1 What's a Wiki?
  • used as a composition system, a discussion medium, a repository, a mail system, and a tool for collaboration, wikis provide users with both author and editor privileges
  • can incorporate sound, video, images, and text; simple tool to create multimedia presentations or digital stories.
  • open platform encourages democratic use of the Web and promotes content composition by nontechnical users
  • community-based tools supporting/ecouraging collaboration
  • simplified format language that is simpler than HTML
  • focus on content rather than appearance
  • version follow-up: even the smallest changes on each Wiki page is available to everybody. All users can review the past on a page at any time.
  • fast and efficient; often no security procedures or user-process acceptance are required.

2. Who wikis and why?
  • since mid 1990s; adapted as instruction technology in the early years of the 21st century (= "teenager of instructional technology")
  • collaborative activities: compiling information, repositories for meeting notes, e-portfolios, presentation tool
  • Most commonly used Wiki = Wikipedia
  • rough Web-content composition tools (for faculty and students)
  • wikis allow faculty and students to engage in collaborative activities that might not be possible in a classroom.
  • Brainstorming: once a project or creation process is started, participants can be invited to add articles and opinions.
  • Group Projects: in group projects Wikis can serve as a special intranet. All participants communicate, share resources, and write collaborative reports.
  • Making Lists: Wikis organize content, allow for group/common learning sources.
  • Collecting Links: Wikis enable all users to upload files, to make comments, share learning
  • Writing Web Contents: Wikis are an excellent tool in defining main ideas and clearly expressing the content while writing a collective communication (group letter, opinion, report, creative activity)
  • Creating Group Portfolios: Class/Individual can wiki in order to be able to load the history and past projects of the class/individual. Portfolios serve for (self- and group-) assessment but also as career tools.
  • Power of collaboration:
    • wikis provide information exchange and interaction, support and encourage collaborative learning. Collaborative learning means students help each other in small groups to achieve collective goals
    • Collaborative learning maximizes learning and keeps learners active in the learning process because everybody has to work together for the group to succeed
    • Collaborative learning groups encourage advanced thinking and information exchange. Students learn together instead of competing with each other.
    • Wikis support interaction and encourage learners to participate, to think and to construct information together.

3. How's a Wiki work?
  • All it takes is a connection to the Internet and a Web browser.
  • When you click a wiki page’s “Edit” link, the script sends the raw text file to your browser in an editable form, allowing you to modify the content of the page.
  • Pressing the “Save” button sends the modified text back to the wiki server, which replaces the existing text file with your changed version for all to see.
  • When you request a wiki page, the script gathers the corresponding text file, changes its marked-up text into HTML, turns user-selected words into hyperlinks, inserts this information into a page template, and sends the result to your browser.
  • Technically speaking:
    • combination of a CGI script and a collection of plain text files allows users to create Web pages “on the fly.” Common Gateway Interface (CGI) is a standard method used to generate dynamic content on web pages and web applications.
    • The user agent requests the name of an entry; the program retrieves the source of that entry's page (if one exists), transforms it into HTML, and sends the result. If the "Edit this page" link is clicked, the CGI populates an HTML text area or other editing control with the page's contents, and saves it back to the server when the user submits the form.

4. What Worries come with Wikis?
  • need for monitoring; can be time-consuming
  • A wiki is essentially a database created by a group rather than an individual. Structuring the initial content in such a database for easy access can be a challenge.
  • How learners access information on the wiki, navigate the site, create internal and external links, etc. must be addressed early on.
  • Wikis represent a collective perspective of a group that uses it—a wiki has a collaborative bias
  • All content is modifiable by all users. Solution: The instructor/administrator can to restrict modifiability of pages.
  • All content is open to everybody.
  • Simultaneous edits are allowed, but not successful. When simultaneous writings are being performed on a page, wikis are locked.
  • Wikis can be evolved without end. An instructor may want to end the evaluation when the class ends; many wikis do not allow this.

5. Why do Wikis work so well?
  • They are so easy to use, anyone can become a publisher.
  • Collaborative spaces encourage cooperation on global issues in a democratic way
  • Wikis take on semi-authoritative voices ("Let's check Wikipedia...")
  • One of the easiest / most effective Web-based collaboration tools
  • Simple applications + low-learning curve provide students w/ direct, immediate, 24/7 access to site content, crucial in group editing / collaborative projects.
  • Versioning capability allows us to follow evolution of thought processes as learners interact with the site, contents, and each other.
  • Collaborative projects promote “pride of authorship” / ownership in team activities.
  • Wikis e-portfolios combine simple collection and space for self- and peer-reflection.
  • Possibilities for collaborative projects are limited only by one’s imagination and time.
  • Students can use a wiki to develop research projects, with the wiki acting as ongoing documentation of their work.
  • Wikis can be used for students to add summaries of their thoughts from the prescribed readings, building a collaborative annotated bibliography.
  • In distance learning environs, tutors can publish course resources, and students can edit / comment on these directly.
  • Wikis can be used as a knowledge base for teachers, enabling them to share reflections and thoughts regarding teaching practices and allowing for versioning and documentation.
  • Wikis can be used to map concepts: useful for brainstorming and creating linked networks of resources
  • Wikis can be used as an editable presentation tools. Wikis allow comments and changes regarding the content of presentations.

move to Why We Wiki: How Wikis Work
move to Why We Wiki: How Wikis Work Beta Version
return to Why We Wiki: Teen-Aged Wiki
return to Why We Wiki: Why We Wiki
return to Why We Wiki: Homepage
visit euducause.edu article 7 Things You Should Know About Wikis
see also Wikis in Higher Education (2009), Place of Wikis in Learning/Teaching
go to RAK's Wiki Bibliography