The Wonderful World of Wikis

Posted by kallen Apr 1, 2011

I love simple tools that can have dynamic uses. We are finding wikis to be a great example of that.


While all of our teachers have blogs and use them in wonderful and creative ways. A blog tends to be a one-way conversation, owned by the teacher. Wikis are a great way to open the discussion so that it can be peer or student-led as well as document knowledge so that it can be referenced later on.


We've used wikis in a few different ways this year:

  • We have one class that rotates the role of "Class Scribe", the scribe takes notes during each class and posts them on the wiki. It is then other students' responsibilities to read the notes and suggest any changes where needed. The notes are an extremely helpful tool for review as well as building the concept and practice of metacognition. As a teacher, it's also a great place for the students to document and reference things they often forget such as log-in information and commonly used links.
  • Our Middle School Social Studies teacher is currently using a wiki in his class as a forum for reflection and discussion at the start and conclusion of each of his units. This is another helpful methid to promote metacognition as the class has documentation to demonstrate what they've learned. It also gives the students a fun, safe way to extend dialogue about concepts outside of class. Their essay questions are often connected to this dialogue so it is a helpful tool for review prior to their tests as well.
  • We have also begun using wikis as a tool for professional development. Our Math department is in the process of changing our math curriculim, and the new curriculim will be adopted by a few different grades each year. This is going to require a lot of extra support for our teachers as well as a lot of communication between each grade. They will use the wiki to:
    • document notes from professional development and school visits that might not be immediately relevant to some teachers this year, but will be down the road
    • share best practices
    • share methods of instruction between grades so that other teachers can use similar frameworks for review


I think wikis have been slower to take hold in our school, for a couple of reasons. Our teachers were already comfortable using blogs and it is another new (but easy!) interface to learn; they don't tend to be as aesthetically pleasing as blogs; and there was some confusion about what a wiki is due to the popularity of Wikipedia and WikiLeaks. However, the more examples of effective wikis I'm seeing in action, the more I'm becoming a fan! We know how important colaboration, communication and metacognition is going to be to our students and wikis provide an opportunity for those three skills to be exercised.


I'd love to see examples of wikis in action in other places, if anyone has examples to share.