A wiki is a very simple webpage that can be edited by multiple users – the most famous example is Wikipedia, an encyclopaedia which is continuously written and rewritten by web users all over the world.
Most wikis are on a far smaller scale and can be used to fulfil a wide range of different tasks or projects in the classroom whether your aim is to push information out to students and parents, encourage students to work collaboratively on a project – or a bit of both.
Why would I want to set up a wiki?
Why wouldn’t you? Now I think one of the big things that stands in the way of many, many more people developing a class wiki is a fear of the unknown. Now I’m far from a technophobe but I have to admit that I shied away from wikis for a long time. I just didn’t’ know what they were and assumed that it was all exceedingly technical and way too complicated for a simpleton like me.
It turns out that that simply isn’t true. Sure, the word ‘wiki’ isn’t one that sits comfortably in everybody’s vocabulary but you must admit it’s a bit less of a tongue twister that ‘very-simple-to-set-up-and-use-interactive-collaborative-workspace’.
You’re probably already even using wikis without realising it – I certainly was. Essentially any online workspace that multiple users can edit could be considered a wiki. It’s a bit like a jazzed up shared document for the 21st century with bells on. Think of it like that and suddenly it’s not so scary – right?
So what can a wiki do for you?
Well there are number of things I could list here but I’d say that the headlines are that a wiki can be used to:
Organise information and make it easily accessible
Share ideas and resources
Foster collaborative and group work with your students
Encourage independent and learner-led learning and
Develop easy home-school links
What can I use a wiki for with my class?
So let’s get down to brass tacks. What EXACTLY can you use a class wiki for. I thought the best way to tell you this was to show you some examples. But remember, the only limit on this is your imagination.
This wiki is the information station for Mrs Wolfe’s US History, World Cultures, US Government and Constitutional/Criminal Law courses. This is where a daily log of her class activities, explanations for assignments, and a showcase of her student work can be found.
A site originally developed to share Mrs Anderson’s Grade 2 classroom (videos, electronic student portfolios, slideshows, projects etc.) with parents and store student and professional sites. However, it has become so much
more! It is now a place used to inspire students and provide information they need to become engaged learners.
A knowledge repository and means of communication for Mr Belshaw’s GCSE History students
A wiki for students from around the world share their environmental activities in their schools. With the aim of exposing them to the impact of global warming and sustainability.
Work created by students based on the book Holes by Louis Sachar including analysis of the book, and some activities based around the themes of the novel.
You can see hundreds more examples here.
Okay you’ve convinced me – how do I set one up?
One of the best things about a wiki is that it’s so amazingly simple to set up and in most instances it’s free to boot. What could be better?
I’m going to recommend wikispaces because when I asked my fabulous twitter network which free wiki platform they would recommend, this one came out top.
So there are three basic steps:
1. Register – everyone who’s going to contribute to the wiki needs to create an account at wikispaces
2. Create the wiki – next you create the wiki – now this is really simple and completely intuitive so long as you’re familiar with basic word processing tools. You can add as many pages as you like and jazz things up with backgrounds and pictures if you wish but equally you can keep things super simple if you prefer. Look at the examples linked to above for inspiration.
3. Add users – once you’ve created the basic template for your wiki, add the other users (who’ve already been registered in step 1) and then they too will be able to edit the wiki.
4. That’s it – that’s really all there is to it.. but this point you’re up and running.
And how do I make sure it fulfils its purpose?
This is maybe the trickiest bit of all… but thankfully someone has already done the hard work here. Dave Foord of A6 training has developed a checklist of things you can do to ensure your educational wiki is successful. This is a fantastic and well thought out list so I’d recommend you download it if you’re planning on giving a class wiki a try.
So what are you waiting for?
Give it a go and please let me know how you get on – and be sure to leave a comment with a link to your shiny new class wiki so we can all ooh and aah!
If you have any further ideas to add or would like to share your class wiki, please leave a comment.