Monday, October 20, 2008

Blog #6 Wiki = What I Know Is...

What is a wiki? When one asks the question what is a wiki?, one must refer to the most famous wiki of all – Wikipedia. Wikipedia defines a wiki as “software that allows users to create, edit, and link web pages easily. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. These wiki websites are often also referred to as wikis." (Wikipedia, 2008, p.1). There are some great YouTube videos to further help in understanding the simplicity of developing and using wikis:
Wikis in Plain English
Wet Paint Wikis in Plain English
pbwiki – Getting Started

There are three types of wikis:
Allows anyone to view, create and edit content on the pages. Some public wikis require users to create an online account before adding/editing content; others allow anonymous participation.

Information viewing for the public, but edited by authorized users.

Wikis created for internal communication within an organization and only authorized users can view and edit information.

Did You Know...
Wiki is the Hawaiian word for ‘fast’
-The expanded definition of wiki means ‘what I know is…’
-WikiWikiWeb was the first wiki application written in 1994 by Ward Cunningham
-In 2007 the word ‘wiki’ entered the online version of the Oxford Dictionary

The World of Wikipedia
Developed in 2001, Wikipedia is a free, online multilingual encyclopedia that houses approximately 10 million articles. “If you want to get five opinions from four information professionals, just mention Wikipedia” (Badke, 2008, p.1). This website is often labelled as unreliable, untrustworthy, inconsistent and shallow. Yet, millions of users quickly find the answers they are looking for, no matter the subject area. Badke cites this website as the number one ‘go-to’ reference in the world (Wikipedia also cites this fact as well). Richardson (2006) calls Wikipedia “the poster child for the collaborative construction of knowledge and truth that the new interactive Web facilitates” (p. 61). Each day thousands of Internet users “engage in the purposeful work of negotiating and creating truth (Richardson, 2006, p. 62).

There are challenges to using a website like Wikipedia in a school setting. Because many of the authors are anonymous, sometimes believing the trustworthiness of the sources makes it difficult. Richardson suggests educators should take time to check Wikipedia’s information accuracy. In a school setting, Wikipedia could be considered a starting point for research, but should used in conjunction with other resources and references. “If we begin to look at Wikipedia as another opportunity for our students to contribute what they learn and know to a larger audience, I think we can begin to appreciate it for the really incredible site that it is” (Richardson, 2006, p.64).

Creating a Wiki
There are a number of applications to choose from when setting up a wiki. In his video ‘Wikis in Plain English’ LeFever suggests the following wiki applications:
It is important to note before you choose a wiki application, it is advantageous to search for one that fits your needs.
-Not all applications are free
-Some 'private' and/or ‘advertising-free’ wikis have a small fee
-Teachers can apply for free educational wikis space (ie. Wikispaces)

Brian Satterfield's article Exploring the World of Wikis on Tech Soup, suggests four key points to ponder before building a wiki:
-Will a wiki make the process of sharing information more accessible than the current format used in collaboration? (ie. Email, file documents)
-Find out whether non-technical contributors are willing to invest time learning new online applications
-Have enough preliminary content to launch a functional wiki
-Ensure the wiki will be maintained and updated

If you interested in contributing to an existing wiki such as Wikipedia, note that (surprisingly) there are policies and guidelines already in place to avoid chaotic dumping of information. Pressley and McCallum’s article Putting the library in Wikipedia list some of the formal ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ in Wikipedia’s online contributing culture. Also noteworthy in their article are helpful ‘Tips and Techniques’ for new wiki contributors. It is imperative that wiki creators and editors recognize copyright, fair use and responsibilities that apply to using technology in education. Education world has created an extensive curriculum article series titled The Educator's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use: A five-part series reminding online users and authors to educate yourself and your students. It is imperative that wiki creators and editors recognize copyright, fair use and responsibilities that apply to creating, publishing and editing Web-based applications. Education World has created an extensive curriculum article series titled The Educator's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use: A five-part series reminding online users and authors to educate themselves and their students.

A humorous look at Professor Wikipedia on YouTube…

Wikis in Schools
As one of the merging Web 2.0 tools, wikis are becoming increasingly popular for a variety of reasons:
-Anyone can create a wiki
-Wiki applications are either free or inexpensive
-Wikis support collaboration, knowledge sharing, and collegiality at the school and district levels
-A tool to teach students how to collaborate with others
-Creates online learning communities for teachers and students
-Creates authentic audiences for students’ work
-Read/Write Web is a vehicle for students and teachers to share and learn in meaningful ways

Joyce Valenza has created the teacherlibrarianwiki with the main purpose to “use this space to SHARE our best wisdom and our best instruction--the new understandings, lessons, units, handouts, rubrics, presentations, images, and teaching tips that have been either rotting in our file cabinets or posted and lonely on our individual sites” (p. 1).

Badke, W. (2008). What to do with Wikipedia. Online. 32(2). Retrieved from

Education World. (2008). The educator's guide to copyright and fair use: A five-part series. Retrieved from

LeFever, L. (2007). Wikis in plain English. Retrieved

Pressley, L. & McCallum, C. (2008). Putting the library in Wikipedia. Online. 32(5). Retrieved from

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Satterfield, B. (2006). Exploring the world of wikis: Collaborative web sites organize information, encourage participation. Retrieved from

Valenza, J. (2008). Teacherlibrarianwiki. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2008). Wiki. Retrieved from


Joanne de Groot said...

Thanks, Carol. Your reflections about wikipedia are useful and I think you (and Richardson!) are correct in saying that we should encourage students to use wikipedia as a starting place for their research (since they're using it anyway) and then use additional sources to corroborate or refute what they found in wikipedia. It's a great tool to teach information literacy skills.

Jo-Anne Gibson said...

I love Joyce Valenza's comment about how wikis can bring new life to your filing cabinet - good information "rotting away" indeed!