Teacher Tap

Wiki Management

The Wiki Format. As you think about collaboration, consider whether the wiki format will work well for your classroom setting. Many wikis don't allow people to make changes simultaneously. In other words, if two people are working on the same page at the same time, not all changes make be saved. Do some testing. Also when working in a lab setting, start students off on individual pages that can be linked together rather than creating one long page.

Basics. Ask each child to create a pseudonym they can use in the project. You may wish to use a generic login with younger children. As students gain experiences, allow each student to create their own username and password. Keep a list of usernames and passwords in case a student loses their information. Talk to students about creating and editing pages, linking to pages, and incorporating graphics. Begin with a small project. For example, small groups could work together to start a page about a book, author, character, or genre. Then, classmates can add their ideas to expand the pages.

Links. Linking is an important aspect of wikis. Students may link within the page. For example, they may create a list of ideas at the top of the page and link to a more detailed description further down the page. They may also create links to other pages within the wiki. If they’re creating a wiki based on the book Crossing the Wire by Will Hobbs, they might develop pages on each chapter, character (i.e., Victor, Rico, Julio, Miguel), setting (i.e., Mexico, border crossing, Arizona), and topic (i.e., smuggling, border patrol, illegal immigration). These pages can then be linked together. Finally, create links to outside resources such as the author’s website and resources related to immigration.

Discussion and Editing. One reason that wikis are so wonderful for collaborative writing is their editing options. Talk to children about the difference between enhancing an article and damaging the work of a peer. Most wikis provide a discussion area where writers can share their ideas for enhancing the page and give an explanation of their reasoning behind additions and changes. This provides a wonderful forum for discussion as well as a way to track student involvement.

Demonstrate ways that changing the content can make the article better. Discuss the roles and responsibilities of each author. For example, each page may have a main author, contributing authors, and editors. Keep in mind that most wikis don’t contain a spell checker, so editing skills are important.

History. One of the strengths of the wiki environment is the History aspect. Students and teachers are able to trace the progress of the project and determine the contribution of each participant. It’s also easy to revert back to an earlier version if problems are discovered.

Citations. The power of a wiki is the ability to bring information and ideas together. However it’s important that learners understand how to cite the primary sources that they use in building their wiki. If a student provides a statistic on illegal immigration, he or she should cite the original source such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and provide a link to that complete set of information.

Wikis provide students an authentic experience applying their information skills. For instance, fact-checking is a critical component of wiki development and use. Wiki creators learn to cite their work and provide supporting evidence for their statements, while wiki users get practice checking the accuracy of information found on in sources like wikipedia.

The ideas on this page are excerpts from An Information Skills Workout: Wikis and Collaborative Writing by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson in Teacher Librarian (June 2007).

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