National Writing Project

Digital Toolbox: Wikis

Date: December 19, 2008

Summary: A wiki is a powerful online collaborative tool for composing and editing text, as well as an easy-to-use platform for developing a Web presence.

 

A wiki, from the Hawaiian word meaning "quick," allows teachers and students to create and edit Web pages collaboratively. No special software is needed; only an Internet browser is required. Wikis are relatively fast to create and easy to update, mainly because users can revise a Web page while reading it.

Probably the best-known example of a wiki is Wikipedia , the online collaborative encyclopedia that can be edited by any reader. Some of the more popular wikis for educational use are Wikispaces , pbwiki , and Wetpaint . Each has its own look and feel and all have been used successfully by writing project teachers for various purposes.

Why Wikis?

Wikis have a number of features that make them useful to writing teachers:

  • Wikis are often available free of charge.
  • Most wikis allow for various levels of editorial control, giving teachers the ability to manage and safeguard student privacy and authorship.
  • Since wiki pages are stored online, they can be accessed by teachers and students from any computer with an Internet connection and a standard browser.

Wikis can be created to serve as a repository for classroom writing activities, to showcase local site work online, and to connect with other classrooms across the country. They can also be used for larger collaborative writing efforts where several writers compose a text together.

On the downside, wikis may not offer the formatting controls and design options that other Web publishing platforms afford.

Requirements for Use

Users generally must create an account to set up a wiki. Since wikis exist online, users must have Internet access and a Web browser. Most wiki services for teachers are free but may include advertising.

Related Resource Topics

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