Wikis for Writing Projects

Wikis are finally becoming more mainstream. I attribute wiki-awareness to the increasing use of wikis and how the software has developed to meet the needs of regular, non-technical users. For instance, you don’t need to know HTML to write a wiki page, you can quickly create a wiki and start putting it together in minutes, you can work collaboratively with others on a wiki site, and you don’t have to worry about losing a thing, since wikis offer page history.

I’ve been using pbwiki for some time, and I have always liked it. It used to have this really cumbersome sign on process, but they’ve improved this, so it is pretty easy to invite people and have them join your wiki. However, students have access to Google Apps through Boise State, which allows them to use Google Sites. While I’m still troubleshooting some issues with Google Sites, I feel it will be a very strong competitor to pbwiki and other web-based, free wiki services.

How can wikis be used in writing projects? Remember, a wiki is a collaborative tool, so writing projects using a wiki should include a collaborative aspect. Following are some ideas:

  1. A group brainstorming space, addressing a problem-based learning activity.
  2. A space where students can post writing and invite peer-editing/commenting to their writing.
  3. A group research space, where students post research and other resources found in preparation for a research paper.
  4. A space for students to post and organize content, developing a rich repository of content.
  5. A “messy” space where students post content, notes, and ideas, with the intent of bringing it together in a coherent, meaningful manner. A wiki could also be the platform for this final product.

Wikis serve as an asynchronous way for students to collaborate, share, and contribute to the editing and revising of content/writing. They are stable, always available from any computer and don’t require any special skills to get started. You can also install widgets that translate pages, embed videos, and enable online chatting (synchronous). With all of the neat tools of a wiki, it makes sense to use them when you need students to collaborate online. There ARE some necessary steps you can take to make wikis more likely to work in your classroom. I’ll talk about those tomorrow!

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