Wiki - User-Created Content

A Wiki (see Wikipedia's definition) is a easy to use webpage that anyone can edit. This site itself is an example of a "wiki." Invented by Ward Cunningham, wikis are a read/write web technology that allow for easy, fast, and collaborative websites to be built without the need for special software or a lot of training.

Wikis - A beginner's tutorial for educators

A Wiki Walk-Through, from TeachersFirst. A great tutorial about what a wiki is, why to use wikis in education, and how to use wikis in education

You might say that a wiki is a web-based tool that trades simplicity in design for sophisticated multi-user publishing capability--all from a common web browser. As such, a wiki can be used in three basic ways:
  1. Simple Web Publishing
    First, a wiki can serve as an easy web-publishing tool that is managed by a single individual. Whereas a blog can serve a simlar function, a blog has an inherent chronological structure which is limiting. A wiki, on the other hand, has the capacity to allow for the organization of data in either a hierarchical or hyperlink fashion, according to the designs of the publisher. With no expense for a web publishing program, and with the independence of being able to work from any computer with a connection to the Internet and a web browser, a wiki is an incredibly effective tool for writing to the web.
  2. Joint Web Publishing
    Second, a wiki can be "partially collaborative." Multiple individuals, again only requiring access to a web browser, can participate together in the building of information in one website. In a "partially collaborative" wiki, while they are publishing together to a single website, their content does not overlap and may be delegated or assigned.
  3. Fully Collaborative Web Publishing
    Third (and clearly the real "magic" of wikis), a wiki can be "fully collaborative." In this method of using a wiki, multiple individuals work together and often work on the same content. Wikipedia is a good example of a fully-collaborative wiki. While it might seem that allowing many people the ability to work on, modify, or overwrite each others work would result in chaos, it typically results in the participants choosing to write in a thoughtful, non-partisan fashion so that others will feel comfortable with the content and minimizing the need for a tug-of-war. Most wiki software allows for a mirrored "discussion" page for each page of content, where contributors can actually talk over the content of the page and their feelings about how it should be presented. A good example of a "fully collaborative" wiki that many people are familiar with is Wikipedia. Wikipedia allows anyone to edit any page that they want to, with pretty amazing results.

Why do Wikis work so well? There are five elements that, in combination, are the "secret sauce" to wikis:
  1. You edit in them in a browser, without the need for specilized programs;
  2. You can link to uncreated page, so the organization of the wiki can be created on the fly--without interfering with creativity or interrupting the thought process;
  3. Wikis keep a chronological history for every page, so nothing is lost forever, no changes can be completely destructive, and revisions can always be undone;
  4. Wikis include a discussion area, so there can be a dialogue about changes before, during, and after they are being made;
  5. And finally, and in some ways most significantly, you can monitor a wiki or a particular page and receive notification of any changes to that page--which is why an error in a site like Wikipedia can be corrected in a matter of a few minutes.

Published Articles

  • Fountain, Renee. (2005). Wiki pedagogy, Dossiers technopedagogiques (Dossiers pratiques). Retrieved March 20, 2007, from "This article endeavours to denote and promote pedagogical experimentations concerning a Free/Open technology called a "Wiki". An intensely simple, accessible and collaborative hypertext tool Wiki software challenges and complexifies traditional notions of - as well as access to - authorship, editing, and publishing. Usurping official authorizing practices in the public domain poses fundamental - if not radical - questions for both academic theory and pedagogical practice."

  • Wikis for Teaching and Learning - From Communications of the Association for Information Systems (CAIS), Volume 18, Article 1. The authors interviewed several university instructors who use wikis for coursework and created helpful use cases. Excerpt from abstract: "(1) Wikis can be can be used for a variety of tasks ranging from signup sheet for students to self organize, to undertaking business analyses, to analyzing policy positions; (2) Instructor support and facilitation is key; and (3) Ease-of-use issues are present but do not preclude success." Login and Password required.