Wiki-wiki means quick and if you are seeking a quickie solution for collaborating on content, Wikis might just be the key to the quickest and easiest way to get the work done. A wiki is a unique website that allows YOU, your students, your colleagues, or anyone with a computer and access to the internet, to become the Editor in Chief. With the busy world that we live in wiki’s provide the ideal solution for many hands to make light work, with the ability to collaborate on any work topic you can imagine. Anyone can create a wiki and once most wikis are started most anyone can add to it, fix it, erase it or share it, meaning that wiki’s are living, growing and changing websites.
In Solomon and Schrum’s (2007) book titled, Web 2.0: New Tools, New Schools, they describe Web 2.0 tools and proclaim Wikipedia as a pinnacle example of these collaborative technologies, “The new Web is open and democratic. There are no gatekeepers; most content is available without charge, and anyone may add to its volume of knowledge. The best example is Wikipedia. Developed by Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia is a collaborative encyclopedia that includes more entries on more subjects than the Encyclopedia Britannica (with about as good an accuracy rate), and the entries are created and updated by more people than you can imagine” (p. 14). Wikipedia is the free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit and it is massive with over 2,963,000 articles, as of July 25, 2009. Edited by thousands upon thousands of people, Richardson (2008) states that “edits appear at a rate of around 400,000 per day” and he correctly believes that “Wikipedia is one of the most important sites for educators to understand. It represents the potential of collaboration on the Web” (pp. 56-57). I like to think of Wikis as living, dynamic entities and am amazed by the truly collaborative nature of these sites. An à propos example: there is a discussion tab on the Wikipedia article, Dynamic web page, and the discussion is titled Talk:Dynamic web page. The talk on Wikipedia about the topic of dynamic web pages is very interesting and a great example of how an article’s accuracy and editing can proceed on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is just one of the projects that is owned and operated by Wikimedia. The Wikimedia homepage states that “Wikimedia is owned and operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit foundation dedicated to bringing free content to the world.” The various Wikimedia projects include:
- Wikipedia, the widely known living encyclopedia;
- Wiktionary, a multi-lingual dictionary has a great Word of the Day feature on the homepage;
- Wikiquotes, a collection of quotations which already has over 16,900 articles;
- Wikibooks has open-content textbooks and with over 30,100 + modules in the English version of this project, this is one wiki that educators should keep their eyes on;
- Wikisource is subtitled as “the free library that anyone can improve and on the welcome page it explains that “Wikisource is an online library of free content publications, collected and maintained by our community. We now have 129,462 texts in the English language library. See our inclusion policy and help pages for information on getting started, and the community portal for ways you can contribute. Feel free to ask questions on the community discussion page, and to experiment in the sandbox;”
- Wikinews has over 15, 000 articles at this time on the English version of this project;
- Wikiversity is Wikimedia’s Open Learning Community project which they state is “devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning;”
- Wikispecies is a free species directory and the homepage exclaims, “It covers Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Bacteria, Archaea, Protista and all other forms of life. So far we have 192,429 taxonomic entries. Wikispecies is free, because life is in the public domain!” and I can see this being an excellent resource for learner’s of all ages. I have a niece who will love exploring this site, she has a great interest in all of nature’s living things and I can imagine she could spend hours on this site and will likely return often;
- MediaWiki “is a free software wiki package written in PHP, originally for use on Wikipedia. It is now used by several other projects of the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation and by many other wikis, including this website, the home of MediaWiki;”
- Wikimedia is ”the global community site for the Wikimedia Foundation’s projects, and coordination and documentation of related projects;”
- Wikimedia Commons is “A database of 4,785,977 freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute;” and finally
- Wikimedia Incubator, “where potential Wikimedia project wikis in new language versions of Wikipedia, Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikiquote and Wiktionary can be arranged, written, tested and proven worthy of being hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation.”
One of the Wikimedia projects that I looked at in greater detail was Wikibooks. I found a Business Writing Wiki textbook. The Business Writing book is intended to assist users with overcoming common challenges people find when they must create business documents and it is organized with tools to help streamline the process of business writing with tools that enhance the effectiveness of approaches to business writing. I can see using just such a resource for our Cooperative Education program and also believe it to be a great resource for our Business Career Services office to provide well-organized, business writing advice to all business students. It is noted on the wiki page for this text that “Much of the initial content of this entry was drawn from http://writingforresults.net/. The original author of this entry is also the author of WritingForResults.net. That Web site provides much more detail on each of the steps outlined in this Wikibook.” I believe I would feel most comfortable sharing the Wikibook version though because it is clear and easy to know the permissions I am granted to use this material. The licensing terms for all textbooks on Wikibooks has authors/contributors irrevocably release their contributions under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0 and the GFDL. As an educator, I can freely share and adapt textbooks from Wikibooks as long as I follow Wikibooks policies. It is refreshing to find a “human-readable summary of the full license” on the creative commons license page which makes it easy to understand Wikibooks usage policy and which I have copied here for blog readers to see just how straight forward and simple it can be to share, use or update Wikibooks:
Creative Commons Deed
This is a human-readable summary of the full license below.
You are free:
- to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work, and
- to Remix — to adapt the work
Under the following conditions:
- Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work.)
- Share Alike — If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same, similar or a compatible license.
With the understanding that:
- Waiver — Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
- Other Rights — In no way are any of the following rights affected by the license:
- Notice — For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do that is with a link to http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
The “human-readable summary” is followed by the complete Wikibooks Creative Commons License policy.
There are also a whole host of Wiki sites that are independent of Wikimedia. One of the sites I looked at was Wikia which has a broad range of topics and appears to include many entertainment and gaming wikis. According to Wikipedia, “Wikia (formerly Wikicities) is a free web hosting service for wikis (or wiki farms) which targets communities, both those established offline and those with a purely online following. It is free of charge for readers and editors, deriving its income from advertising, and publishes all user-provided text under copyleft licenses.” Wikia is an enjoyable site to visit and I liked visiting some of the biggest wikis on Wikia where you can find:
- WoWWiki: The largest wiki on Wikia, with more than 75,000 articles on the World of Warcraft;
- Familypedia – the Genealogy Wiki — over 35,500 articles and info pages about your relatives;
- The Psychology Wiki: A resource for psychologists with over 25,500 articles;
- Uncyclopedia: Over 24,500 pages, some of which aren’t about Oscar Wilde or Kitten Huffing; and
- Recipes Wiki: Over 47,500 delicious recipes to tempt your taste buds to name just of few of the BIG Wikis on Wikia.
Wikia has a help webpage with informative videos on wiki’s in general and specific Wikia help topics. There is also a step by step Wikia Getting Started help page where the site author begins the assistance with a comforting note that “Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a tech wizard to edit a wiki. If you can use a word processor, you can probably edit a wiki.”
Watch this informative video from Wikia which provides a brief look at what a wiki is all about:
As noted in the video, Wiki’s are always changing and improving and the content improves as more people contribute and the community grows stronger which creates “a powerful, positive cycle!”
I truly enjoyed checking out Wikia and am sure that it can be used in a number of educational contexts. I invite you to go to the Wikia homepage and enter the topic Harry Potter in the field for the question “What do you love?” I completed a course in Children’s Literature when I was in doing my undergraduate degree and I could have imagined using this wiki as a tool in my learning; Can you imagine using wiki’s in schools?
Another wiki site that is independent of Wikimedia is PikiWiki. It is a wiki site where you can quickly create a web page and have your friends, family, peers or colleagues join you in adding content. There is no software to install and with just a few quick drags and drops you will be quickly on your way to telling a story. It’s as easy as pasting photos or video’s and adding audio, video or text captions and you can collaborate with friends who can also add pictures, videos and comments. This site would be a great place to quickly and easily share a story about any event. PikiWiki has a page dedicated to a quick list of how you might use their site. 10 Things you can do with PikiWiki, is sure to give you some ideas for starting your own online wiki, here is a brief summary of PikiWiki ideas and some links to sample PikiWiki pages to give you an idea about how you might use PikiWiki:
1) Document a reunion, wedding or other event. Everyone can contribute! Gather all the photos, video and stories from a class reunion, wedding or other event! View a sample of how one family captured and shared their Hawaii Vacation/Wedding with PikiWiki.
2) Don’t just send an E-mail, send a PikiWiki Page instead! No more full mailboxes, bounced or lost emails. By sending a link to a PikiWiki page, your friends and family can view all the photos, plus descriptions by simply clicking on a web link. See a sample of a Play Date at the Park PikiWiki page.
3) Your camera can shoot video clips? Share them too! Drag video clips, music files, and photos to a PikiWiki page and arrange them anyway you like. Add some text to explain it all. One family made a PikiWiki to share their Summer Video Clips.
4) Make a “For Sale” flyer. Put together an online flyer with pictures and text describing the items? Then just include the link with your posting on your community email list. With a PikiWiki Page Sale Items can be displayed and described.
5) Create an online baby book. Include a snapshot, video clip, along with audio and text captions describing all those little milestones. Maintain and update over two years and you have a nice video record of their development! Click here to see a sample PikiWiki Baby Book.
6) Piece together your family history. Old photos from our parents or even grandparents can be built into a PikiWiki Family History Page where family can share and build together to develop a narrative which explains who is in the photo and what the story is behind these old pictures.
7) Create a living school year book. The whole class can contribute and the PikiWiki High School Year Book will be a great tool to return to for class reunions.
8) Send a newsletter! Build a PikiWiki page with the latest family or school news and send everyone a link. This is one of the ways that I think I would use PikiWiki, for both professional and personal use.
9) Get opinions on an upcoming purchase. A wonderful PikiWiki feature is that it allows you to drag and drop photos from websites right onto a page. Considering a new purchase? See how one user put together a discussion/decision PikiWiki Purchase Decision Page to help decide which table she wanted to buy.
10) Creative? Share Creatively! Show of your creative talent with a PikiWiki Art Gallery or other creative endeavors. Quickly build a PikiWiki page or two with pictures or video of your art. Arrange pictures, add captions, and change the color of the page.
Want to hear more about how fun and easy it is to start a wiki in PikiWiki? Visit PikiWiki and view the very well done, PikiWiki video. As you can see from the site and the video “PikiWiki is different than a traditional, structured Wiki in that it neither requires nor uses any special markup language. PikiWiki is not intended as a replacement for traditional Wikis, but rather represents a new way for casual, quick and easy collaboration, especially when multiple forms of media are involved, not just text.” Some of the main advantages of PikiWiki’s that I see are the ease of use for even the most non-technically savvy user, the possibility to control who can contribute to the content and the ability to create “groups with other users to privately collect and collaborate on web pages together.”
PikiWiki and Wikia are very quick and easy to use and I found great enjoyment in exploring both wikis. There are many more that I took a quick look at and although I did not explore them in detail I am sure that each one of them has their place in the world of collaboration and sharing. Here are a few additional wiki sites you might like to explore: PBWorks, Wetpaint and Wikispaces. For a thorough list of notable wiki software visit Wikipedia’s List of wikis webpage.
There are ample articles that speak directly to the use of Wiki’s as educational tools and I can see how it would be particularly beneficial in keeping ties with our students while they are off campus doing work placements. In Cooperative Education we could create knowledge repositories that students and staff contribute to on topics like, how to prepare for an interview, transitioning to the workplace, and dealing with conflict in the workplace, to name just a few. Students can visit and contribute while they are off campus and this could lead to a greater sense of community where they can interact and contribute to their peers learning and development, even though they are no longer together in the classroom. According to Schwartz et al. (2004), “Wikis may also exhibit some of the elements that Wenger (2001) considers fundamental to the creation of successful communities of practice – among them, a virtual presence, a variety of interactions, easy participation, valuable content, connections to a broader subject field, personal and community identity and interaction, democratic participation, and evolution over time. Many wikis also have a core group or individual that takes active responsibility for directing the community. They provide a forum for learners to discuss topics and obtain information relating to courses, extra curricular activities and associations in their fields of interest” (p.2). Wikis enhance, “Peer interaction and group work, and facilitates sharing and distributing
knowledge and expertise among a community of learners” (Parker & Chao, 2007, p. 58). Wikis could be used to create interactive activities built on topics relevant to Cooperative Education.
Duffy and Bruns (2006) list several possible educational uses of wikis:
- Students can use a wiki to develop research projects, with the wiki serving as ongoing documentation of their work.
- Students can add summaries of their thoughts from the prescribed readings, building a collaborative annotated bibliography on a wiki.
- A wiki can be used for publishing course resources like syllabi and handouts, and students can edit and comment on these directly for all to see.
- Teachers can use wikis as a knowledge base, enabling them to share reflections and thoughts regarding teaching practices, and allowing for versioning and documentation.
- Wikis can be used to map concepts. They are useful for brainstorming, and editing a given wiki topic can produce a linked network of resources.
- A wiki can be used as a presentation tool in place of conventional software, and students are able to directly comment on and revise the presentation content.
- Wikis are tools for group authoring. Often group members collaborate on a document by emailing to each member of the group a file that each person edits on their computer, and some attempt is then made to coordinate the edits so that everyone’s work is equally represented; using a wiki pulls the group members together and enables them to build and edit the document on a single, central wiki page.
“Intellectually, Web 2.0 signals a transition from isolation to interconnectedness—not just for programmers but, more important, for end users. The tools allow multiple users to participate: editing, commenting, and polishing a document collaboratively rather than working alone” (Solomon & Schrum, 2007, p. 13). I deem wiki’s to be the truest example of Web 2.0 of all of the tools that I have considered for my class and for my blog, thus far.
Duffy, P. & Bruns, A. (2006). The use of blogs, wikis and RSS in education: A conversation of possibilities. Proceedings of the Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006, Brisbane: September 26. Excerpt taken from Parker & Chao (2007) article listed below, pp. 60-61.
Parker, K R & Chao J T (2007). Wiki as a Teaching Tool. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects Volume 3, Retrieved July 25, 2009, from http://ijklo.org/Volume3/IJKLOv3p057-072Parker284.pdf
Richardson, W. (2008). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. (Second Edition.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Schwartz, L., Clark, S., Cossarin, M., & Rudolph, J. (2004). Educational wikis: Features and selection criteria. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Retrieved July 25, 2009, from http://cde.athabascau.ca/softeval/reports/R270311.pdf
Solomon, G. and Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0: New tools, new schools. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.