Wiki Workshop:

Wikis in the K-12 Classroom

MICDS Summer Teacher Institute 2010

Presentation Slides

Why Use Wikis?

Wikis are online spaces ideally suited for collaborative work. Though they vary slightly in form and function, wikis are beneficial in the classroom because they foster cooperative learning, project based learning, and authentic assessment.

Cooperative Learning
The Cooperative Learning Center at the University of Minnesota defines cooperative learning as a "relationship in a group of students that requires positive interdependence (a sense of sink or swim together), individual accountability (each of us has to contribute and learn), interpersonal skills (communication, trust, leadership, decision making, and conflict resolution), face-to-face promotive interaction, and processing (reflecting on how well the team is functioning and how to function even better)." For students to use a wiki successfully, they must learn to work cooperatively...and that does not mean divide and conquer.

Cooperative Learning Resources:

Project Based Learning
According to PBL-Online, project based learning is "an instructional approach built upon authentic learning activities that engage student interest and motivation. These activities are designed to answer a question or solve a problem and generally reflect the types of learning and work people do in the everyday world outside the classroom." Wikis can form a structure for deep learning by project teams and allow for interactions across time and space.

Project Based Learning Resources:

Authentic Assessment
Grant Wiggins believes authentic assessment "provides engaging and worthy problems or questions of importance, in which students must use knowledge to fashion performances effectively and creatively. The tasks are either replicas of or analogous to the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens and consumers or professionals in the field." Wikis can make thinking transparent, offer opportunities for formative feedback, and engage students in rich and authentic tasks.

Authentic Assessment Resources:

Wikis in Plain English

Although a wiki is conceptually a collaborative workspace, this video from Common Craft provides a nice overview of how wikis work:

Wiki Examples

Wikis can be used in any subject and at any grade level. The following examples demonstrate different wiki types, tools, and tasks and are arranged in chronological order.

2nd Grade: Winter Olympics
Type: Class Project
Tool: Wikispaces
Task: The class created their own Olympic torch and attempted a “virtual” torch relay. Their goal was to see if they could get their torch to all five regions represented by the Olympic rings.
Special Note: This wiki was created by Jeff Horwitz, a 2010 ePals Teacher Ambassador. Additional technologies used include Skype, Picassa Web Albums, Wallwisher, and VoiceThread.

5th Grade Geography: Geo-Squirts USA
Type: Class Page
Tool: Wikispaces
Task: Teacher-managed portal for collaborative projects with other schools; also serves as a showcase for student work.
Special Note: This wiki was created by Mike Fitzgerald, a 2010 ePals Teacher Ambassador. Additional technologies used include Skype, Photostory,, Capzles, Wallwisher, and VoiceThread.

6th Grade History: Rome and China
Type: Student Project--Individual
Tool: Wikispaces
Task: Students individually researched a question related to Han China and Imperial Rome. Findings were shared on the wiki and the activity culminated in an oral presentation.
Special Note: The different question groups are an example of tiered differentiation and the research component utilized elements of The Big6. Additional technologies used include

7th Grade Science: Evolution and Natural Selection
Type: Student Project--Individual and Small Group
Tool: Mediawiki
Task: Students (working alone or in pairs) chose one of three questions to research and used the wiki to organize their findings. Final product was an image-based presentation.
Special Note: The different question options are an example of tiered differentiation, and the teacher used the Discussion Tab to provide timely feedback. Additional technologies used include for the final presentations.

7th Grade English: Animal Farm
Type: Student Project--Small Group
Tool: Mediawiki
Task: Students worked in small groups and completed several tasks that would enable them to teach two chapters of Animal Farm to their peers.
Special Note: This wiki project involved three English teachers, two of whom had never used wikis in the classroom before. The level of detail in the assignment made the process very easy for the students to follow.

8th Grade English: Single Scene Play
Type: Student Project--Small Group
Tool: Mediawiki
Task: Working in small groups, students wrote a single scene play that included cast descriptions, stage directions, and dialog.
Special Note: Students completed much of the writing outside of class and used the Discussion tab to communicate ideas.

9th Grade English: Survivor Island
Type: Student Project--Small Group
Tool: PBWorks
Task: Transform “Lord of the Flies” into a cooperative learning experience where groups of students are “stranded” on an island and survival is the goal.
Special Note: This project used a wiki to (1) provide structure and resources for a detailed and extended activity and (2) provide an online collaborative space. PBworks was an excellent choice for the task because it provides a simple file/folder management system.

AP Calculus: Solution Manual
Type: Class Project
Tool: PBWorks
Task: Students help each other learn by writing a collaborative solutions manual that includes a detailed annotation of the steps involved.
Special Note: Wikis are created using HTML which does not handle mathematical equations very well. The LaTex Equation Editor can be used to generate equations as images which can easily be inserted onto a wiki page.

AP Chemistry: Lab Reports
Type: Student Project--Small Group
Tool: Mediawiki
Task: Students wrote/published their lab reports which included statements of contribution and concurrence.
Special Note: This wiki makes extensive use of equations and tables. The LaTex Equation Editor can be used to generate equations as images which can easily be inserted onto a wiki page. Creating tables in Mediawiki requires knowledge of Mediawiki syntax.

Global Issues: Wiki Books
Type: Student Project--Small Group
Tool: Mediawiki
Task: Student groups researched and shared aspects of a global issue for different regions of the world.
Special Note: The <ref tag was used with each citation to automatically created an annotated bibliography. The Book Creator tool for Wikipedia allows readers to made an electronic "book" of selected wiki pages.

Additional Wiki Examples

Educational Wikis Extensive list of educational wikis in alphabetical order

Wikibooks: A collection of open-content textbooks

Wikicities: Wikis with Education Content

Educause: Over 100 wiki resources

Getting Started: Wikispaces

Wikispaces provides hosted, ad-free wiki pages for K-12 education at no cost; Wikispaces Private Label offers additional services and support for an annual fee. Both are easy to use, customize, and manage, require no knowledge of HTML or wiki syntax, and offer granular access control. Unlike Mediawiki, however, multiple users cannot edit the same page at the same time because Wikispaces does not support breaking pages into separate sections. It also does not offer the streamlined folder/file structure of PBworks, which can make document management somewhat cumbersome.

The Wikispaces sandbox for this workshop is available here. Feel free to join the space and experiment or follow the steps below to create your own wiki on Wikispaces.

Getting started with Wikispaces is easy; simply visit their site, get an account, and create your first wiki. The video below walks you though the process (full screen version available here):

You'll want to customize the look and feel of your wiki by changing the colors and themes. The video below walks you though the process of customizing your wiki (full screen version available here):

Images and files are two of the most common (and useful) elements of a wiki page. The video below walks you though the process of adding images and files (full screen version available here):

Thanks to Widgets, video, audio, calendars, maps and more can be added without any knowledge of HTML. The video below walks you though the process of adding widgets to your wiki (full screen version available here):

Permissions control who has access to view and edit your wiki. The video below walks you though the process of setting permissions (full screen version available here):

Getting Started: Mediawiki

Although Mediawiki is free, it requires either a local installation (i.e. your own web server) or paying a web hosting service. One advantage of self-hosting is that you have complete control over your users and environment (although you are then also responsible for tech support). Wikipedia, which is powered by Mediawiki, demonstrates the tool's power and flexibility. Although MediaWiki requires a knowledge of wiki syntax and does not support widgets, it does allow for page sections which allow multiple users to edit portions of a page simultaneously. In addition, features such as the Book Creator Tool and ability to include <ref tags make it idea for scholarly pursuits.

The Mediawiki sandbox for this workshop is available here. Feel free to join the space and experiment or follow the tutorialas below to get started with Mediawiki.

A set of video tutorials prepared by Brian Will are an easy, effective way to get up to speed with MediaWiki. The first in the series is shown below, and the rest of the videos are available here:

Once installed and configured, editing is accomplished using wiki syntax. The Help:Formatting page from Mediawiki (embedded below) addresses the major types of edits. Don't be intimidated by the code; even young students can learn basic formatting and create pages efficiently and effectively.

A Special Note: The <ref Tag
Research bibliographies can be easily generated using the <reg tag in Mediawiki:


For more information, visit the Wikipedia Manual of Style.

Getting Started: PBworks

PBworks offers Basic (free), Classroom and Campus editions (not free) of their wiki service for K-12 educators. Like Wikispaces, hosting is provided and upgrading service allows for greater flexibility and control. One of the great strengths of PBworks is their folder structure; files can easily be organized and shared with users via a sidebar menu.

The PBWorks sandbox for this workshop is available here. Feel free to join the space and experiment or follow the steps below to create your own wiki on PBworks.

PBworks training is provided free of charge, and the webinar archive below provides a nice introduction to new users:

PBworks Basics, October 7, 2009 from PBworks on Vimeo.

Assessing Wikis

When evaluating a wiki and/or a student's contribution to a wiki, the process is just as important as the product. The History tab can provide insight into the quality and quantity of contributions, and in-class observations of group dynamics and peer reviews are invaluable as well. There is no one "right" way to assess a wiki, but here are a few starting points for consideration:

Vicki Davis, a teacher at Westwood Schools in Camilla, Georgia, uses seven criteria:
  1. Collaborative Effort
  2. Visual Appeal
  3. Organization
  4. Hyperlinks
  5. Original, Intelligent Wording
  6. Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation
  7. Completion of Topic Assignment

Andrew Churches from the Kristin School in Auckland, New Zealand, has developed a simple Wiki Editing Rubric that follows Bloom's Digital Taxonomy, and Read-Write-Think offers a five category wiki rubric:
  1. Content
  2. Organization
  3. Attractiveness
  4. Contribution to the Group
  5. Accuracy

Tools like Rubistar and iRubric can greatly aid the rubric creation process and allow for easy collaboration among teachers.