Let’s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start!
A wiki is a web site that can be edited by any user. (And what does wiki mean? It’s a derivation of “wiki wiki,” which means “fast” in Hawaiian.) Using a wiki is extremely fast—and easy; no HTML knowledge is required and no special software is needed. Most wiki pages have an edit function, by which users can post changes, delete information, and add new material. In most cases, wikis are open to the general public, but wikis can be designed to only allow certain users or registrants to work on a particular web page. Wikis are also unique because previous versions are saved and can be viewed at any time to view the evolution of a particular wiki page.
Wikis are amazing tools that have greatly contributed to the user-created content of the web 2.0 world. Along with blogs, wikis made it possible for people with no knowledge of code or software (or no money to purchase software!) to create and contribute to web pages. It also raised the bar for content created by the average person–you too, could add your specialized knowledge to the worldwide conversation, no entrance fee or advanced degree required. It also brought about the collaborative document, in which no real author is recognized. Unlike a blog, where authors (even on group blogs) are identified, most times authors on wikis are hidden, if identified at all.
Wikis work best in education for collaborative and group projects. Students can work on a wiki independently while collaborating on the same document or web page. Teachers can view the history, and see who added what material and what changes and deletions were made–making it necessary for all group members to fully participate, now that there’s a way for their work to be verified. Teachers also like to use wikis as an interactive tool for the classroom, where students have a place to create feedback and participate in online conversations. Want to see some great ideas for using wikis with students? Check out the article, “Wiki in a K-12 Classroom.”
Two resources on wikis that I highly recommend:
Want to create your own wiki? Check out the following online tools–they’re free!