Home > Strategy > 7 Reasons, 6 Tips and 3 Uses: Wikis In The Classroom

7 Reasons, 6 Tips and 3 Uses: Wikis In The Classroom


It’s been a while since I’ve used wikis in a class (last May I believe), so I thought I needed to remind myself why I liked using them and how I made it work by writing a blog post. If you find this useful, please share  and comment below!
Reasons For Using Wikis
  1. Honor Each Student Using social media such as wikis helps you honor the ideas of each student. Engage your students and let them know that their ideas are valued – give them a platform to share their understandings, and they will.
  2. Make Understanding Transparent When using a wiki that is accessible with any web browser all students can access the knowledge of their classmates even if they are too shy to talk in class or those who miss a day or even weeks.
  3. Teach Your Students To Reference Ideas Wikis are a very easy way for students to begin referencing other work because they can easily put in links to other web based sources
  4. Learn Digital Citizenship Getting your students working on social media gives you an opportunity to teach digital citizen, and allow students to learn how to become effective ‘knowers’ in the 21st century
  5. Use Multimedia Students can add multimedia to their notes/work; links, video, pictures, interactive web applets, cartoons, etc.
  6. Engage Students similar to #1, but specifically focus on the fact that students will be doing work instead of teacher.
  7. Track Student Work Wikis are one of the few tools that allows you to see exactly which user has done what. Use the history function to track student work and edits to know who has been engaged.
Tips For Making Wikis Work In The Classroom
  1. Set Clear Expectations√ The best way to deal with problem behavior is to avoid it with clear expectations. Talk to your students about being good citizens online, and have clear expectations. Students respond well to candid discussions on this topic.
  2. Provide Descriptive Feedback :) Take a few minutes early in the use of wikis to show students the type of ‘posts’ that are productive and effective, and tell them why. Point out ‘posts’ that are less effective, and tell them why.
  3. Structures Help! Using wikis will be very different, so think carefully about how you structure such a lesson in advance. Usually only one user can edit at once. I brought 25 people online to work on 13 wikis (representing 13 concepts). The first time I did this I made 13 bright yellow sheets of paper with the title of each wiki page on one yellow sheet. In pairs, users were told to only edit a wiki if they had the corresponding sheet. Every 5 minutes we switched sheets, until each group had the chance to add to each wiki/idea.
  4. Scaffold Skills If you want students to do research to find media or information, you need to show them how. You may also need to show them how to reference information, use a wiki, take turns, collaborate, share, respond to classmates, etc. If you don’t teach it, don’t expect them to know how!
  5. Provide Frameworks consider providing structures such as questions for them to answer (please don’t turn a wiki into a worksheet!), graphic organizers for sorting research findings, etc. – anything to help students organize their thoughts and get them started.
  6. Be Present The most important thing you can do for your students is be present while they are working. Circle around the classroom frequently, ask students to show you what they have so far. Question them, and have them question you. If you’re not a part of the learning process than why are you getting paid?
Suggested Uses of Wikis During Learning
  1. As a KWL Chart (what I Know, what I Want to know, and what I Learned) The first time I used wikis in class, small groups shared a wiki throughout a two-week unit of study. I posted over-arching questions on the wiki, and the individuals in the group added and updated it. At the end they had a nice document with pictures, text, links, videos and interactive applets that helped them understand the content.
  2. As A Unit Review I’ve seen a few teachers using wikis at the end of a unit to put together interactive multi-media based notes and questions. In these cases the community knowledge had been less of a focus but the simplicity of a wiki expedited student work.
  3. As The Knowledge of the Classroom It is important to honor the ideas and understandings of every student in your classroom. By using wikis you can give each student an opportunity to share their understanding on a topic; a picture, graph, video, experience, applet or other website/resource that helps them represent their understanding. I seen a math teacher once have students use wikis to explain a data set – at the end there were various types of graphs, links images and explanations which became a valuable way for students to gain the perspective of their peers.

I hope I’ve given you some fresh ideas for using wikis in school. These ideas have developed out of work I have done with my district and with my colleague, Susana Gerndt. I would be interested in hearing your feedback in the comments below! :)

This post is the third in a series of posts I call “Reasons and Tips”

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