What is a wiki?
When you hear the word "wiki" you might immediately think of Wikipedia, the "free encyclopedia" that anyone can edit. While this is the most commonly known wiki, this is just one example. Educause describes a wiki as "a Web page that can be viewed and modified by any- body with a Web browser and access to the Internet." A wiki Web page or site allows for easy editing and revising with a single or multiple contributors. Inherently flexible, wikis are very easy to learn quickly and get started with right away.
The creator can set different levels of permission ranging from public (anyone can view the content and anyone can edit) to protected (anyone can view the content, but only members can edit) to private (an account and password is required to view or edit the content). Please see the video below for an introduction to setting up and working with wikis using my favorite wiki service, Wikispaces.
How can wikis support collaborative work?
Since multiple authors can contribute to a single wiki site, it's an ideal tool to support collaborative work. While the same is true for collaborative word processors like Google Docs or Word Online, a wiki can be organized with multiple pages and can include any type of digital media, including embedded videos and other Web services. Contributors can add to, edit, or provide comments on the content from anywhere using any modern Web browser - there's no software to install.
From the instructor's point of view, wikis have one key advantage over many other collaborative tools - the ability to track who has contributed what to the site. For any page on a wiki site, you can view a history of the changes. Each time someone logs in to edit the content, you can click on that version of the page to see exactly what they added or deleted from that page. In this way, the quantity and quality of individual contributions can be clearly viewed and tracked.
How can I get started using wikis in my teaching?
In the following video, I walk you through creating your first wiki and highlight the key features of a wiki that you might find useful to support collaborative work.
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