Wikis for Teachers

Wikis are “Web pages that allows users to add content, as on an Internet forum, but also permits others (often completely unrestricted) to edit the content. The term wiki also refers to the collaborative software (wiki engine) used to create such a website (see wiki software).”

Many of you may have discovered the wonder that is Wikipedia, a wiki encyclopedia that has entries on everything you can imagine, completely created by people like you and me. And the content is actually very good, based on entries I’ve read in which the focus is an area of my own expertise — literature, some history, for example. Of course, allowing anyone to add content has created opportunities for some folks to vandalize wikis, but most of the time, it is caught right away. I saw such an instance of vandalism on a wikipedia article once — by the time I had logged in to correct it and went back to the article, it was already gone. In many ways, having so many editors helps to ensure the integrity of the content, and when there are disagreements, panels work them out on Talk pages until a decision can be reached. My major contributions to Wikipedia have mostly been editorial — fixing grammar, spelling, wording, etc. I did, however, write a very short article on American poet Edward Taylor, which has been revised several times by others (and, in fact, grossly vandalized and then rescued by others).

Several months ago, I discovered the Teachers’ Lounge Wiki. I thought then that this sort of portal for teachers to share and retrieve lesson ideas had great potential, but I didn’t realize at the time that a wiki is something that, well, just about anyone can create — no real expertise in programming or fancy computer languages is required. In the past couple of weeks, both Tim Fredrick and the Reflective Teacher have created wikis using PBWiki. I really wish I had known about PBWiki when I created this website, because it sure would have made it a lot easier. In about two minutes, I just created a wiki for my own class using PBWiki. I have also set up a wiki for my own lesson plans.

Like any new technology you use with students, if you are the administrator, it’s up to you to monitor content and make sure they’re not being goofy (vandalizing pages and the like), but that should be something fairly easy to do.

I think wikis are potentially exciting in terms of uploading and sharing content. I’m looking forward to giving it a try in my own classroom, and I’ll keep you posted on the results — and thank you to Tim and the Reflective Teacher for the excellent idea.

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