What are Wikis?

Wikis are websites that utilize specific "Wiki" software to allow collaborative
Wikis allow users to gather and contribute information.
efforts in building an informational website. Most wikis are geared toward a specific area of interest, although some are general in nature. The collaborative nature of wikis means that more than one individual is allowed access to add-on or edit the website. In fact many wikis, such as Wikipedia- the most often-used wiki in the world- encourages users to participate in upgrading its wiki pages with the phrase, " the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit." Some wikis allow the general public to participate, others require a specific invitation to do so. The particular wiki you are reading right now is one that is available for viewing by the public, but access for editing is resticted to students enrolled in the EDUC 6040 class at Marquette University.

What Learning Theories are Most Applicable to the Use of Wikis?

Cognitivism plays an important role in learning through wikis. The student researches information and as they perceive the stimulus they encode the information into their long term memory. Repeated exposure to the information allows for further encoding, and an easier retrieval of the information at a later time. The fact that the information is available with a click of a few buttons makes the educational process that much easier to encode, since the time between each presentation is minimized.
Constructivism is also involved with wiki usage. Students can engage in independent research and explore the information provided through the wiki pages and their links. It offers a fantastic way to explore the information that exists on the internet. The student will follows paths of fruitful information, and hit intellectual dead ends. The research process will allow the student to develop skills for organizing, reading, analyzing and evaluating.

What are the Benefits of Using Wikis?

Wikis allow students to acquire information in a relatively short period of time. Today, if a student wants to find out about a subject, they perform an internet search that takes a few minutes. Prior to the internet, students had to go to the library and research the subject by looking it up in an encyclopedia. Wikis have made the research effort much more streamlined and efficient.

Wikis allow users to easily create and edit pages.When utillizing wikis, students are able to learn from other students and information is often quite accurate due to it being moderated and edited by peers or a teacher. Wikis are better than other web-based forums and discussions because they can be authored and edited by anyone at any time. A complete history of every page is also kept.

For teachers, the benefits of using wikis are that it supports student collaboration, allows faculty and students to engage in collaborative activities that are able to extend beyond the classroom, and they promote pride of authorship and ownership in team activities.

What are the Challenges of Using Wikis?

One challenge of using wikis is that it can be difficult for a teacher to facilitate collaboration between students throughout a project so teachers must remain committed to developing the skills students need to work collaboratively. Another challenge is that if students do not work together and all contribute to the wiki, the wiki will not be completed accordingly or one student may end up doing more work then other students.

What Special Guidance Might Help Users of Wikis?

Here is a quick guide to setting up your wikispaces:

What is the Current State of the Research on Wikis?

In an article titled, "A Wiki for Classroom Writing," authors Morgan and Smith suggests that the use of Wiki's can be taught to students and implemented in the classroom as early as elementary school. According to their research there are four types of wiki's that can be implemented in elementary school systems: classroom wikis, report wikis, school wiki sites, and large-scale interschool project wikis. Classroom wikis include assignments, student work, and offer parent's the advantage of seeing what his/her students has learned. Research wikis display student research project work and school wiki sites can offer information or any updates regarding the student's school, which can benefit teachers, the student, and also the parent. Lastly, a large scale wiki, which is usually a collaborative team work assignment allows students to work together in order to create a larger project. Please refer to the authors Morgan and Smith article in order to find other guidlines suggests to effectivly use wikis in the classroom by clicking on their link above, "A Wiki for Classroom Writing."

Today, some corporate companies such as Microsoft and Intel use wikis as a ways to provide in-network private information about one's company. Schools and Colleges/Universities use wikis to enhance group learning. Current research suggests that there may be greater use of wikis behind computer firewalls than on the public Internet. Therefore, more research is being conducted.

What Lesson Ideas Might Instructors Consider in Using Wikis?

Collaborative Writing Projects so students work together to research a topic and post information about it.
Science Fair Projects to record and organize data, and plan eventual papers/presentations.
Student Portfolios so students can share their work with others and discuss it.
Literature Circles in which all students read the same book and then answer questions about the material and pose questions.

What Resources Might Instructors Consult When Using Wikis?

http://computer.howstuffworks.com/wiki.htm This site contains lots of information on wikis in general and Wikipedia in particular.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4506421 listen to this NPR broadcast about wikipedias.


Educational Uses of Wikis

Radical Change and Wikis: Teaching New Literacies