Although the idea is simple and the name evolved from a slang term for quick, wikis have quickly become a standard method of collaborative creation. A wiki represents a tool whereby users can jointly work on the same document that is stored externally on a wiki server. In a wiki-based lesson, students work to collaboratively construct a document designed to meet some educational objective.
Goals and Objectives
Generally, the goal of a wiki activity is to allow students to learn and demonstrate that learning through the collaborative creation of some document artifact. Some sample objective statements can include:
During and after active participation in the wiki activity, students will…
- understand concept x ,
- connect related concepts in field x,
- express new ideas in terms of already internalized concepts,
- identify misconceptions,
- relate various student views into a single document,
- work collaboratively with other students to better understand and succeed at group process,
- synthesize a collective work into a cohesive document,
…as determined by successfully attending to 80% of rubric items.
Student need only to have the pre-existing knowledge set needed to explore and create content on the given topic.
Materials and Resources
The instructor needs to create a wiki space for the course. The students need Internet access to the wiki space.
Guiding Questions for this Lesson
The use of the wiki is more of a means to an end. The guiding question can vary as the end varies. Examples of guiding questions might include: How does concept x relate to concepts y and z? What do we already know about concept x with relation to pre-existing cognitive structures? Can students bring together diversity into a cohesive understanding of concept x?
Lesson Outline and Procedure
- The instructor creates a wiki space for the students.
- Within that wiki space, students collaboratively create content on a given topic.
- The completed project can be shared with a larger group, directly assessed by the instructor, and often serves as a continual resource for the students.
- Make sure to provide clear instructions on wiki use. Include exactly what a wiki is since it is still a relatively new technology.
- For the first wiki assignment, provide a little extra time as students become used to working with the tool. Since most wikis use word processor type interfaces though, the learning curve is minimal.
- The instructor can also contribute directly to the wiki. The instructor can provide guiding questions within the wiki or even supply headings that the students need to complete with information.
What accommodations may be needed for students with disabilities or other special needs? This lesson requires few if any accommodations. Most text to speech and speech to text programs can function, however, the wiki software used should be verified for accessibility as appropriate. The bandwidth requirements are also low.
The timeline will vary by the activity. Some wiki activities can be ongoing throughout a term. Others may only take 15 minutes for students to add to a collective document. A collaborative project within a wiki may take 2-10 hours to complete.
Ideas for Lesson Evaluation and Teacher Reflection
How did the students like the lesson? End of semester evaluations should ask about the usefulness and learning accomplished through such activities. Also, the conversation that occurs during the activity will help gauge how the students are enjoying various aspects and whether they are learning and/or participating.
How was student learning verified? Participation can be assessed in group exercises or discussion session. A rubric can also be set up to help gauge the quality of any final concept map.
A good place to start is Wikipedia’s comparison of wiki software, however, this list only includes wiki specific software. Many multi-purpose programs also include wikis now such as Moodle. More than half of the wiki applications are free as well. You just need a server to install them on.
- Giles, J. (2005) Internet encyclopaedias go head to head. Nature, 438, 900-901 (15 Dec 2005). Peer Review: Comparison of errors in 50 Britannica and Wikipedia articles
- Wiki’s wild world. Nature, 438, 890 (15 December 2005)