Using Wiki Tools in the Classroom

Instructor: Sudha Aravindan

Sudha has a Doctor of Education degree in math education and is currently working as a Information Technology Specialist.

Educational Wikis are useful tools in the classroom because they provide for a collaborative learning environment. In this lesson we will discuss different wikis, such as Wikispaces Classroom and PBworks, and learn and how they can be used in a classroom.

What is a Wiki?

In general, a wiki is a website that allows for real time collaboration where a number of people can add their thoughts and ideas and contribute to the same project at the same time. An example of a wiki that we all know is Wikipedia. Wikipedia describes itself as a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

Educational Wikis

Wikis are popular for education because they bring technology to the classroom. Educational wikis are wikis that are customized for educational purposes.

Wikispaces Classroom allows teachers to create a learning environment on the web using simple editing tools that students can learn easily and are fun to use. PBWorks wiki has an educational component that allows the teacher to create a web presence for students' work. Both of these sites promote interactive student learning because students are able to showcase their work and interact with each other in real time.

Read on to learn a little more about these two commonly used educational wikis.

Wikispaces Classroom

One of the wikis available for education is Wikispaces Classroom. In Wikispaces Classroom, the teacher can create a free 'classroom' where the students can join to enter the virtual classroom experience. Instead of the teacher writing on the board and the students taking notes in a notebook or on a computer, both teacher and students can login to their virtual classroom and write on the same wiki board.

In Wikispaces Classroom, everyone can see what others have written, which assignments have been completed, view upcoming events on the calendar, and even have discussions with classmates and teachers. The Wikispaces classroom can be used interactively with all the students and the teacher within the same physical classroom, where the teacher can physically monitor the students' work. Wikispaces classroom can also be effectively used in an online or virtual classroom where the students and the teacher are in different locations and everyone is working on the same project in real time!

PBWorks Wiki

Another popular wiki available for education is PBWorks. This is similar to Wikispaces Classroom and can be accessed from any mobile environment including a computer, tablet, or smart phone. It allows for a collaborative learning environment and a searchable knowledge base where students can showcase their work and get automatic notifications about upcoming projects.

PBWorks also allows for creating student accounts without having to use email addresses, and a free account with options to upgrade. Similar to the Wikispaces classroom, PBWorks can be used for both face-to-face and virtual or online classes. Wiki files and documents can be easily shared with others for editing and discussions.

Wiki Editing Tools

Wiki editing tools are usually intuitive and easy to use, similar to editing a Word document. All wikis have a guide on how to create and edit a wiki page. In Wikispaces Classroom for example, to edit a page all you need to do is to click on the Edit tool to make the page editable. This means that you will now be able to add or delete text or images. You have options to change the font size, and font color, and to make the text bold, or italicized. For example you can make the heading a different color text and font size.

Some Common Wiki Features

Wikis have different features that allow for collaborative access. Think of a traditional classroom where students and teachers work on a project. They talk to each other, discuss ideas and get feedback verbally. Using a wiki, the same verbal interactions can be accomplished in a technological environment where there is not much verbal discussion. Instead the interaction is mostly through written words and online communication.

Event Scheduling

One useful tool available in a wiki is the event or scheduling tool. You can create events on the wiki, and add them to the calendar along with the relevant dates and times. All students and teachers connected to the Wiki classroom will be able to see the upcoming events as well as the dates and times. Some wikis like PBWorks have the capability to automatically send notifications about upcoming events.

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