The first wiki was created by Ward Cunningham in 1995. He wanted to create an easy authoring tool so that ordinary people could publish on the internet. He took the Hawaiian word wiki-wiki, which means easy, and started a revolution in online publishing. A wiki is a essentially a website that can be quickly and collaboratively edited. The keyword here is collaboratively. The content of a wiki can be be changed by its readers. A reader can add to, modify and correct a wiki. A proper wiki has many authors and is the result of the combined knowledge of many. Wikipedia is a well-known wiki that allows readers to create and improve upon reference sites about every imaginable topic. The content of Wikipedia is instantly editable, making it an extremely up-to-date information source.

Wikis are becoming popular in the education sector. Teachers are using wikis to communicate and collaborate with students. Classes are creating detailed information resources on many academic topics. Class wikis include text, pictures, links to other resources and multimedia. Students are collaborating their knowledge and learning from each other. Once again, the walls of the classroom are expanding to give students access to a global web of information and a world-wide audience.

By the way, what you are reading right now is a wiki. :-)

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Popular wiki creation sites for educators:

Wikispaces []

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PBWiki []
Pikiwiki []
Wikidot []
Netcipia [] wiki + blog in one place
Zoho [] full Office-like productivity suite + wiki

Educational benefits / classroom applications:

  • Students have ownership of the knowledge. They actively seek it, and they create it.
  • Students are given the responsibility to look after a publication with a global audience. It's not just their teacher reading their work.
  • High-level critical thinking is developed as students critique others' contributions for accuracy.
  • Increased information literacy skills are required as students check their facts for accuracy and correct errors discovered by their peers.
  • Create an online text for your curriculum that you and your students can contribute to.
  • Engage in collaborative projects with other classrooms and other schools.
  • Create collaborative stories and books.

Concerns and solutions:

  • A malicious author can sabotage a wiki's content. This is usually people's first concern about a website that can be edited by anyone. Fortunately, a wiki can easily be restored to a previous version by visiting the history function. The truth is, there have been few cases of wiki abuse. Sabotaged wikis do not last very long because viewers tend to restore the proper version when they see a problem.
  • Misinformation and untruths can be published as fact on a wiki. The very strength of a wiki is that this information can quickly be corrected. Bad information usually does not hang around long when conscientious people discover and correct the error.
  • How can information on a wiki be considered reliable if any bozo could have put it there? As with other forms of information gathering, you should check your facts against other sources. For the most part, though, the information on a wiki is accurate if it has been read by people who are knowledgeable about that topic. The combined knowledge of the masses tends to be more accurate than the solitary knowledge of an individual.
  • A wiki page does not like to be edited by two people simultaneously. To get around this, create sub-pages for the students to work on that are linked to the main page. This prevents two students from working on the same page at the same time.
  • A wiki can be set up to allow only authorized users to have editing rights. You can also create a wiki that only you and your class can edit.
  • Student privacy is paramount. Never publish last names or personal details of students. Teachers should discuss privacy issues with their students and ensure they do not create usernames that display their full identity.

Real-world examples from teachers:

Further reading: