Web 2.0 and Emerging Learning Technologies/Wikis
A wiki gives people the opportunity to collaboratively develop a website, therefore we can say that it is a group editable website. The word wiki means quick in Hawaiian, implying that this database or site is fast and easy to use. Users are able to post and edit content, make comments, and hyperlink between pages. To some extent, wikis are similar to standard web pages, but the difference is that wikis are created with interactivity in mind.
A wiki is a collaborative tool. Users work together to create a specific product: a report, reference guide, a book or an encyclopaedia. It facilitates user to cooperate without a division of tasks. Users can even work on the same page at the same time, but should be aware of the changes the other person is making, and, at the same time, be careful not to erase something that somebody else has updated. Many wikis contain also discussion pages; however, for this particular activity, there are better web tools like blogs or forums.
- Wiki pages are not often ordered in a prescribed way. Like on the World Wide Web, they are interlinked in a network structure in such a way that they encourage meaningful topic association. Organizing knowledge in a network seems to be a natural way of knowledge representation or as Foucault (1972, p. 23) puts it: The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond the title, the first lines, and the last full stop, beyond its internal configuration and its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network. It is very easy to create links in a wiki: if you apply the linking syntax to a certain term, usually putting it between brackets or writting it in camel case2- it immediately creates a link to a wiki page which has that term as a title.
- As anybody can edit the pages or undo the edition, wiki communities depend heavily on the trust between its users. Due to the reversion of changes, conflicts can lead to edit wars where multiple users keep on reverting each others' changes because they do not agree upon the information.
- Since there is no power structure, wikis are considered to be anarchistic. In general, all users have the same rights. On many wikis, even anonymous users have the same rights as registered users. On Wikipedia, there are sysops (system operators) that can sometimes lead to conflicts between users as each individual can select the role that best fits their preferences, there is no establishment of who is in charge of making the changes or confirming the information. On the other hand, wikis are sensitive to vandals: malicious users who delete information or insert incorrect information. This problem happens to wikis that allow unregistered users to make changes. Wikis with a large community have the highest potential of self-healing. If a lot of people read the pages, vandalism and incorrect information are bound to be corrected soon.
- The absence of control and lack of labour division makes a wiki expand itself in an organic way. Equally important subjects may not be developed in the same way. There can be very detailed information on some and no information on others. The way in which a wiki expands depends on its community interests or trends.
- Wikis consist of a mark up language, known as wikitext; most of which is plain text editing, but its styles and syntaxes can varied among wiki implementation, some of them allow HTML which is not legible for the most wikis.
- The use of wikis is believed to be more flexible and user friendly.
Browser based editing
All wiki page edits are achieved through an associated editing page with a text entry box. To edit in a wiki we just have to press the edit bottom and write. Once we press the edit bottom, an editor bar (similar to the one in Word) will allow us to change the appearance of our writing.
- There are some features of word processor, such as bold, italic underline type, font, tables, special characters.
- Next to them you will find the insert and remove link bottoms which are easy to use, you just write the link and select it, once you have done that, you press the insert link and a separate window will appear making the link automatically when you press OK.
- Insert file: another window will pop up where you will be able to select a file or upload one. There is also an option to insert image by URL.
- Embed widget: this enables you to embed any application you want from video to wikispaces. Again a window will appear and you will be able to choose from a list of applications.
- Text editor: it is used to edit plain text files. Some of the features of this function are: search and replace, cut, copy, and paste, text formatting, undo and redo the lastedit, importing and filtering.
- Preview: it enables you to have a preview of your work before saving.
- Save: do not forget to save the changes.
Access control is the ability to edit pages that can be opened to all visitors, or can be restricted to those with a login or limited by IP address.
Wiki mark up- web formatting (e.g.bold, links, headings, lists etc) can be achieved within wiki content using simple mark up designed to be easier to use than HTML code.
The differences between versions of the same page can be highlighted.
Each web page has an associated discussion page, a place where contributors can discuss the direction of the editing process.
Tracking version history
The page content is saved as each edit is made, resulting in a timeline of different page versions.
Automated page edit alerts
RSS alerts or email can be used to identify when specific pages have been updated.
Locking current page version
It is to prevent further edits.
Page version rollback
The page content can be returned to that of previous version undoing all subsequent edits.
Some of the Wiki systems available
- Mediawiki: is a free open source wiki system that was originally developed for Wikipedia. To use Mediawiki you need to host the system files on a web server.
- Wikispaces: is a free hosted wiki which also offers paid for versions that include additional functionality.
- Confluence: is an Enterprise wiki system ideal for large scale and corporate implementations.
- Writeboard: is a very simple free hosted wiki which forms an ideal introduction to these systems.
- Jotspot: is a free hosted wiki system that has been purchased by Google.
- Wikibooks: you can create textbooks about different topics.
Using wikis in the classroom
Everyone knows that learning is social, people need to interact to imitate, to improve, to learn. Wikis present the perfect opportunity for a group of students and teachers to work together and develop different topics. Nowadays, the world spins around the World Wide Web, so wikis are a good way to motivate your students to participate as they are able to create, modify and add content. It gives them the opportunity to be contributors and editors at the same time. Apart from this, wikis are easy to use as people do not need to know HTML to contribute or edit. From the teaching point of view, wikis allow you to trace contributions, hence enabling teachers to know who is participating and who is not.
However, there are some few disadvantages. Firstly, Wikis are text-based, so there could be some difficulty in adding images and formatting layout. Secondly, the management of them is time consuming as you need to monitor the users' edit. Moreover, and as it has been said before, pages are exposed to vandalism, therefore they are not suitable for sensitive information. Furthermore, the wiki pages can lead to contentiousness.
There are several ways to use wikis in the classroom, in which students can be editors, visitors, contributors or all of the:
- Wikis that are authored solely by staff (e.g. teachers) who allow material to be renewed and refined continually. Students can enter these types of wikis to check information about the subjects.
- Wikis that are primarily authored by students (created by students).
Wikis that are publicly available and have been created by others Some of the things that students can do are:
- Student feedback to staff: This type of wiki enables feedback to be controlled and owned by the students.
- Peer review of assignments: Some students are assigned to guide other students during the process of creating their individual assignments.
- Subject glossary: Students are assigned responsibility for creating definitions for specific terms to build an extending subject glossary.
- Assignments: Teachers can monitor contributions and follow the development of the different tasks as well as individual contributions. Teachers can spot mistake and give feedback before the submission of the assignment. Some examples are: Writing Video Reviews, Writing Practice including Process Writing.
- Peer self-help pages: this type of wiki is dedicated to students helping other students with the problems they identify.
- Group debates: Students can present evidence and learn to cope with different points of view.
- Student's Personal Diary where they can write opinions or ideas about different topics
- Marking scheme: students become involved when they can participate in defining the marking scheme by which their assigment will be assessed.
- FAQ: students can make some questions which other people will be able to answer.
- research and public writings through contributing to an existing wiki: wikipedia actively encourages learning activities based around contributions to its articles.
- study of an existing wiki: the revision of its own history and discussion pages can be used as a model of how knowledge is constructed.
- This is the Pearson Longman wiki where you can find detailed information about any elt topic and plenty of exercises.
- This site is amazing! You can see slides of classrooms, toys, projects...You can even find recipes for pancakes, ice-cream, cakes.
- You can find different samples of oral practice. The text is supplied as well as the video recording.
- This site is exclusive for teachers. You can find information about teaching English as a second language. It is very interesting and useful.
- This wikibook has to offer a variety of different explanations and exercises about the English language. You can find links to different levels.