Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

The 4E Wiki Writing Model: Redefining Collaboration for Technological Relevance

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

The 4E Wiki Writing Model: Redefining Collaboration for Technological Relevance

Article excerpt


The 21st century has seen numerous changes in the ways in which one accesses and participates in reading and writing processes. Technology has been primarily responsible for these changes, leading some to suggest that pens, pencils, and paper will soon be artifacts of the past (Bromley, 2010). With the widespread use and ownership of wireless reading devices, including the Kindle, iPad, smartphones, and tablets, as well as the development of open editing webspaces like Google Docs and other web server software, technology has changed the way we read and write. Bromley (2010) further argues that "electronic reading and writing will be pervasive, collaborative, and social events" (p. 97), a radical departure from the independent activities they once were considered. One popular technological tool that seemingly supports Bromley's assertion is the wiki. The functions and uses of wikis have been discussed to some extent, and many articles have focused on the use of wikis to foster collaborative writing (Gibbons, 2010; Tharp, 2010) and online collaboration. However, there have been little, if any, specific guidelines for facilitating these collaborative learning interactions through the use of a wiki. The purpose of this article is to provide readers with some insights pertaining to how wikis can best be utilized within university coursework. Specifically, the article seeks to (1) define what a wiki is; (2) provide an overview of the research demonstrating how wikis can promote both collaborative writing and learning as well as encourage differentiated instruction; (3) outline and describe a conceptual writing model that educators can use in conjunction with wikis as a writing support tool; and finally, (4) suggest the benefits and considerations of integrating wikis, specifically a collaborative writing wiki model, in university coursework.


At its most basic level, a wiki, like Wikipedia, allows multiple users with many different facets of expertise to add to, edit, or otherwise modify and update the content contained on the wiki site. Considered "open-source" because the material can be edited or modified by multiple participants, wikis incorporate a user-friendly interface that allows users to insert content, graphics, skins, audio-visual components, and hyperlinks to the site's pages. One of the unique qualities about wikis is that they can be utilized for a wide variety of tasks and projects. Consider the Wikipedia project: Hundreds of thousands of individuals played a role in creating the world's largest online encyclopedia, one that was created collaboratively, capable of being instantly updated, and able to be edited by multiple users all over the world. With 20 million articles representative of some 282 languages, Wikipedia receives as many as 2.7 billion page views a month just from users in the United States ("Wikipedia," n.d.).

Wikis do not require particular expertise--specialized technology training or programming skills are not necessary. Users familiar with Microsoft (Office) Word or similar word processing tools can quickly become familiar with the wiki format and begin using it almost immediately. Changes made by any user can be saved and immediately updated, so wiki pages are a kind of "work in progress."

Many books, articles, and videos provide information explaining how to develop and utilize wikis. The website WebTools4U2Use offers an overview of what a wiki is and includes quite a bit of relevant information including examples of wikis and a list of resources. One of the most straightforward information sources that details what wikis can be used for and how to use them is a video entitled Wikis in Plain English, which can be accessed through multiple media websites including Commoncraft's site.

A variety of free wiki spaces are easily accessed through the Web. By visiting the PBworks site ( and clicking on the "Get Started! …

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