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Wikis

What is a Wiki?

Example of Our Class WikiFrom the word “wiki-wiki” which means “quick” in Hawaiian, a wiki is a collaborative website which can be edited directly from a web-browser, by anyone with permission to do so. It works on the principal of ‘the knowledge of the group is greater than the knowledge of the individual.” The most famous example of a wiki is “Wikipedia” which is an online encyclopaedia created by the public. Anyone can add to or edit Wikipedia.

Wikis also provide a quick and simple way to make a web site, using only simple word-processing skills. It is not necessary to know how to use html, web-editing software or how to upload to a web-server. With a wiki anyone can create and edit a site, including text, graphics, video etc. directly from your web browser. Another good feature about wikis is that all changes are recorded, so that you can revert back to an earlier version if you want.

Always read the terms and conditions of any wiki service you intend you use. Some services do not allow use by children under 13, or require parental permission. Always consider the safety of children and adults when using online publishing services.

What are Wikis used for?

The most famous ‘global’ wikis are used to construct knowledge and information through collaboration.

For example, Wikibooks aims to build an online library of textbooks which can be used (and edited) by anyone:

Wikispecies is a directory of animal and plant species that works in the same way.

If someone makes an entry that is incorrect, someone else corrects it. There is no overall editorial control, which leads to a lot of discussion about the accuracy of these resources, and there is no guarantee that an entry will be correct, but in general they are.

On a smaller scale, people use wikis as individuals, for making a simple website, or as groups, to work together on a shared project, for example. You could build shared lists or publish information or documents for your group. A wiki can be private and only accessible with a password, or public but only editable with a password, or totally open to everyone. Like blogs, wikis usually have RSS feeds so users can track the changes using an RSS reader.

Why use Wikis in the Classroom?

Because of the collaborative nature of wikis, and their ease of use, they provide an excellent way to work together on different projects and activities.

If the wiki is to be public it provides a way for young people to publish to a mass audience, which in itself can be very motivating. Wikis can also lead to greater attention being paid to editorial correctness, and writing for a specific audience.

Wikis are also good for promoting reading in a different way, whilst thinking about how to edit and improve what is being read. The wiki can have different pages for different activities or pupils, and can help develop collaborative and community skills.

Examples of Classroom Use

  • A class website with news, views etc.
  • Write and publish revision notes or create a whole subject revision site.
  • Publish and celebrate pupils’ work.
  • Write a text book!
  • School newspaper.
  • Write and publish book / film / music reviews.
  • Plan a school trip or event.
  • Post and entry to an established wiki and see if it gets edited – then review and discuss.

eSafety and Related Issues

Obviously with anything published to the internet it is essential to consider eSafety. We would advise schools to use made-for-schools solutions rather than generally available wiki tools. Avoid having your wiki publicly viewable. If it is public, never publish pupil information or identifiable pupil images, or school information that you wouldn’t want published on the school’s website. You should consider writing under made up pseudonyms, which can be part of the fun. Please read our eSafety information pages here for more guidance. Before starting a wiki you should make an Acceptable Use Policy which everyone concerned should read and sign. You should also get parental permission if the wiki is going to be public. Also, as the wiki may be accessible across the internet, you should discuss issues such as free expression, inappropriate, libellous or defamatory content and copyright.

Further Reading

 

Always read the terms and conditions of any wiki service you intend you use. Some services do not allow use by children under 13, or require parental permission. Be aware of E.U. Data Protection laws when using personal information of children or adults on online services.