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Wiki…Wiki…What? January 2, 2007

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology.
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This morning I’ve decided to try to meet my goal of informing and inspiring teachers in “practical” emerging ed tech by discussing wikis. Though wikis have been in use for a while now, they are an evolving online application and Web 2.0 technology. Before I continue with the post, if you have some “wiki thoughts” to share, please post a comment by clicking on the “comment” link above.

What is a wiki? A wiki is an online application (examples: wikispaces.com or PBwiki.com) that allows students and teachers (or anyone for that matter) to add and edit the content of a website in a collaborative manner. The power of the application is in it’s ease of use, and the collaborative manner in which it is created.

Eamples of wikis:

capture1.jpg1.) Not so arguably the most well known wiki in the world is Wikipedia. Who would have guessed that thousands of individuals could collectively compile such a useful resource- so useful that it arguably rivals well known, hard copy encyclopedias? One of the primary distinctions between wikis and traditional encyclopedias is that it is an evolving source of information that can be updated in real time.

2.) How about an example of award winning wiki facilitated by an award winning educator? The Flat Classroom Project by Vicki Davis (and her collaborator, Julie Lindsay) is a wonderful example of how to classrooms literally a half a world a part can collaboratively create a powerful educational platform to explore and discuss a topic. In this case the topics are from the Thomas Friedman book The World is Flat. At first glance, the wiki may seem unorganized to someone who has little wiki exposure. In my experience, this is the nature of many wikis, and it gives credence to the fact that the artistic act of formatting web published information may well be as important as the content. Yes, “content is king”, but I am certain that as wiki platforms evolve, so will the ability to format content.

3. How about an example from my classroom that just goes to show that taking a bit of risk with students by empowering them to take control over a project can be a very interesting and valuable exercise? Seventy of my 7th grade general science students participated in the creation of a wiki for a major chemistry unit assessment. In just two days the students created something more valuable than any one person alone could create. This just goes to show that the power of many truly does trump the power of one. It also demonstrates that the individual can have a important voice within the collective. One of the most intriguing aspects of this project was that some of the students became so interested in it that they took the time to figure out how to search for valuable, educational You Tube videos and then learned how to cut and paste the HTML source code into the wiki to embed them in our creation- amazing for 7th graders (bottom of the “Team 4” page). Take a look at what twelve and thirteen year-olds can create: http://science7chemreview1.wikispaces.com/.

The blog entry is getting a bit long now, so I will follow-up over the next several days to this entry by providing practical advice and ideas for the educator who wants to give the wiki a try in their classroom. Meanwhile, check out these wiki resources: 1.) How does a Wiki work? Check it out at How Stuff Works… 2.) A wiki on how to start a wiki! 3.) A screencast about a wiki project- Latino Pride by Paul Allison.

Cheers and happy wiki exploration!

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