What is up with Wikis?

According to Wikipedia a wiki is, “a type of website that allows users to easily add and edit content and is especially suited for collaborative writing. The term Wiki also sometimes refers to the collaborative software itself (wiki engine) that facilitates the operation of such a website (see wiki software).”

Wikipedia itself is the most famous wiki (at least that I am aware of). It is an on-line encyclopedia of information created by Internet users such as yourself. Everyday users creating a reference site has caused some controversy with educators (and the public at large)and concerns are valid. Educators question the concept of asking students to obtain information from a site which is not composed by “experts.” The question I hear most often is, “How do I know the information is valid.” The answer is you don’t. It has always been my opinion as an educator that it is my job to teach my students to reason, to question and to think. Using a site like Wikipedia allows educators to build the concept of checking sources for accuracy and validity into their lesson; it allows educators to stress the importance of questioning and reasoning to their students. With the advent of the Internet hopefully this is a concept that educators have been stressing in their classrooms already (although I fear that it is not).

We have all heard the saying, “Not everything you read is true.” It is vitally important for us to stress this with our students today and to teach them how to validate sources. James Frey has been exposed in the news and on the Oprah show recently for fabricating portions of his memoir A Million Little Pieces. This is a published book… something most readers automatically regard as true and factual, yet it isn’t. So, the importance of thinking, reasoning and questioning is apparent.

So, let’s hope I have convinced you to give wikis a try. How might they be useful to educators? I spoke with John Witter the other day and he mentioned an idea he has about having his history students work collaboratively to create a wiki which essentially would end up being an on-line textbook of sorts… pretty cool, a textbook created by students. As a former English teacher I think using a wiki as an on-line collaborative story would be fun. Wikis could even be useful as a place for students to collaboratively define and illustrate vocabulary words for an on-line dictionary. The ramblings above are just a small list of how wikis could benefit a classroom educator. I am sure many of you are much more creative than myself and I would love to get your input.

Wikispaces is a free wiki provider for anyone who is excited to get their own wiki on the web. 🙂

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One Comment on “What is up with Wikis?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. If I may also add, this is a great opprtunity for students to contribute to the body of knowledge and be more than just consumers of the informaton online.

    Sam


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