Editor’s Note: As a New York Times piece explains, wikis have many applications, including as digital education tools. In the following post, writer Pamela Rossow tells us more about the utilization of wikis in education.
By Pamela Rossow
If you’re earning a college degree online, or you’re an educator or an observer intrigued by digital media, you might want to learn more about wikis.
You’ve probably heard of Wikipedia—a website filled with wikis. However, do you know what a wiki is– or how you can use this online tool for educational purposes?
Here’s some information that might be helpful:
- What is a wiki?
“Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser.” In other words, it is a website that enables visitors to visit the site where they could collaborate and contribute information. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection to participate.
- How is a wiki different from a blog?
Wikis are more open than blogs. Users are able to alter web content. With blogs, authors create posts and publish them. Then readers may engage in conversations by responding in the comments section below the blog posts. Many times, the comments must first be approved by the blog owner, before they are published. A wiki permits users to change what someone else has written, without permission. This could allow for dynamic learning since a wiki is always “under construction” so to speak.
- What does wiki mean?
Wiki is a term that stems from Hawaiian language. It means “fast” or “quick”.
- Who uses wikis?
Anyone could use a wiki to work on a project together, like tracing family history, composing a travel log with photos, coming up with a cookbook, or gathering information about certain products from consumers. Educators may use wikis to compile notes from meetings. Students could utilize a wiki while working on a team project for class.
- How could a wiki be used in education?
There are several ways wikis could be used in educational settings:
- A class could compose a travelogue about a place that students would like to visit. For example, if students would like to visit the Smithsonian Museums or the National Zoo, they could come up with facts about the locations, add photos of the various animals found in the zoo, and discuss animal habitats. The wiki could serve as a virtual field trip.
- Students might come up with a study guide for what may appear to be a difficult exam. They could collaborate by adding their class notes and any other relevant materials that might be on the exam.
- Educators may require their classes to break into groups and construct wikis on specific subject matters like the Civil War, art history, or even anti-bullying strategies.
Coming up with your own wiki, or working as part of a group to create one, could be an exciting way to expand your knowledge on a particular topic. While other people may alter what you write, it’s interesting to see how the subject matter expands and how it changes through using a wiki.
Think of this: You could learn something new that you would not have, if you hadn’t participated in a wiki! The results might even broaden your perspective on a subject.
It’s your turn. If you’re using wikis in your professional or academic life, we’d like to hear about your experiences. Post your comment below.
Pamela Rossow is a freelance writer who works focuses on higher education issues. She is a native South Floridian who enjoys photography, literature, and hockey. You can follow her on Google+.