Why Use Wikis In The Classroom?

A coworker of mine recently asked me for feedback on some ideas she had for creating a wiki in her classroom.  Her platform of choice was Google Sites, a terrific resource for using create class wikis.  During past school years, I have used both Google Sites and PB Works to create class wikis. While both sites worked well, I now prefer using Google Sites because A) students can easily login with their Google student email account, and B) I appreciate how seamless Sites ties into the other Google Apps we use.

I'm partial to Google Sites for class wikis.

After hearing the great ideas my coworker wanted to try in the classroom, she asked if I thought that a wiki would really be appropriate for what she wanted to do. This led me to think about what the real purpose of a wiki actually is.

I’ve seen many different student created wikis online and know that many educators would swear their pensions on their effectiveness. I’ve seen amazing examples of wikis I’ve wanted to copy to use in my own class, and I’ve also seen wikis I’ve wanted to avoid like the bubonic plague.  The difference isn’t so much in their design or the aesthetics, it’s in what function the wiki serves (or does not serve).
In my mind, the point of a wiki is to share knowledge. If students are not sharing knowledge with other students but keeping it to themselves, is it really a true wiki? A true repository of shared information? And as the teacher, if I am not designing a lesson or an experience that encourages the students to actually use the information their classmates have obtained to further their own knowledge, have I achieved what the point of making a wiki is?  If all I want to do is to have students learn something by themselves and horde that information to themselves, then maybe a class wiki isn’t the tool I should be using.

Beware of horrible wikis with no direction, ye!

As with most tools in the classroom (technology related or not), its best to have a clear idea of what tool you’re using and why.  To simply use a tool because it’s trendy is a waste of your time and the student’s.  But, trends are trends for a reason.
(By the way: I thought a wiki was a perfect tool to use for a coworker of mine. Case you were wondering.)

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3 thoughts on “Why Use Wikis In The Classroom?

  1. Well, I do see your point and I totally agree with everything you say. However, I do see other ways you can use wikis. We use wikispaces. We use the space as an online lesson portal. We find that it is easy for our younger students to follow the directions with the links provided.

    Basically, we have three types of wikis:
    1. Content Related Wikis: http://edge-wiki.wikispaces.com/Middle+
    2. Professional Development Wikis
    http://edge-wiki.wikispaces.com/Professional+Development
    3. Teacher/Classroom wikis
    http://edge-wiki.wikispaces.com/Teacher+Webpages

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