- 1 What is a Wiki?
- 2 Examples of Wikis
- 3 Interesting uses of Wiki technology
- 4 Reading
- 5 Reflection
- 6 The Wikieducator community
- 7 The values of WikiEducator's community
- 8 WikiEducator's learning content
- 9 Types of content on WikiEducator
- 10 Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- 11 External links and resources
What is a Wiki?
The main strength of a wiki is the ability to work collaboratively on the same document with a Internet browser being the only software requirement on the users machine. Consequently, wikis are used for a variety of purposes. If you make a mistake, it's easy to revert back to an earlier version of the document.
The name "Wiki" was chosen by Ward Cunningham -- the creator of the first Wiki. It is a shortened form of "wiki-wiki", the Hawaiian word for quick.
Examples of WikisWikipedia.
Wikipedia is, for the most part, editable by anyone in the world with a computer and an internet connection and, at the time of this writing, contained over 1,500,000 pages. One and a half million pages in English! There are also more than 250,000 articles in German, French, Polish, and Japanese; and more than 100,000 articles in Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portugese, Russian, Swedish, and Chinese. That's nearing 2 million articles or pages!
While Wikipedia's mission is to create an encyclopedic resource of knowledge, wikis can be used for a variety of purposes and are quickly becoming the defacto technology for collaborative group work online. They can be great social tools for classrooms, teams, community groups, or can even be configured to provide easily updatable web sites for organisations.
The following wikis display a range of different applications of wiki technology:
- Wikitravel - a project to create a free, complete, up-to-date, and reliable world-wide travel guide.
- WikiWikiWeb - the first ever wiki, it has been around since 1995.
- eXe Project - an example of how a wiki can be used to run a web site.
- Auckland.Wiki - a city wiki for the people of Auckland, New Zealand.
There are literally thousands of wikis around the web on a diverse range of subjects and supporting many communities.
Many of Wikipedia's sister projects were initiated because the encyclopedia was being cluttered by entries that were not appropriate for an encyclopedia.
Interesting uses of Wiki technology
- British Council Case Study on using a wiki technology to promote collaboration at the office.
- Conference planning, see for example Wikimania 2006
- Wiki as an online presentation tool demonstrated by Meredith Gorran Farkas, a distance education librarian.
- Open Streetmap is a wiki project to provide free geographic data such as street maps to anyone who wants them.
- The Wealth of Networks WikiNotes - This Wiki is an invitation to collaborate on building a learning and research environment based on Yochai Benkler's book, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, available under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Sharealike license.
- Other uses include:
- Meetings (Posting of agendas, prior meeting discussions, minutes)
- Documentation for collaborative projects
- Web space for personal note taking
- If you find a really interesting use of a wiki - please feel free to add this to the list above.
- anyone can edit
- easy to use and learn
- Wikis are instantaneous so there is no need to wait for a publisher to create a new edition or update information
- people located in different parts of the world can work on the same document
- the wiki software keeps track of every edit made and it's a simple process to revert back to a previous version of an article
- widens access to the power of web publishing to non-technical users
- the wiki has no predetermined structure - consequently it is a flexible tool which can be used for a wide range of applications
- there are a wide range of open source software wiki's to choose from so licensing costs shouldn't be a barrier to installing an institutional wiki
Advantages in one context, may be a disadvantage in another.
- Anyone can edit and may be too open for some applications, for example confidential documentation. However it is possible to regulate user access.
- Open to SPAM and Vandalism if not managed properly. There are easy ways to restore a page however, and on WikiEducator you must be logged in to edit pages so this reduces vandalism by automated spam bots.
- Requires Internet connectivity to collaborate, but technologies to produce print versions of articles are improving
- The flexibility of a wiki's structure can mean that information becomes disorganised. As a wiki grows, the community plans and administers the structure collaboratively.
What about quality?
Before proceeding with the discussion activity for this tutorial, you should read the following short article.
The Wall Street Journal Online has an interesting debate between Jimbo Wales of Wikipedia and Dale Hoiberg, editor in chief of Encyclopaedia Britannica, and you may find this to be an interesting read as well.
When comparing closed versus open authoring approaches, it is worth looking at the history of Wikipedia, which has succeeded in creating the largest encyclopedia in history. Wikipedia was preceded by the Nupedia project, which also aimed to build a free content encyclopedia. Nupedia was not an open wiki like Wikipedia and adopted an extensive process of peer review before final publication of an article. After 3.5 years, Nupedia had only completed 24 Articles, with 74 more articles as work in progress. Clearly this authoring model was not scalable, and was a strong motivation for Jimmy Wales, the founder of Nupedia to open up the authoring model by starting the Wikipedia project.
Matt Barton, provides a candid yet light hearted response to your concerns in a posting on a list, which is repeated here for convenience of access. Matt says:
- "They [wikis] will not help a writer develop a personal voice. They will, however, enable collaboration and teach us all something very important about what a true democracy is all about.
- So, if wikis elide all claims to authorship, offer no protection of material, and allow any 5-year old child or racist bigot to edit a page, what good are they? Well, let us explore why so many wikis are able to flourish in the well-fertilized fields in which they are sown.
- For one thing, wikis are not really as vulnerable as you may think. They are at least as well-protected as your home. Now, I beg you to consider: Is your home really invulnerable? Couldn't a small group of hoodlums take it into their minds to vandalize your home? How is that you are able to drive a car at all, since anyone with a fifty-cent pocketknife could slash your tires wherever you park it?
- You may say that the police are there to prevent such things. However, I'm looking out my apartment window now at my tiny little Mazda Miata. There are no uniformed people about. However, there are some neighbors. Hopefully they would notice if someone was deflating one of my tires and do something about it.
- Wikis work under the same model. In wikipedia, authors can choose to "subscribe" to a wiki page, which means they are notified via email when anyone tries to change a page. They are free, of course, to re-visit the page and investigate. If someone has written something disagreeable, it's a small effort to change it back. You see, wikis do not only save one version of a page, but every version. Each time a user saves a new version, the old version is stored in a database where it can be accessed by examining the "History" of the page.
- Thus, while wikis by default display the top layer of each page, one can easily dig down into the underlying layers and examine the sediment there. What one finds is that highly controversial topics (like abortion) are often loaded with hundreds of layers, whereas boring topics like "comma usage" are typically left alone after three or four changes.
- In short, wikis are protected not by code, or by law, but rather by the participation of an active wiki community. If you are proud of your entry, you will feel compelled to see what's up if you receive a notification that the entry has been changed, and "roll it back" if it's obvious the page was vandalized or rendered less intelligent."
The Wikieducator community
WikiEducator was launched by the Commonwealth of Learning in 2006. It provides free eLearning content that anyone can edit and use. After being introduced at the Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC) course developers meeting in Mauritius in August 2006, WikiEducator is now being used extensively for the development of educational resources.
Many wiki communities believe that content should be free. The slogan of the Mediawiki software, which runs WikiEducator and all the projects of the Wikimedia foundation, encapsulates this spirit rather well: Ideas want to be free. This is why Wiki software is often cited as an example of social software because of the ease with which users can work together on content. This combined with the communication features of wikis enables people to connect with each other and to build a real sense of community.
The values of WikiEducator's community
It is important to recognise and respect the core values of the different wiki communities. The Wikieducator community believes in the following values:
- The social inclusion and participation of all people in our networked society (Access to ICTs is a fundamental right of knowledge citizens - not an excuse for using old technologies).
- The freedoms of all educators to teach with the technologies and contents of their choice, hence our committment to Free/Libre and Open Source technology tools and free content.
- That educational content is unique - and by working together we can improve the technologies we use as well as the reusability of digital learning resources.
- In a forward-looking disposition working together to find appropriate and sustainable solutions for e-learning futures.
WikiEducator's learning content
The WikiEducator community is working together to develop free educational content that incorporates the educational features associated with well designed distance education materials. Therefore, you will find that content in WikiEducator typically includes educational elements like learning objectives, activities and case studies. In the tutorials which follow, you will learn how to include these elements into the content you author.
Types of content on WikiEducator
There are four distinctive types of content you will find on Wikieducator:
- Pages which are used for collaborative planning of initiatives or projects, for example:
- Workshops, for instance South Asia eLearning Workshop for Teacher Educator's, New Dehli 2007;
- Planning and managing international developments, for instance the Commonwealth Computer Navigator's Certificate
- Development of free content on Wikieducator. Consider the following examples from the the Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth:
- Resources on how to create open education resources (OERs), for example
- Funding proposals relating to free content or free software initiatives that are developed collaboratively as free content, for example projects and ideas listed on the Metawikieducator page.
Wikis can be powerful tools to facilitate collaborative work and the development of online communities. The ability for distributed individuals to contribute to the same document or project with just a web browser and a network connection has resulted in some amazing achievements of peer-produced content over recent years. The most notable example is Wikipedia but we are still in the early days of this technology and great things may come from a wide adoption of wiki technology from communities and groups interested in creating open resources. We hope that WikiEducator continues to grow as a place to facilitate and support the development of Open Educational Resources (OERs) and a place for communties of interested practioners.
"For the gains in autonomy, democracy, justice, and a critical culture to materialize, the practices of nonmarket information production, individually free creation, and cooperative peer production must become more than fringe practices. They must become part of life for substantial portions of the networked population." - Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- List your questions here ....
These links are provided for further reading. They will be particularly useful for facilitators wanting to add interesting points when working through the WikiEducator Newbie Tutorials.
- Wikimatrix, provides a listing of available wiki software as well as the ability to contrast and compare different software.
- 7 Things you should know about wikis, provided by the Educause Learning Initiative
- Ward Cunningham's original wiki, called WikiWikiWeb which he started coding in 1994.
- Etymology of the Wiki
- Uses and Potentials of Wikis in the Classroom, by Ferris and Wilder.
- Using Wikis in Schools: A Case Study