Wikis, like blogs, allow authorship, but in a collaborative way. The most open wikis allow anyone to edit and create new content. A simple "edit this page" link--as well as the ability to track and revert to previous versions--opens a whole new world to Web publishing. The best known wiki, Wikipedia--a free, open content encyclopedia project--explains that a wiki
...enables documents to be written collaboratively, in a simple markup language using a Web browser. ...A wiki is essentially a database for creating, browsing, and searching through information. A defining characteristic of wiki technology is the ease with which pages can be created and updated. Generally, there is no review before modifications are accepted. Many wikis are open to alteration by the general public without requiring them to register...
Wikis traditionally contain more fact-oriented content, rather than personal reflection, although the line between wiki and blog blurs more and more every day. View this video that gives a quick overview of how a wiki works:
Wikis can be very useful tools in education for collaborative writing or knowledge sharing process--whether by teachers for their own professional development and peer collaboration or by students for building knowledge on a subject, collaborating on a project, or developing creative writing skills. Stewart Mader, a consultant on how to improve productivity using wikis, discusses the benefits of wikis in an interview, The State of Wikis in Education:
The biggest benefits of wikis are fast, efficient collaboration, recording tacit knowledge to make better use of it, collaboratively building projects, papers, and websites, and gathering input in an inclusive way. Students like them because they make group projects easier to coordinate, teachers like them because they can interact with students throughout the course of a project or assignment, see their progress, and give them feedback along the way.
But the way I’ve seen them used—for the most part—are for teacher-driven and directed activities: posting assignments, providing study guides and links for projects and homework, showcasing finished student work, compiling facts about a subject, and so on. Not that these are bad things. It’s wonderful that we can provide resources for our students and their parents so easily, but after all this time, I was hoping for more.
In Barbara Shroeder’s blog, “10 Best Practices for using wikis in education,” she gives ten tips for successful wiki use (abbreviated below):
1. Include detailed wiki instructions or a link on the home page and provide time for practice
2. Post wiki conventions and require participants to abide by them
3. Be patient with students and realize they may require technical assistance as they learn how to participate in a wiki environment
4. Create a culture of trust within the wiki
5. Provide clear and explicit course expectations
6. Assign meaningful, authentic activities (emphasis mine)
7. Include a common goal for collaborative activities - Usually wikis work best in a problem-solving environment…
8. Define and identify student roles, activities, and assessments
9. Remind students of course deadlines and schedules
10. Model examples of collaborative activities
Any other “best practices” that you would add to this list? What’s the future for wikis in the classroom? How have you seen the collaborative process supported—or stymied—by the use of a wiki? Have I just missed the creative wikis that exemplify student-directed learning? Post some outstanding wiki sites that you have come across that support the project-based classroom and the collaborative process.
To view the first article of this series on Web 2.0 resources and their use in the classroom, read, "What's All the Hype about Web 2.0?"
For more on the topic of Web 2.0 resources, continue to the next blog in this series, Podcasting 101