Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Wiki Can of Worms!

In my previous MET class, I had the task of creating wikis tailored toward a certain goal.  A digital storytelling kit and a place for 5th graders to collaborate on persuasive writing.  Working on these projects helped me see the power and versatility of a wiki.  Teachers can create an online workspace for their students.  Links to research, video clips, and helpful images are just a few of the elements you can add to create this workspace.  

While I was building my wikis, I looked at a lot of examples to find what I liked-and what I didn't.  What I found was that there are SOO-OO many educational wikis out there!  This wiki link has MANY examples of educational wikis across all grade levels, disciplines, from all over the world.  

Some of the wikis I found had so much information that it was hard to navigate the real purpose, and they seemed more like a class website than a place to collaborate effectively.  Here is one example from a 2nd grade class.  While this wiki is easy to navigate, the collaboration is hard to follow.  Each topic on the sidebar takes you to a taxonomy where it seems the class might have collaborated on ideas, pictures and links, but it is hard to tell.

Another wiki I found was geared towards teen readers.  This wiki has not been updated in a while, but it clearly was a collaborative place for teen readers to share their thoughts on many different genres of reading.  It is not the most visually stimulating, but it hits on some of Vicki Davis' other elements of an effective wiki.  It has a collaborative effort (teens write book talks), the book talks are organized into genre links, some readers provided hyperlinks to outside sources, and contributors were original in their reflections.

I think that wikis certainly have their place in the classroom.  It can be a wonderful way for students and teachers to collaborate, but I don't think it should be confused with a class website.  I think collaboration is the key, and a wiki should clearly show how students have worked together to create the learning space.


  1. I have had the same issue that you discuss with some of the Wiki's are difficult to follow because of all the information. Some really do look like class websites instead of a area for collaboration. I think the more information that you add to the Wiki the tougher it will be for the students to find the information that they really need for the project.

  2. I think you are correct in stating that collaboration is the key. There are a large number of Wikis that are simply being used as a class website, which there is nothing wrong with, but for a Wiki to be used to its full potential, there has to be some form of collaboration happening.
    I did notice in some of the Wikis I visited, that certain sections were unavailable unless you were a member. Perhaps there is more collaboration happening that we have access to. I can see the need for balance in regards to the public. Perhaps the "work in progress" items where the true collaboration is happening is not visible to the general public and we only see the final result.

    1. Val-
      Good point about "private" sections maybe being the collaboration spot. Unfortunately, in this day and age we (educators) need to hold a certain level of privacy over our students. I would imagine students/families have access to these parts of the wiki.

  3. I agree that some of the wikis out there are extremely difficult to follow. I can't help but wonder what instructional time is spent on students trying to find where they should be when working on some of these wikis. I know I for one gave up on a couple when I couldn't figure out where the links were taking me. Looking at some of these "not so great" wikis has been a learning experience of what not to do when I create my own.

  4. It was difficult to decipher whether the teacher placed the images on the 2nd grade wiki, or if they were student generated. Even though the instructor was using it as more of a website, which is ok, as Val pointed out, there did seem to be a lack of published student work. What I did appreciate about the teen readers wiki was that it was truly globally collaborative. The creator invites others to join the wiki right on the front page.