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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Some excellent wiki resources and how to's

As I peruse my daily reading on the practical use of wikis in the classroom I was reading Marshall Kirkpatrick's blog article, Edu Wikis Gain Cred. After a perfectly executive synopsis of a great article from Tech Learning, Marshall says:

In order for these powerful new tools to be used to their potential, they need to be taken seriously and be discussed in detail in a variety of settings.

I couldn't agree more.

I appreciate Marshall pointing out to us the new article by Tim Stahmer entitled Think Outside of the Blog (You may have to register to read the article, I registered and then typed wiki in the search box to get the article.) I'm going to answer some of the most common questions I hear about wikis using points from his article:

What are good projects for wikis?

Educators at all levels are finding ways to incorporate wikis into their teaching. For every assignment that asks students to research a particular topic, there is a possible application for a wiki.
What are some examples?

Take, for example, a collaborative writing project. With a simple wiki, students from one class, multiple classes, or even multiple schools can post their writing samples for comment (see "High School Online Collaborative Writing"). The wiki structure makes it possible for several students to work on an assignment concurrently. Most wiki software packages track changes to a page so students and their teachers can see when and by whom the writing was edited.
Also, check out my blogs on how my students are using wikis to explore Web 2.0 concepts in computer science.

Stahmer also uses an example of researching aspects of the US Constitution and that some schools are building their entire website using wikis.

How can I set up a wiki for my school?

There are three basic options for creating your own wiki: Taking advantage of a free wiki hosting site, paying a provider to host your wiki, or setting up everything yourself.
I use the free option on a site called wikispaces. Stahmer suggests Wikicities, WikiSpaces, and PBWiki.

For hosting your wiki, he discusses how you can download and install Mediawiki for free on your server. (You need 256MB of RAM)

Most are open source, such as MediaWiki, a popular wiki tool and the power behind the Wikipedia. The software can be downloaded for free and is usually simple to set up.
Some want to do it on their server behind the firewall to keep intruders "out." I personally think that defeats the process but you can read Stahmer's how to's on http://www.assortedstuff.com/webmaster/howto/

We need more articles like this in credible magazines so that educators will begin to use social software to more effectively reach the students of today.

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