I stood outside our high school chatting with Cathy Higgins, New Hampshire's State Educational Technology Director, and listened to her rave about wikis. I had heard the term, but had no clue how they worked. Here it is two years later, and for the first time I'm finally using one for Teaching and Learning in a Networked Classroom.
Wikis are a powerful educational Web 2.0 tool. Not only can students and teachers create websites to share with others; wikis allow the users to collaborate with others to create the website. All the while the pages can be edited and compared with previous versions. Creators can use wetpaint (age limit 13 years old), pbwikis, or wikispaces to create accounts. Ad-free wikis are a bonus for educators. Wikis can be used for tracking projects (trac), or as a personal notebook (Tiddlywiki). There are classroom wikis and group project wikis. Some wikis tend to be content specific. For example, the anatowiki helps us learn anatomy and writeboard is for writers. Educators can use wikis to collaborate on writing curriculum. Fortunately, there is a lot of information on wikis on the Web.
A teacher came to me a few weeks ago with questions about a PowerPoint that she was going to assign her students on the Revolutionary War. "How about have them make a wiki?" I asked (of course, she had never even heard the term before). She listened as I muddled my way describing what they are and how they work. Of course, initially I imagined her students collaborating to create this website. But at time passed, I thought about how cool it would be to have students from England collaborating with New Englanders. Now that would provide an interesting perspective.
Our technology director set up a wiki for our district. We have a meeting on Wednesday, at which time he will be instructing our technology mentors on how to use it. I'm looking forward to comparing it with the one we use in this course and to get our teachers using them.
Hopefully the next time someone strongly suggests that I try out an exciting Web 2.0 tool, it won't take me two years to get on board.