki page is an expert. Keep your students on their toes by assigning them to fact check each other’s work.
Encourage teamwork by posting riddles and having groups of students solve them through online collaboration. The students will use a forum to discuss what the possible answer is.
- Group Assessments and Tests
As an alternative way to administer assessments, consider using wiki group assessments. Students work together, helping one another to achieve success.
By taking the advice, tips, and lesson ideas in The Teacher’s Guide to Wikis, it should be fun and easy to incorporate wiki into your classroom. As an education tool, wiki will help keep you and your students engaged and working together.
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Christopher holds an MBA, and an M.Ed. (Learning Design) from BGSU.
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