Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Wiki, Wiki!

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Wiki, Wiki!

Article excerpt

In 1995, Ward Cunningham unveiled a web-based platform to help computer programmers quickly and easily share ideas. Cunningham called his platform the Wiki-WikiWeb--wiki is Hawaiian for "quick." The WikiWikiWeb allowed users to modify a web page without special software (Cunningham 2005), and the term wiki stuck.

Wikis remained obscure until the 2001 introduction of Wikipedia, a crowd-sourced encyclopedia that contains more than three million articles. This site brought increased visibility to wikis, which quickly became a popular platform for building communities on the web. Wikis can be hosted for free through a variety of online companies. Many of these providers, including PBworks and Wikispaces (see "On the web"), offer ad-free versions for K--12 educators. Fee-based wiki services, such as EditMe (see "On the web"), offer a higher level of control over which wiki pages can be edited.

Wikis are particularly useful in education because they are easy to use, accessible, and allow students to collaborate on projects both in and outside of class. Most wiki platforms provide a "history" function that gives teachers the opportunity to monitor student contributions to a project.

Kathy Cady, a biology teacher in Winneconne, Wisconsin, recently used a class wiki in place of student-created posters for a microbiology project. Students worked in groups of three to conduct and share research on disease-causing bacteria and viruses. One of her students commented, "We were able to work on the wiki project better because usually if we [are] working on a poster, only one person can take it home, but with the wiki we were able to work equally. Not one person was stuck doing all the work." Another student said, "I feel like our information was a lot more accurate because we had each other's input and opinion on things. Everyone was involved in each topic of the wiki. If someone saw something that wasn't quite right, they changed it."

Wikis also provide opportunities to build connections beyond the classroom walls. Luann Lee, a high school science teacher in Orting, Washington, designed a project in which students designed two bridges that would allow safe and efficient evacuation of their town in the event of a lahar--a mudflow or landslide--on Mt. …

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