Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

March 25, 2011

What Is a Wiki?

One of the most common questions I have been asked since the recent technology tips webinar and tech center presentation at LA Congress is: "What is a Wiki?"

Wiki is a funny word. People laugh just saying it. So, what does it mean? Where did the word come from? What is a Wiki

The best source for an answer to these questions must be the most popular wiki in the world: Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, a wiki is "a website that allows the creation of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor." (WYSIWYG stands for "what you see is what you get" and refers to web editors that work like Word document editors that people can use to create web pages without any knowledge of HTML.) The word "wiki" comes from the a Hawaiian word for "fast" or "quick."

What makes a wiki so special?

  1. Multiple people can work on the same web page at any time.
  2. It is easy to edit and change using markup language and the WYSIWYG web editors.
  3. The only editorial review is from the other individuals developing the pages.
  4. Communities tend to congregate around wikis, making it an effective way to communicate.
  5. Webpages can be updated quickly and frequently.

Take Wikipedia, for instance. Millions of people have edited the millions of articles on Wikipedia (there are over 3 and a half million articles just in English). Once a person creates an account, they can start to suggest edits to improve the information about various topics. They can edit what others have written or include there own additions. These Wikipedians participate in a community with a common goal of improving quality information on the Internet.

Wikis in Plain English

CommonCraft creates effective video explanations of various things online. One of the most popular videos is "Wikis in Plain English." It provides some practical application that even teachers can use. The simplicity is great: edit, write, and save.

Now, don't tell me you can't see the correlation in the classroom among your colleagues or for students working on a group project!

(Common Craft also has a nice explanation of Wikipedia in Plain English)

Classroom Wikis

Many teachers have found the benefit of creating classroom wikis to encourage students to collaborate on projects outside of class online. They have also been using wikis to communicate with students and parents. They are finding that the ease of creating a wiki and opening it up for students to contribute, make it an excellent pedagogical tool.

This article is a part of a weekly series of Tech Tips offered by Ave Maria Press. Subscribe to Engaging Faith by RSS or e-mail or join the bi-weekly eNewsletter list on the left menu bar for updates.

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