What is a wiki?

History of Wikis

From Wikipedia

The most famous of all wikis is, of course, the much-beleaguered Wikipedia. Whatever your take on Wikipedia might be, consider the following examples:Wikipedia.jpg

Feel free to add to the discussion board post regarding the use of Wikipedia by students.

This short presentation is one that I used to create a basis for a presentation I did at a conference. If you would like to view another slideshow, please go to the resources page.

What Can We Do with Wikis?

What are some of the types of things you can do with Wikis? Let's brainstorm a few:
  • Collaborative projects among student groups- wikis act as a great organizer for students working on a group project. The discussion and email features allow for students to communicate asynchronously, so time together never becomes an issue.
  • Class texts- study guides where each student is responsible for adding relevant content to help the class create a study guide through the wiki. Students would be able to pull in a multitude of resources from around the web and from text sources.
  • Vocabulary or wikidictionaries- students build a virtual word-wall online as they learn new vocabulary throughout a year. At the end of the year, they can reflect back on the building process.
  • Have focused classroom discussion- wikis allow you to extend the classroom discussion beyond the 40 or 70 minutes we see them. Also, it has been the experience of several of the teachers in our district that reticent students will contribute more to online wiki discussions. We call this the "drive-home" effect (thanks, Jo).
  • Bring back "Choose Your Own Ending" stories- have students create a story that has multiple plots and endings using the wiki to link out to the various choices that the reader can make. See "The Holocaust Wiki Project" below for a better understanding.
  • Project resource pages- use a wiki to house all of the resources for your project, including how to's and videos to help the students understand concepts.
  • International Collaboration- use a wiki as a homebase for a collaborative project with another school. The open access allows any member with an internet connection to be a part of the wiki.
  • Create a Presenation- ahem.
  • Digital Portfolio- teachers and students alike can use a wiki to create a showcase of their work over a selected time period for reflection and review by others.
  • Create Responsible Internet Users- Wikis allow you to place extraordinary power in the hands of the students, and as Peter Parker's Uncle said, "With great power comes great responsibility." Wikis need to be monitored and edited regularly, so by giving jobs to students as editors and monitors, you are asking them to police themselves.

Some Classroom Examples from Around the Globe and this District

Wikis open the doors to collaborating not just between two classes or even two teams within the same building, but also between two schools in the same state, the same country, or even halfway around the world. Here is a short list of wikis that are worth taking a look at for inspiration and ideas on how to manage the whole process. The teachers that administrate them, whether in-district or not, are extremely open to questions. If you need some guidance on the best way to contact them, let me know and I can help you with that.

Thousand and One Flat World Tales Project
Clay Burell from Korea International School created this collaborative story writing project and invites all teachers and students world-wide to participate
Scriptwriting with a Wiki
Students use a wiki to collaboratively write a play
World War I Wiki WebQuest
A simulation of fighting for victory in WWI
Holocaust Wiki Project
Students research the holacaust, then create a simulation using the wiki to examine what choices people made and the impact of their choices
AP World History Review Wiki
Students collaboratively create a review guide for AP World History, using a wiki
Virtual Art Galleries
This is written for a blog, but can certainly be adapted to a wiki
A Collaboration of Sights and Sounds
students research and analyze protest songs, then organize their findings in a wiki
Country in a Box
Bob Gilmartin's remixing of a class project he had done in the past, but in wiki form. Allowed the students to add interactive features.
Harlem Renaissance
Gina Girlando's class project where the wiki was only part of the whole project grade. This one appeared in the Sparta Independent in this article. Access to this site has to be reviewed by the organizer.
Two Language Arts classes on the Amber Team using the wiki as a way to study and discuss the book, Tangerine, by Edward Bloor. As an added bonus, the students will get to ask the author questions through his participation in the wiki! This site is private, so your access will need to be approved by the space organizers.
AP Language and Composition
high school students in Angela Davis' AP Language and Composition class use the wiki to post and discuss critical papers (and have some harmless fun). Check out the discussion boards on this site.
Merrill's Project
This wiki site was used to house the project resources for Craig Merrill's US History 1 classes at the high school. They used this site to help them create digital stories about the War of 1812.
The Pearl Team has changed over from their annual PowerPoint project to one that has similar criteria, but is contained in wiki. This site is private, so your access will need to be approved by the space organizers.
Math 9
A great math site from a teacher who has thrown aside his textbook. Great resource.
In addition to these resources, check out the Wiki section of this Google Document Page I have created for us. It contains subject area-specific resources for you to use to get a clearer picture of what wikis might be used for in your classroom.

How do I use a wiki?

Logging in

There are a few ways you can login to Wikispaces the first time:
  • Go to Wikispaces and click "join" on the right side of the page.
  • Be invited like you were to this wikispace.
    • Click on the link in the email you provided and create a username and password.
    • You have the option of creating a space or joining the space you were invited to.
  • Once you are a member, any page you want to join, you can request membership.
    • Depending on the security level the organizer chose, you can join certain spaces.
    • If you see a site that you would like to contribute to, you can request membership to the site so that you can be a content creator too.

Creating a Space

Once you have decided to create a space, there are a few options available to you. As an educator, you are eligible for an ad-free wikispace at no charge at all. One thing to consider before you create your own space is who do you want to have access to it. There are three types of security levels you can choose:security.jpg
Public: means anyone can view, any member of wikispaces can edit
Protected: anyone can view, only space members can edit
Private: only space members can view, only space members can edit.

To learn how to create you wikispace follow along with this slideshow

Navigating the Space and

Editing a Page

Once you are a member of a wiki, you will need to know what everything is and how to navigate around your page. This document will help you do that.

Changing the Color Scheme and Style

Follow this short video along to see how you can change the look and feel of your wiki.

Creating New Pages Within the Space

Once your wiki is created, you will want to begin the process of adding pages for students to work on, and then inviting people to join your space. This short video will show you how to do that. Follow along and stop it whenever you want to in order to follow the steps.

Tricks and Tips for Making Great Spaces

Monitoring Spaces

Wikis need to be monitored due to the freedom that we give students when creating their content. The greatest thing about wikis in terms of monitoring students is that anytime anyone saves, their revision is stored. If you are concerned about students defacing other students pages, you will have recourse through the "history" tab on each page. monitoring1.jpg

Here is a picture of what a history page looks like:
Each edit is stored, and anyone can just click on the date and that particular edit appears. Here you can see what an edit looks like in history. monitoring3.jpg It allows you to see what was inserted (green) and what was deleted (red).
This gives us a record of who has done what and when. It also can be used to determine which members of the group have done their share of the project.

Locking Spaces

In certain instances, such as when your class is done with the project, you can choose to lock down the space to freeze it from further changes. This can be done on the due date for the project or at the end of the year, depending on how you have chosen to set it up. Also, you can lock or delete individual pages if you needed to for violations of the User Agreement.

To lock down a space:
  1. Click on Manage Space
  2. Click on List Pages
  3. You will now see this screen:monitoring4.jpg
Here is a list of all of the pages in the wiki. From here you can lock down any page, delete any page or rename it.

Practical Classroom Tips for Successful Wikis

Follow these quick guidelines to help facilitate your wiki, either in school or if you choose to use this for family, friends or an outside organization.

Model Successful Collaboration Skills

If we truly want the students to work together and have a meaningful interaction, then we must model that in our own practice. When showing them their wikispace, show them example of other wikis that were successful, and also show them how you have participated in the creation of a wiki. The most important place to watch how the students are learning is in the discussion boards. It is there that the students will have the most dialogue about the topics at hand.

If they see that we too are participating in those discussions, they will understand better what we want them to accomplish.

Assign Roles

Here are some sample roles you can assign for students to participate in the maintenance of the wiki:
From Quentin D'Souza
  • Innovators: Find new ideas that relate to the topic and include those ideas into the wiki.
  • Debaters: Challenge the information presented in the new ideas through discussion, in order to help legitimize or debunk new information.
  • Researchers: Look at connections between the wiki content that has been created and provide links to research that discusses that content. Check that the facts that have been included in the wiki are correct.
  • Protectors: Stop spammers or editing that detracts from the content being created, and check for plagiarism in order to protect the integrity of the wiki.
  • Editors: Formating the text so that it is more appealing. (i.e. blod, italics, font size) Correcting spelling and grammar errors in the text.

Assign Tasks

Giving students specific tasks to perform on their spaces will also give them an elevated sense of ownership for that knowledge and that space.
From Quentin D'Souza
  • Formatting
  • Fact Checking and Plagiarism
  • Linking the Wiki
  • Create New Content
The students could perform these tasks throughout the duration of the wiki, with a rotating schedule put in place, or by giving these jobs to certain groups of students and letting them decide who does what job.

Examine Content and User Activity

Your students are going to test you, as they would with any other project, but not allowing them access to the benefits of this piece of authentic learning and construction shouldn't be an option. That said, the pages need to be monitored
  • use the "history" tab frequently to see who did what and when.
  • don't be afraid to revert back to a previous edited version
  • Be involved in discussion on the students pages; if they see you present frequently, they will understand what you expect of them
  • Check for pages with little or no activity--does this student understand how to use the wiki? If not, contact them via wikimail or through the discussion board, or through personal contact and get them going.
  • Demonstrate, or better yet, let the students demonstrate how they do certain things on their pages for others to see and use.

Be Clear About Language and Style

Because this is an online environment, students and adults will tend to use "IM speak" on their pages and in their communications. It is up to you to set the rules here. Here are a few points to consider:
  • depending on your security level, the general public can see these pages. Personal information should never be shared in open spaces (the individual pages, the discussion boards)
  • also depending on your security level, this page will be viewable by people who will form opinions about the students creating the content.
  • emails are confidential, so limiting speech there is up to you.

Bartosiewicz , Phyllis. Way to Wiki/Good Things. March 15, 2007 March 25, 2007 <>.
D'Souza, Quentin. Wiki Resources. October 4, 2006 Teaching Hacks. March 25, 2007 <>.