Wiki you! Two simple ways to wiki-up your class

By Preston Becker

You may or may not know, but blackboard has wikis built right in.

What’s a wiki?  It is like an electronic bulletin board where students can post text or pictures or links. I know that some of you are thinking, so what?  Well, think of it this way:  a wiki is powerful collaborative tool, and I am going to show you two simple ways you can use it to improve your class.

The first way you can use it is for group projects.  If students are working collaboratively in small groups, wiki is an excellent tool.  Since each student can post the wiki independently, students can divide tasks up and use the wiki as a place to collect all of their text, images and other resources.  For example, in my English composition class, students are required to work together on a research project.  At the end of the project, each group makes a PowerPoint which they then present to the class.  I set up a wiki for each group and as they find the images and text they need, they post it to their group’s wiki.  When it is time to build the PowerPoint, they have all of their resources at their fingertips.  You can even preload up each group’s wiki with a frame work for the project, such as a rubric, a list of questions or an outline that students can use as a guideline.

Another great use of a wiki is as a class journal.  If you have computer access in the classroom, you can update the wiki continuously during class as important things come up.  If a student raises an interesting question, you can say, “What a great question!  Post it on the class wiki!”  A wiki used in this way can also be used for important vocabulary terms.  For example, if a student says, “I don’t know what postmodern means.”  You could say, “If you don’t know, I bet other people are not sure.  Let me explain it to you, and you can post your own definition on the class wiki so everyone can see it.”  A class wiki used in this way encourages students to be active collaborators in their own learning.

So here are two simple ways to incorporate wikis into your class.  Wikis are also offered for free through other websites besides blackboard, so you could even create a wiki where students who aren’t in the same section of the course who don’t share the same blackboard can talk to each other.  For my group project, maybe students are curious about the topics other students in other classes are taking.  You can create a wiki open to all students in any section of the class where students can post the topic of their presentations.

Convinced?
If you aren’t, I made a short video to show you how simple it is to set up a wiki:  it only takes about ten seconds.  Really!

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