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Fresh Ideas: Using Wikis in the Classroom

Getting students to work online is a growing trend in education, and Web sites known as wikis have emerged as a cheap and easy way to do it.

Providing an online environment for students typically involved creating a Web site, registering a domain, building pages and a lot of other fairly technical stuff. Fortunately, wikis allow anyone—from individuals to classrooms to entire schools—to have the equivalent, without the technical hassle. Wikis also are completely editable by anyone. They were designed to be an online forum, where someone could post a piece of information, and others would then edit it, or add to it. This dynamic is perfect in a classroom setting. Unfettered access means students can be involved in a project or lesson any time of day, from literally anywhere in the world.

For those not familiar with wikis, several hosting sites offer background as well as a home to create your own. WikiSpaces is already known in the education community as home to EdCamps professional development conferences. Wikia is another site where users can create their own wikis. Both sites offer a free service in addition to their more involved paid services.

Wikis certainly have a ton of classroom potential. Below, find EducationWorld’s favorite ideas for classroom wiki use. These activities will get students working online in a cost-effective way that even technical novices can set up.

Activities include:

The Fan Club
Start a historical fan club by having students submit their favorite figures from history. The teacher will set up the wiki with pages for each figure. Students then go in and add favorite quotes from, or accomplishments by, these individuals. Students can take it a step further by adding pictures. Everyone will be able to see how the wiki grows and watch the back-and-forth as things are added and edited.

The Debate
This is the classic classroom activity, with a twist. The teacher posts a question, and students debate it. The teacher serves as the moderator to ensure that everything remains civil, but students also have a role in maintaining decorum. Wikis, by nature, are self policing, and the exercise is a good way for kids to practice this important 21st-century skill.

The Newsroom
In this scenario, the teacher is the editor. Students post items they think are interesting from their everyday lives at school. Again, the teacher has the responsibility of moderating the wiki so that students don’t post scandalous items or rumors. The activity is a good way to introduce a media-literacy lesson on libel, or a digital-literacy lesson on cyber-bullying.

The Role Reversal
The very nature of a wiki is its edit-ability. Capitalize on that learning opportunity with this activity, where the teacher posts a document containing spelling and grammatical errors. Students then go in and correct any mistakes they find. Teachers can take this a step further by not announcing that there are errors in the document and allowing kids to find mistakes, then take the initiative to edit on their own.

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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