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What is a Wiki?

TeachingHacks.com describes a Wiki as "a type of free on-line writing space that allows users to add, modify and update its pages. If something is missing or incorrect in a Wiki and permissions allow you to edit the Wiki, you can easily add your thoughts or make changes to the Wiki. It is essentially a fully editable web site." To sum, it is a simple database in website format for creating, browsing, and searching information that is collaboratively built and maintained. The most common Wiki is Wikipedia.

Here is a video that explains how a wiki works:


Characteristics of a Wiki
There are many forms of Wikis, but most of them have common characteristics, including:
  • Using a web browser documents can be written collaboratively
  • The creation & updating of pages is easy and done collaboratively
  • Edits can be made in real-time and appear instantly
  • Often no review of the information is performed before changes are accepted and put online
  • There is potential abuse of some Wikis. Many private Wikis require user authentication
  • "Recent Changes" pages list the edits so people can ensure modified information is correct
  • "Revision History" allows people to view previous & current versions of articles in order to ensure information is correct
  • People can be given the responsibility of overseeing specific pages and information to ensure quality control
  • A title search and full-text search

Wikis in Education Today

Using Existing Wikis

    • Students can edit & publish content on Wikipedia by working on existing pages, linking pages to appropriate places, correct spelling & grammar, fact check, etc.
    • Language students can translate articles from one language to another
    • Students can collaborate on ideas and organize Wiki pages
    • As a group students can research using Wikis to compare the information with what they learned in class. Incorrect information can be corrected
Creating Wikis
    • Teachers create and manage school documents in Wiki format
    • Teachers create handouts for students collaboratively
    • Create a site to deliver department information
    • Teachers sharing courses can collaborate to deliver common material to all students
    • Create and maintain school FAQs
    • Students create Wikibooks and journals
    • Create a Wiki as an assessed task

Other Schools Using Wikis

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Advantages to Using Wikis

    • Large amounts of information - traditional encyclopedias cannot compare to the amount of information on Wikipedia
    • Large cross-section of information - from academic to pop culture, everything is here
    • Facts on Wikipedia are checked by a large group of people so untrue information is quickly corrected
    • Information can be quickly updated when changes occur. For example, when Pluto was taken off the list of planets, any Encyclopedia would have to wait for a new edition to be updated, but Wikipedia could change it instantly
    • Have access to many free open source images for classroom use.
    • Can use it as a search engine to find out things like new music, lists of information, etc.

Are Wikis Trustworthy?

This is the million dollar question with this technology, and one that I don't have an answer to. But, I do think we as a school need to come together to find our answer so our students know where we stand. If Wikipedia is accepted in one classroom as a source, why shouldn't it be accepted in all?
The main arguments against Wikis are:

    • They can be easily tampered with
    • Anyone can write information about a topic whether they are an expert or not
    • Traditional sources such as Encyclopedias are more reliable
    • The open philosophy of information cannot guarantee that all writers of content are well-meaning
    • It is easy for people to write biased accounts, especially with such topics as politics
    • Wikis are susceptible to "Trolls"
    • Wrong information can go unnoticed for a long period of time

However, there are some arguments for using Wikis:

    • All sources of information are not perfect. Traditional Encyclopedias, such as Britannica, also contain mistakes. In fact, Wikipedia has a section outlining mistakes in Encyclopedia Britannica .
    • Wikis handle damage due from trolls, vandals, etc. in different ways. including a soft security approach which makes damage easy to correct and sophisticated methods such as bots that automatically identify and fix any wrong information.
    • Wikis have various levels of openness. Some allow unregistered users and others only accept registered users. Most allow both, but give special editing powers to registered users
    • Some Wikis wait until a registered user has made a certain amount of edits before determining their trustworthiness

Wiki Tools & Sources

Some places to set up wikis

Then there are these


  • Teaching Hacks.com - Great Practical Advice For The Classroom, Importance of Assigning Roles, Rules for Using Wikis, Wikis in Curriculum Area, etc.
  • Schools' FAQ - Answers questions teachers and school administrators might have about the content of information in Wikipedia, and use of Wikipedia by students
  • Syllabus Template - Wiki-syllabi for any course which is going to ask students to do something on Wikipedia. This can be adapted and given to students as a task once you have become comfortable with the idea of Wikis
  • WikiRadio -It advertises itself for adults, so listen to it thoroughly before deciding to give it to students, but it is a great resource. Also talks a bit about Net Safety
  • The Science of Spectroscopy - An overview of Wiki ideas, courses using Wikis, and Wiki Tools
  • Video Tutorials of PBWiki - Excellent source to get started with Wikis
  • Edcucase Podcast - Listen to how educators are using Wikis to enhance learning
  • Blogs, Podcasts, Wiki's & Screencasts - Slideshow explanations of these 2.0 tools

Tips For Using Wikis in the Classroom (from [[@http://www.teachinghacks.com/wiki/index.php?title

Wikis|Teaching Hacks.com]])= These tips are more for teachers who plan to use it as a task for students to do as a class rather than as a delivery system of information.Model CollaborationStudents will need some ongoing help on how exactly to collaborate using this tool. Have an idea in your mind what you expect and show them how to do it in an ongoing fashion. To do this it is best to constantly build on a Wiki. Start with one idea and continually add to it. For example, in my IGCSE IT course I am planning to use a Wiki to build hardware & software terms, but I hope to revisit the Wiki later on in the the year as we explore new units. Have the students pay attention to the group writing style that emerges, as well as correct each other's spelling & grammar. The tone of the Wiki will be set by you using a "Study Guide" as well as discussion with students and your own contributions to the Wiki.Assign Tasks Specific StudentsOf course some or all of these tasks can be assigned. It is up to you as a teacher. But, if students have a clear idea of what they are expected to do it might make the collaborative process easier. Also, the tasks can rotate throughout the project to ensure all have a chance to do them. Some tasks to assign include:
      • Formatting & Editing- Formats the text so that it is attractive and easy to read. Spelling & Grammar also fall under their responsibility
      • Fact Checking & Plagiarism - In order to make sure the Wiki is being used properly, in the student's own words and the information is valid
      • Linking The Wiki - Looks for links that discuss the information on the Wiki & helps check the facts on the Wiki for correctness
      • Protecting - Responsible for limiting spam or false edits to the information
      • Creating New Content - Writes new posts for uploading onto the Wiki
Examine Who, What & When Students Are Contributing
Track who is doing what on the Wiki to see how students work together on this project. Ways of doing this are:
      • Recent Changes section to see where and how students collaborate
      • Select the (Diff) option beside Recent Changes to see what the students have contributed to the original work
      • Select (Hist) beside Recent Changes to see what students have contributed in comparison to other changes made
Recording Accomplishments
By electronically signing pages they contribute on students can record their contributions for any evaluative or other purposes.
Use Style Guides
These outline how to model contributions so the look is similar.
Decide on Publishing Controls
You as the administrator decide the amount of publishing control a contributor has to a Wiki. You make changes to the user interface such as any themes, navigation and customization. The main content area is where contributors add & edit contnet. Some publishing controls include:
      • Personal Publishing - Only the administrator has access to adding & editing a Wiki while everyone else simply views it.
      • Group Publishing - Through user names and passwords that are controlled by the administrator. In this case you can limit who can add pages or make changes, but all would be able to view it.
      • Public Publishing - Anyone who comes to the site can make changes or add content. For classroom purposes this may not be what you are looking to do.
      • Private Publishing - An example of this would be where you put a Wiki on an Intranet similar to the system we have for our notice board, bookings, etc. This would automatically limit anyone not logged onto our system because they do not have access to our servers. Another way to do this is to put it on the Web but only give a select group of people access to the Wiki
Subject Author Replies Views Last Message
Which site did you choose? CraigWehrle CraigWehrle 1 148 Sep 17, 2009 by susanyamada susanyamada