The Wiki can change the world…as long as we said it did.

Wikiality: the concept that “together we can create a reality that we all agree on—the reality we just agreed on.” (Stephen Colbert)

The premise of wikiality is that reality is what the wiki says it is. On Wikipedia “any user can change any entry, and if enough users agree with them, it becomes true.”

Stephen Colbert called Wikipedia a “battlefield for information”, a tool which “brings democracy to information” and moves away from the views of the “elite who study things and got to say what is or is not real”.

Colbert also told his viewers to go onto Wikipedia, in the article elephants, and to edit it so that it would say: “Elephant population in Africa has tripled over the past six months.” The suggestion resulted in numerous incorrect changes to Wikipedia articles related to elephants and Africa. Editing of the concerned articles was restricted to prevent further unhelpful edits.

All joking aside, the Wiki is actually a great tool that can be used as a classroom instructional tool or as a professional collaborative tool among teachers.  By definition, a wiki is a website that allows users to collaboratively create and edit web pages using a web browser.  This makes a wiki the perfect online venue for students to collaborate on instructional tasks.

Some of the many advantages of wikis are:

  • Relatively simple technology, there is no predetermined structure, and additions and edits are instantaneous.
  • There are no real technical skills needed so your students (and you) can get right to work.
  • The editing feature tracks all edits so you can always revert back to previous versions of the work.
  • Promotes “real-world” collaboration skills
  • Assessable – easy for the teacher to track “who contributed what.”
  • A wiki is a great forum for formative assessment as the teacher can see the evolution of a project or piece of writing over time.
  • Pools strengths of many

There is even evidence that wikis are superior to other collaborative forms of working:

  • Fosters richer communication than synchronous communication (Mabrito, 2006 cited in Orech, 2007)
  • Online collaborative writing produces higher quality writing than face-to-face collaboration(Passig and Schwartz, 2007)
  • The collaborative aspect of having students working together on a wiki increases their problem solving  and collaborative skills (Mabrito & Medle, 2008).

I need to be clear about this.  The Wiki is ONLY THE TOOL. The teaching and learning comes about with a GREAT INSTRUCTIONAL TASK .  The collaborative research and writing process is what works.  The aforementioned research tells us that good teaching today requires: Experimentation, Co-Creation of Evaluation and Content, No Fear of Failure (risk-taking is encouraged!).  The wiki is a tool to help you get there!

That being said, here are a few ways to use a wiki in your class or school:

  • Staff collaboration
  • Group assignments of all kinds
  • Booktalks
  • Battle of the Books – summaries and discussions
  • Class information wiki: Let parents and students know what your class is up to, put in a calendar, Upload newsletters and permission forms in case they get ‘lost’ in someone’s bag
  • Whole class projects: Students make X-number of pages relating to a research topic and link to their classmates’ work
  • Group projects: 3, 4, 5 + students can collaborate on reports, presentations etc without that classic excuse “James is away sick and he has all of the work!“
  • Organizing an event of any kind: All members of the committee can work on the planning.
  • Curriculum planning: Link to resources, upload worksheets and lesson plans.
  • Organizing a sporting tournament: Dates, contact details, etc…
  • Collaborative story writing: Students can work together on stories
  • Subject revision and synthesis: Students contribute to revision guides

There is an ever-expanding list of wiki providers (they are all hyperlinked) but some of the best are:

My preference is Google Sites or Docs as they both work with a Google Account and integrate with many, many other useful apps.

Until next time.

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About mitchchampagne

I am a husband of one, and a father of three. I am am elementary teacher for the Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland & Clarington Catholic District School Board and a part-time Faculty member at the School of Education and Professional Learning, Trent University.
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