17: What's a Wiki?

A wiki is a collaborative website and authoring tool that allows users to easily add, remove and edit content.

Some of the benefits that make wikis so attractive are:
  • Anyone (registered or unregistered, if unrestricted) can add, edit or delete content.
  • Tracking tools within wikis allow you to easily keep up on what been changed and by whom.
  • Earlier versions of a page can be viewed and reinstated when needed.
  • Users do not need to know HTML to add and edit content.
Blogs vs. Wikis
For an odd but interesting discussion of the differences between wikis and blogs, take a look at this decidedly pro-wiki (and pro-Kennedy) video from YouTube.

Wikis typically work one of two ways – an open model where anyone is invited to contribute or a closed model where a select group are invited to contribute. Either way, it is an exercise in collaboration and trust – whomever contributes is expected to meet certain standards of quality and accuracy and should expect, should they not reach these standards, that another participant will edit their contributions. The goal is to use a wiki to create a collaborative piece of information, sharing the knowledge of all contributors.

Discovery Exercise
Now it's time to read some wikis and learn what you can do with them. Check out 3-5 of the wikis below. Explore their organization and content.

Some K-12 Wikis
  • Discovery Utopias - Middle school students come to a collaborative consensus about what a society truly needs in order to reach for perfection and sustainability. Click the Discovery Utopias link at the bottom of the navigation area (just above the visitor map) to view the student projects.
  • Great Debate 2008 - Collaborative project that provides students in grades 8-12 with an opportunity to lead an exploration and discussion of issues and candidates surrounding the 2008 presidential election.
  • Greetings from the World - A high school teacher in Croatia invites people from all over the world to share about their home countries using the Glogster "digital collage" tool (mentioned in Thing 12). An ongoing, ever-growing collection of posts. Winner of the 2009 Edublog Award for Best Educational Wiki.
  • Holocaust Wiki Project - AP World History students create "branching stories" about families in the Holocaust. "They have to come up with realistic decision points, describe the pros and cons, address the consequences of each decision, and fill it in with a narrative that reflects their research on the Holocaust." (Click Period 1, 2, 3 or 4 at the bottom of the page to view student projects.)
  • Kindergarten Counting Book - Photos to show each number from 1 to 100. (Wetpaint now offers ad-free education wikis.)
  • Kubler Reading - Fourth grade students organize their of study Natalie Babbit's Tuck Everlasting on a wiki.
  • Small Stones - AP Calculus students write their own textbook by "scribe posting" a review of each day's lesson.
  • Thousands Project - Each month, Mr. Monson's fifth grade class posts a new question, hoping to receive 1000 responses from students and visitors from around the world.
  • Welker's Wikinomics - Award-winning project supporting the teaching of AP Economics. Be sure to check out the Discussion Forum.
  • More…
Other Wikis to View…
  • Wikipedia - the open-community encyclopedia, is the largest and perhaps the most well known wiki
  • Wiktionary - a wiki dictionary
  • Wikihow - a collaborative how to manual
  • The Simpsons Wiki - guess how many wiki articles are present on this web site
  • Music Wiki - the music encyclopeida anyone can edit
  • WikiIndex - a wiki guide to wikis


In a blog post, record what new ideas were spurred as you reviewed some of the above wikis. How do the K12 wikis compare to the other wikis listed?  How might you use a wiki in your personal or professional life?  Can you think of a situation where a wiki would make more sense than a blog?

Bonus Material:
Jimmy Wales and the Beginning of Wikipedia
Watch this video from TED to learn more about how Wikipedia began. Hear from Jimmy Wales as he recalls how he created Wikipedia, the self-organizing, self-correcting, never-finished online encyclopedia.

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