Tips for Teaching Wikis: How I explain it to students

I just sent this out to the Digiteen group and thought some of you working with wikis might like a few tips. (My students do call me the "wikinator" ;-))

Just a tip --

To get started, I always break it down for the kids. 

I explain it like this.

Students, when we have a wiki, there are two phases:  content creation and content editing and refinement.

1) Content Creation

If the page is blank that is where we are now.  You cannot pick up an invisible desk- likewise, if nothing is there, you cannot edit an invisible wiki - NOTHING IS THERE. So, our first job is to create content.  I expect that today you should all add 150-200 words to this page and you will have a successful day.

Remember, that what you say should have citations by linking to the item on the Internet. Also, if you want to talk about WHAT is on the page - do it on the discussion tab.

Remember that when you come to class you should first: check the discussion tab and RESPOND - people feel ignored if no one responds - even if you agree or say "hi" - they know you're there -- the most motivated teams and best wikis have good "Web 2.0 leaders" who engage with their partners by responding. RESPOND to them.

In about 3- 4 days we'll see that we're getting a lot on the page. At that point we all have to move to

2) Content editing and refinement

Here is where you ask these questions as you edit:

a) Are all sources cited? Is everything that is said backed up with a hyperlink?
b) How is grammar and spelling? Does it need correcting?
c) Are there things that are repetitive? If so, combine them.
d) Are there things that are unnecessary? If so, delete and if you delete a big piece of  work, then leave a comment on the discussion tab about why - be careful of sparking a wiki war.
e) Is everything covered? 
f) Is the page aesthetically pleasing - long chunks of text without hyperlinks, spaces or graphics make it hard to read. If you fatigue and won't read your own page - who will.
g) Is it organized? Are things where they are supposed to be?
h) Are you CONVERSING on the discussion tab - this is a HUGE part of collaboration -- the conversation.  If you're not conversing you're just like a lone person and not engaging with the team.  Good teams have lively conversations and discussions. They are careful not to "flame" or get angry and think about their responses.

i) Ask yourself "am I bored when I read this page?" Do I read the whole page?  If it is a plain, static, uninteresting page, then do something about it. A good wiki page informs, explains, and engages the reader.
j) It should be written in third person if it is a group - if it is your own personal wiki written by just one or two, then it could be in first person, however, in the case of this project it is third person. (Ning and blog posts are first person.)

**It is also important to teach RSS feeds as well and setting up their PLN - for that information, please see the Wiki Page on Project Help about Teaching Students to Set up their PLN. -

Please share your tips with wikis.  Collaborative wikis are so important and it seems to me that so few wiki projects are truly collaborative. Read Wikinomics - this is essential to our future!

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