Thing 8 (Week 4): It's a Wiki Wiki World


You may have noticed that the K12 Learning 2.0 course content is presented in a wiki. A wiki is a great tool for creating and sharing instructional content on the web. I can edit the pages from anywhere, right in my web browser, without a lot of technical knowledge. It's free, and offers online storage space to upload pictures and files. I don't need help or permission from a tech person to get started. I can easily re-organize the content and add new pages with a few clicks. I can attach files, add pictures and embed video, audio, slide shows and other media. MOST IMPORTANTLY, I can invite others (such as colleagues or students) to help me develop the content. If need be, we can all work on the wiki in our pajamas.

What is a Wiki?

Simply, a wiki is a website that anyone can edit easily using a regular web browser. The first wiki was developed in 1995 by Ward Cunningham, who named his project after the Hawaiian word "wiki-wiki," meaning "quick." A wiki site may be as basic as a single page containing information and links by one author, or as complex as Wikipedia, the collaborative web-based encyclopedia, containing over 38 million articles in 285 languages, compiled, edited and continuously updated and refined by millions of users. (We won't debate the merits of Wikipedia at this particular moment, but most educators will concede that it has value as a ready reference tool, and also that it can be used as a means for teaching students to critically evaluate online information sources).

Wikis in under 4 minutes, from our friends at CommonCraft:

If you cannot see the video above, try watching it on the CommonCraft site:

A Few Key Wiki Features

  • Every version of every page is saved in the Revision (or History) listing revision2.png anytime a user clicks Save, so it's easy to track changes and compare page versions. You can easily revert to an "old" page version if information is accidentally lost or changed in an unwanted way. That means it's safe to TRY THINGS!
  • The Revision (or History) listing stores user information along with page revisions, which allows you to easily track and evaluate user (read: student) contributions.
  • A wiki's "permissions" may be set to Public, Protected or Private.
    • Public - Anyone can view and edit the pages;
    • Protected - Anyone can view the pages, but only approved members may edit pages;
    • Private - Only approved members (who are logged in) can view or edit the pages.
  • A wiki site includes the ability to track page changes via email or an RSS feed. That's how Wikipedia vandalism/errors are corrected so quickly!
  • Most wiki pages include a Discussion feature discussion.pngfor each page, allowing users to leave comments or discuss page contents.
  • Wikis use a very simple coding language called "Wikitext" or "Wiki Markup" to format the text, links and other content on the pages. Most users don't need to know about that, because they can use the Visual Editor (looks a bit like the formatting toolbar in Word) to format their pages. If you can type in a box and click edit and save, you're good.

Why Wikis in Education?

Wikis encourage shared knowledge construction and growth over time, as they are often built and edited by many users at once. Teachers and students can use wikis for publishing, organizing, and sharing virtually any kind of information – professional, creative or academic. Wikis are democratic tools that, implemented effectively, can enable students to take responsibility for learning outcomes, plan and make decisions, work together, publish to an audience beyond the classroom and, perhaps most importantly, teach others.

At is simplest, a wiki is a really easy way to make a website. At its most robust, a wiki is a collaborative, participatory, living, evolving content repository. (Of course, the quality of the content is what matters). Wikis can be used to support classroom learning, professional development, collaborative document writing, planning and resource-building. Essentially, a wiki is anything you want it to be.

In this 2-minute video from PBwiki, teachers talk about classroom wiki use:

If you can't see the video because is blocked at your school, here is a TeacherTube version

Discovery Exercise

Check out at least three of the "educational" wikis below. Explore their organization and content. While there are essentially endless professional and administrative uses for wikis, I have slanted the selection towards those that include collaborative, student-produced content. As you look at the sites, consider how you might use a wiki to support student learning.

Remember to bring a pedagogical lens to your exploration. Where is the learning? How can you tell? Do you notice more "bling" (cool tech tools) than "bang" (meaningful student learning)?

Before you get started, read the Task below, so you know what your blog post will require.

¤ NOTE: Course participants will be invited to share their own school and classroom wiki projects as part of "Thing 9."

  • 1001 Flat World Tales - Global writing workshop emphasizing peer editing and revision. The challenge: "You are a modern Scheherazade. You must tell an 'amazing' story that keeps your King interested in order to stay alive. You will have an advantage over Scheherezade, though: you can draft and revise your story until the 'King' -- three or four of your classmates -- judge your story is good enough to allow you to survive."
  • Climate Change Debate - Global Studies climate change debate. Teams of students research the issues, take positions on them, develop an action plan, and create a database of links to valuable information regarding the topic.
  • Code Blue - Sixth grade students learning about the human body open their own online "medical clinic."
  • Constitutional Convention Gets an Update - This wiki takes the history and politics of the 1787 Constitutional Convention and portrays them using the modern media tools -- "We were there!"
  • Discovery Utopias - Middle school students answer "all of the great questions" of society (What is the role of government, What is the responsibility of the individual, etc.) and come to a collaborative consensus about what a society truly needs in order to reach for perfection and sustainability. Click the Discovery Utopias link at the bottom of the navigation area (just above the visitor map) to view the student projects.
  • Dr. Theodore Baehr and Euthanasia - High school bioethics students write responses to an essay about Clint Eastwood film, Million Dollar Baby. Dr. Ted Baehr is the publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Movieguide and as such has a distinct point of view. Some students agree with him, some disagree. Student text and voices explain their point of view.
  • Eracism Project - A global student debate that joins diverse cultures and includes authentic debate for global competence and international mindedness.
  • Global Read Aloud - Each year, classrooms around the world read a selected book aloud then create and share as many global connections as possible.
  • Go West - Third graders share their learning about Westward Expansion along the Oregon Trail.
  • Great Debate 2008 - Students in grades 8-12 lead an exploration and discussion of issues and candidates surrounding the 2008 presidential election.
  • Greetings from the World - A high school teacher in Croatia invites people from all over the world to share about their home countries using the Glogster "digital collage" tool. An ongoing, ever-growing collection of posts.
  • Human Body Inquiry Projects - Sixth graders design an inquiry project, then conduct experiments, build models, collect data and share their findings in a multimedia format of choice.
  • HUMS3001: Censorship and Responsibility - Students study "theoretical approaches to free speech, liberalism, censorship, and responsibility and apply them to contemporary debates in journalism, media, art, literary studies and academia."
  • IB Art Studio - "This wiki is a meeting place for IB Art students (and teachers!) of the world to share their ideas and collaborate." Check out the online galleries!
  • Kindergarten Counting Book - Photos to show each number from 1 to 100. (Wetpaint now offers ad-free education wikis).
  • Kubler Reading - Fourth grade students organize their of study Natalie Babbit's Tuck Everlasting on a wiki.
  • Math 12V Outcomes Portfolio - Twelfth grade math students create an online review for the entire math curriculum.
  • Schools in the Past - First graders interview parents and grandparents to find out how schools have changed.
  • Small Stones - AP Calculus students write their own textbook by "scribe posting" a review of each day's lesson.
  • The Students' History - A living collaboration between two Ohio middle schools, this student-written history text serves as a model of what Alan November terms "student-owned learning."
  • Welker's Wikinomics - AP Economics wiki. Be sure to check out the Discussion Forum.
  • Wiki Historia - Encyclopedia of American History created by 7th and 8th grade students.

A Few Further Resources (provided for your reference)

Two Sites for Creating a Wiki (provided for your reference)

In case you just can't wait to start your wiki, here are two good options, both of which offers Ad-Free, hosted wikis for K-12 Education. The features vary a bit, so you may want to investigate a bit before settling. One way to do that is to create a "regular" free wiki (ad-supported) to explore the features before asking for your educator site.


PART 1: Read Vicki Davis' blog post Wiki Wiki Teaching about her first experience using wikis in the classroom. Are you already using wikis to support learning, or you think there may be a wiki in your future? Write a blog post sharing your thoughts and observations about the educational wiki projects you have explored. Provide details/examples from at least two wikis that you actually investigated -- their organization, content, tools used, learning outcomes... Where was the learning? Was it more "bling" or "bang?" What might you do differently or better? In your post, please also share any initial ideas you have for wiki use in classroom, professional or personal learning. Please be sure to LINK to every wiki you mention in your post (HELP Video on Creating links in Edublogs), and include "Thing 8" in the title of your post.

PART 2: Check your Feedly at least three days this week -- remember, you are skimming and scanning for items of interest, not reading every single entry! You are always welcome to adjust your subscriptions (delete some, add new ones, etc...).

Stretch Task

Check out a topic of interest in Wikipedia. Does the content seem valid, complete, well-written? Visit the Discussion tab to see if there has been any conversation or controversy about the article. Also look at the History tab and explore a few of the revisions. Post a blog entry reflecting on your Wikipedia experience. Be sure to include "Thing 8 - Stretch" in the title of your post.