TEACHING TIPS – Using wikis for collaborative writing and publishing

A wiki is a web site with pages that can be easily edited by anyone the site owner grants permission to, without the users needing to know anything about HTML.  The user clicks “edit” to make changes to a page, types the changes into an editing window, and then uses a toolbar with options similar to what’s available in a word processing program to format text.  Editing pages on a wiki takes a small learning curve, depending on the wiki software the site owner is using, but students tend to pick it up quickly.  They can add or change text, insert images or videos, create links to other pages or outside sources, and so on.

Wikis are increasingly popular in the classroom because they allow students to be co-creators of class content.  Because wikis can be visible to anyone on the internet, they also help students think carefully about their audience and purpose.  You might use a wiki for content designed to be used mainly by students in the class, or you might ask students to design a wiki to be used for an outside audience and purpose.

As an example, my first-year writing students are designing and contributing to a wiki that contains comparative analyses of web-based tools that are useful for college students, with a target audience of college students in general who are looking to accomplish specific tasks for their course work.

This YouTube video provides a good general overview of the concept of wikis: Wikis in Plain English

Anyone can manage a wiki by using a free wiki hosting site.  Here are three popular sites that let you create your own wiki and control features such as who can view and edit pages:

I’ve used Wikidot in the past with good success. This link takes you to a sample format page I made to show students what kinds of formatting options are available. I used that Wikidot site in Spring 2010, and I chose the blue and tan theme from among a variety of themes that change the overall look of the site.

Now I use a free program called DokuWiki that I installed onto the site that hosts my own domain names. You can see what DokuWiki looks like in the screen shot below.

Click on the thumb nail to see the full image.