Wiki Fever - Catch It!

For the updated version of this information see - 10-27-2010.

What are wikis?

Wikis were invented by Ward Cunningham in 1995, the term wiki was derived from the Hawaiian word for "quick," referring to how fast and easy it is to collaborate using one. Wikis are interactive webpages - any visitor can become a participant! Wikis are continuously “under revision.” They are living collaborations whose purpose is sharing the creative process and product by many.
Wikis provide a history of edits. Each time the text is changed, a new version is saved. Anyone can go back later and see previous versions and also see who made the changes. This allows teachers and students to see the writing process in action. Permissions can also be set to limit participation.
One famous example is Wiki-pedia, an online encyclopedia with no “author” but millions of contributors and editors.

How can teachers use wikis to facilitate teaching and learning?

  • Provide a space for students to write and contribute
  • Debate course topics, including assigned readings
  • Share resources
  • Maintain a log or journal of work
  • To facilitate students' collaboration on documents and projects
  • Discuss curricular and instructional innovations
  • Support service learning projects (i.e. use a wiki to build a website about a challenge at their school or in their community)

Where can teachers find a place to create a wiki?

  • Wikispaces -
    • Fill out the information on the ----Choose a Wiki Name and make sure you check the box that it will be used for K-12 Education under Educational Use. The wiki name becomes part of the URL address so don’t use spaces or capital letters. Keep it simple. If the wiki name is HoustonMath, then the URL address is
    • Wiki Permissions - . Public Account allows the whole world to make edit your pages. Select Protected if you only want members of the wiki i.e. your students, to make edits. If protected, the whole world can see the wiki, but only members can edit. Select Private if you only want your class (and people you give the URL to) to be able to view the wiki.
    • Click Create and now you can see your new wiki. Reminder – Be sure to write down the URL address of your wiki when you are creating it.
      When you want to work on a wiki page that you have already created, type in the URL of the wiki. You may need to Sign In. Next, navigate to the page you want to edit and click on the “Edit This Page” button. Be sure to hit the Save button when finished working on the wiki page! You can also click on the Save button while you are working on the page.

How can teachers introduce wikis to students?

  • Introduce students to the rules for writing on wikis. Wikipedia, for example, does not allow for reporting original research. Instead Wikipedia seeks the goals of traditional encyclopedias, to present known knowledge.
  • Develop a system for recording the efforts and accomplishments of individuals. (Have students sign the pages they author or contribute to.)
  • Talk with students about the system they will use for co-authoring texts. At Wikipedia, for example, the authors' names are not listed on the articles. Users need to select history to see who wrote what.
  • Wikis usually have a Style Guide. A style guide is a guide to the writing customs and culture of the wiki. You could have students collaboratively write a Style Guide for their wiki.
  • Ask students to play roles such as "Primary Editor". This would be the person who watches the wiki pages and ensures that spam or bad edits are not entered, undermining the hard work of the wiki authors.

How Teachers Use Wikis

K - 12 educators can sign up for an ad-free Wikispaces wiki
There are lots of ways to use wikis in your classroom. Below are some examples of teachers using wikis:

Ways to Use Wikis*

  • Presentations: Have students put presentations on a wiki and present to the class.
  • Reference: Create an on line reference as a group. Collaboratively write a reference book that others can use.
  • Study Guide: Create a study guide for the next big test. Have groups of students each take a topic and together they will create a great resource.
  • Book Club: Have students write about a book they've read as a part of a virtual book club.
  • POTD: Create a Problem of the Day wiki page where students can work collaboratively to solve.
  • ESL Glossary: Students can create a glossary of terms they use and learn about in new units, adding definitions and images.
  • Dictionary or Encyclopedia: Students can create an online dictionary or encyclopedia adding useful information that can be built upon.
  • Peer editing workshop: Students draft papers on the class wiki and peers can then edit and make comments in contrasting text. Use the history functions to track changes and editors.
  • Brainstorming: Have students use the wiki to brainstorm ideas and come up with an exhaustive list without duplications.
  • Collect data: Use a table and have students complete information in the table to insure uniform data collection.
  • Multi-author story: One student begins a story and other students add to it until the plot is complete. One twist to this might be a Choose your own adventure story - each student branches out into a different path.
  • Classroom FAQ: Make an FAQ for your classroom that will help new students. Have students add questions or answer existing questions.
  • Class yearbook: Use your wiki to collect and share news, photos, and achievements for the year.
  • Class Calendar: Create a calendar on the wiki where students add their important dates.
  • Class Portfolio: When students create anything electronically, link to it or upload it to the wiki.
  • Track projects: Students put their research on a wiki where you can check in on their progress and offer constructive assistance.
*Thanks to 50 Ways to Use a Wiki

Wiki Fever 11-19-2009