Saturday, March 1, 2008

Using Wikis in Schools

Clearly there will be (if there isn’t already) concern on the behalf of educators about students using resources like Wikipedia to find information. The following is from Joyce Valenza’s teacherlibrarianwiki:

“My experience so far is that most librarians that I talk to are indignant that you would want to direct students to use a resource that very well may be inaccurate. I guess I agree to a point, but also see that wikis provide another opportunity to teach evaluative skills. I'd be worried if the wiki was an only source...but as one of many...well maybe--why not. It also depends on the project too. Some content is so timely that a wiki may be one of the few places to find information.

What's been discussed is the potential for students to actively create a wiki around a curricular theme. Why not ask students to contribute to a wiki to construct a historical perspective. Imagine the dynamics of students building knowledge--adding content to provide depth to an idea or topic. Could be quite exhilariting!”

I like the points Ms. Valenza makes about how we can teach our students to use wikis with a critical mind, enhancing their evaluative skills with other resources. Like Valenza, I think the real value in wikis is the potential for creative collaboration in classrooms. I also think wikis can be a great place to store, add to, and discuss information and ideas.

I can see using wikis with students create their own class wikipedia, to collaborate on a project or as a place to post students’ work and have others interact and edit that work. Older students could also be involved in helping to create an online text for a course or even contribute to the writing of a book (perhaps at wikibooks).

Below are a couple of great ideas for using wikis with students from the PBwiki blog, The Daily Peanut:

Students could use a wiki for a book review where each each student would create their own page, write a short review on a chapter and perhaps enhance it with links to articles about the author, the book and other articles. Then each student could visit the wiki page of a partner, review their partner’s links and edit the review or comment on the page.

Group the students into teams of three or four and have each group divide a collaborative research project between themselves. During computer lab ask your students to begin researching the topic, have them paste links and jot ideas down on individual pages. When ready to write the paper, have each student work on their own page and allow the group to edit each others pages. Paste the completed project into one wiki page.

Telling the New Story is an interview with a grade one teacher, Kathy Cassidy of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, illustrating how even the youngest students are able to use social software such as blogs, wikis and podcasts to share learning and exchange ideas with the world.

Wild about Wikis -- Tools for taking student and teacher collaboration to the next level by David Jakes, discusses classroom, professional development and administrative uses for wikis. An article in School Administrator, by Lane B. Mills called The Next Wave Now: Web 2.0 urges School Superintendents to look at using tools like wikis to enhance professional development and collaboration from the bottom up versus the top down. Educators could use wikis to collaborate on best-practice, enhancing professional development. Here is an example of a wiki on best practices for librarians.

Some companies are even marketing wikis to schools to augment textbooks. COSTP, (California Open Source Textbook Project) forecasts it will save the state of California more that 200 million dollars per year in K-12 textbook allocations.

South Africa’s national high school curriculum is on a wiki, which is interesting to say the least! You may edit this document if you wish, but your changes will identify your IP address. Hopefully someone is employed to oversee changes that are made; undoubtedly, wikis are creating new editorial jobs.

Teacher-librarians could effectively use wikis with teachers as collaborative tools to collect and share information on resources supporting the curriculum. A wiki could provide a showcase of library events or perhaps house the library website, where it could be easily edited and added to by interested students and staff. A wiki as a webpage would allow students to add to booklists (perhaps podcasting reviews) and comment on these lists.


Virginia said...

As a Technical Writer for an open source software company, we are still exploring the vast possibilities that wikis provide. While I agree that care must be taken - with students and for businesses, with our customers - to ensure that the content we point readers to is as useful as possible, I think that engaging students in using wikis will reach out to those who need a different stimulus to learn well.
Another article I read today ( indicated that if the work you provide to the economy can be automated ... eventually it will be done by a computer. The kind of learning we provide to students now will only enhance their ability to contribute effectively to a market economy later.
Good luck to you and thanks!

Cindy said...

I like your idea of educators using wikis to collaborate on best-practice, supporting their professional developement. With the high numbers of teachers and administrators in our system, a wiki on best practice could be phenomenal!
I see so much potential in wikis!


Linda Morgan said...

There were some interesting things on the Daily Peanut wiki - I liked the article on the elephant and the ant- good analogy. Thanks.

Ronda said...


I have had a real "ah-ha" moment with wikis, and Wikipedia, for that matter. You quoted Valenza, who mentioned wikis teach us evaluative skills, but also may be a place to find "timely" content which can't be found elsewhere.

I actually used Wikipedia this week for a different project, and spent some time evaluating the information. I was impressed that there were links to other sources, which I had found earlier in my research. It helped me verify the info on the page. It was a bit of an eye-opening experience for someone who was a previous "Wikipedia-Skeptic"!

Ronda :)