Wiki What & Why

A wiki is a great tool for building collaborative online content, collecting and sharing resources, publishing and organizing projects, or delivering instruction on the web. Users can edit the pages from anywhere, right in their web browsers, without a lot of technical knowledge. Wikis can be updated and instantly re-published at any time. You don't need help or permission from a tech person to get started. You can easily re-organize the content and add new pages with a few clicks. You can attach files, add pictures and embed video, audio, slide shows and other media. You can share student work with the world. MOST IMPORTANTLY, using a wiki, you can instantly invite others -- colleagues, students, folks in Australia -- to help you develop the content and expand your collective expertise.

Shelley's TOP TEN "Why Wikis?"

What is a Wiki?

Simply, a wiki is a website that anyone can edit easily using a regular web browser. The first wiki was developed in 1995 by Ward Cunningham, who named his project after the Hawaiian word "wiki-wiki," meaning "quick." If you can use a word processor, copy and paste, and send an email attachment, you can create a wiki. A wiki site may be as basic as a single page containing information and links by one author, or as complex as Wikipedia, the collaborative web-based encyclopedia, containing over 9 million articles in 250+ languages, written, edited and constantly updated by thousands of users.

Wikis in under 4 minutes, from our friends at CommonCraft:

If you cannot see the video above, try watching it on the CommonCraft site:

Key Wiki Features

  • Every version of every page is saved in the page History (anytime a user clicks Save), so it's easy to track changes and compare page versions. You can easily revert to an "old" page version if information is accidentally lost or changed in an unwanted way.
  • The History stores user information along with page revisions, which allows you to easily track and evaluate user (read: student) contributions.
  • A wiki's "permissions" may be set to Public, Protected or Private. Public - Anyone can view and edit the pages; Protected - Anyone can view the pages, but only approved members may edit pages; Private - Only approved members (who are logged in) can view or edit the pages.
  • A wiki site includes the ability to track page changes via email or an RSS feed. That's how Wikipedia vandalism/errors are corrected so quickly!
  • Most wikis include a Discussion feature for each page, allowing users to leave comments or discuss page contents.
  • Wikis use a very simple coding language called "Wikitext" or "Wiki Markup" to format the text, links and other content on the pages. (Most users don't need to know about that, because they can use the Visual Editor to format their pages).

Why Wikis in Education?

Wikis encourage shared knowledge construction, as they are often built and edited by many users at once. Teachers and students can use wikis for publishing, organizing, and sharing virtually any kind of information – professional, creative or academic. Wikis are democratic tools that, implemented effectively, can enable students to take responsibility for learning outcomes, plan and make decisions, work together, publish to an audience beyond the classroom and, perhaps most importantly, teach others.

At is simplest, a wiki is a really easy way to make a website. At its most robust, a wiki is a collaborative, participatory, living, evolving content repository. (Of course, the quality of the content is what matters). Wikis can be used to support classroom learning, professional development, collaborative document writing, planning and resource-building. Essentially, a wiki is anything you want it to be.

In this 2-minute video from PBwiki, teachers talk about classroom wiki use:

If you can't see the video because is blocked, here is a TeacherTube version:

Further Resources

Two Sites for Creating a Wiki
In case you just can't wait to start your wiki, here are two good options, both of which offers Ad-Free, hosted wikis for K-12 Education. The features vary a bit, so you may want to investigate a bit before settling. One way to do that is to create a "regular" free wiki (ad-supported) to explore the features before asking for your educator site.