Wikipedia was my only exposure to wikis until just recently. Like many other teachers, I questioned the reliability and credibility of Wikipedia as a source that my students would often try to site when they were asked to research a topic. Thanks to further research on my part, my thoughts and ideas about Wikipedia and other wikis is starting to change.
A wiki (which means “quick” in Hawaiian) is simply a Web 2.0 tool used to allow multiple users to contribute and change a page instantly (Richardson, 2010). Similar to the way a blog allows for individuals to contribute to the greater body of knowledge available to its readers, a wiki allows for numerous users to add to the content of the page or make edits at any given time. So while Wikipedia may have users who give incorrect information, it is often quickly resolved due to the millions of people constantly checking and correcting any inaccuracies they may notice (Richardson, 2010).
Wikis are not something I have used in my classroom before and I am seeing several different options as I move forward. Here are some of the basic uses of wikis I have discovered.
1. Helping students connect with others outside the walls of their classroom.
Just as Mr. Monson has done with his class wiki, Thousands Project, teachers can allow students to post discussions or stories and see how many people they can get to respond and track the usage and locations of people who edit the wiki. His goal has been to post a new entry or question each month and get a thousand people to respond each time. What a great way to show the global connectedness that exists.
2. Allowing students a place to create an e-portfolio of their work for the year.
It is often times hard for a student to keep up with all of their work for a year in one digital place. As a teacher I struggle with keeping an organizational structure in place for my own personal files. Vicki Davis has done a great job with her classes, Westwood Schools Computer Science, in creating a wiki that all of her students have their own space to keep a digital portfolio of their assignments and creation. She also keeps several years up at a time so others can see exemplar work. Love it!
3. Providing a location where the teachers and students can collaborate and pool resources.
I love the fact that in a wiki, there is not just one person (typically the teacher) responsible for creating the content. A learning community is created that allows any contributor to take on the role of the expert. In this sixth grade science wiki, Code Blue, the students and teachers have organized a list of links and resources that will help them in their body systems unit. I could see this being used as a culminating project for a unit or even an ongoing collection that could be used in a review type activity for end of the year testing. In addition to a class combining resources, a team of teachers could also do this as an online filing cabinet almost. Sounds like a great way to get teachers trying wikis for the first time who may be unsure about testing them with students!
4. Serving as a class website.
One of the more common types of wikis I seem to be finding on the Internet is those that act as a class website. The teacher uses it as a place to post assignments, have class discussions, and allow parents a place for communication with the teacher. This seems like a much cheaper version of a learning management system that many districts pay mega bucks for. An example of this would be the wiki that a teacher created for his fourth grade classroom, Mr. Lindsay’s Wiki. In this wiki the students and parents are able to see daily assignments, homework, starters, and any other important news or announcements needed.
The possibilities for wikis in the classroom seem endless and I cannot wait to start trying some of them out for myself. I have created a wiki, DMS 7R Science, for my students to use to start posting videos and resources that they find useful. Since my kids have access to devices on a daily basis, I think I will test this out one day in class this week and see how user friendly this particular wiki is to use. To encourage some of my students who are interested in graphic design and webpage layout, I will let some of them be in charge of how the wiki looks. If all goes well, I see some team meetings happening in my future to encourage fellow teachers to either start building their own, or even start a wiki just for teacher use as I mentioned in number three above. Looking forward to what is to come!
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. (3rd ed.). Thousand Oak, California: Corwin.