What in the World is a Wiki?

A wiki is an online document, viewed in a web browser, that allows a user or users to add and accumulate information on a topic. Usually, but not always, people work collaboratively on a wiki, so it’s a terrific learning tool.

The word wiki comes from a Hawaiian word that means fast.

Anyone can set up a wiki and invite others to contribute. All of the pages are visible and can be edited in the browser. What is unusual about a wiki, compared to many other forms of writing, is the ability of all users to edit and change the work of fellow collaborators, definitely a “we’re all working together project” that teaches group members to cooperate with one another and respect their work. A wiki document can include text, links, pictures, and video.

The In Plain English Wiki tutorial provides a good introduction filled with useful information. Also check out the comprehensive wiki explanation with an emphasis on wikis in the workplace at OreillyNet. A wiki tutorial at TeachersFirst walks people through the basics of starting a wiki and includes a page with wiki ideas for the classroom. Wikipedia, as its name implies, is a wiki.

A Few Suggestions for Wikis at Home

  • Plan a family vacation, and encourage family members to identify and then add information about places to visit and things to do.
  • Set up a wiki for a child’s school report or project. This allows absolutely all of the resources and notes to be kept in one place (on the document in the web browser).
  • Make a wiki for household tasks and jobs that require instructions and visuals, replacing those paper documents that you can never find when you need them. Use a camera to illustrate your instructions with photos. Examples might include how to remove the drain stopper in the bathroom sink, how to change batteries in the smoke detectors, how to fix the toilet handle, or how to remove certain types of lighting fixtures when they need cleaning.
  • Use a wiki to plan a club, scouting, or church group overnight trip, encouraging young participants to get actively involved in the planning and organizing of the event.

A few Suggestions for Wikis in the Classroom

  • When everyone in the class is working on a report topic, make a site with a section for each report, explorers, for example. Explain to students that when someone finds something pertinent to another child’s report, they can add it and let the other student know.
  • A math wiki can be a place for children to explain how to solve a problem and other things they learned.
  • Check out Wiki Ideas for the Classroom at TeachersFirst for many more curriculum ideas.
  • For $99 a year up to 100 users at a school can have a huge amount of wikispace at PBWorks. At my school this would take care of an entire grade of classrooms and teachers, with logins to spare.

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