I had a discussion with a district administrator the other day regarding Wikis. When I described them to him, he was concerned that the concept promotes the mass dissemination of misinformation. Anybody can write anything, unvetted, and be published for the world to see.

Of course this can happen, and has been happening as long as there has been writing. And as educators we teach critical inspection of sources. But do technologies such as Wikis cross a line, making it too easy to do?

Realistically, all but a small number of Wikis will never be read by other than a very limited number of people, so in practice it is not an issue (for now). But how does this affect what we do with our students?

The same questions have arisen when people first started making their own web pages, writing blogs, etc. As it gets easier and easier, and more and more sophisticated in capability, how does it alter the landscape and how we react to it with students?

Tags: publishing, wiki, wikis

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Let us compare Blogs and Wikis, which are good for immediate use by teachers ?
Blogs are one way. Wikis can be edited by group of permitted users.
For students and teachers, who would like to improve their notes on a particular topic
Wikis is the best thing. Good libraries have computer labs, facilitating the users
to take subject text books and develop wiki notes on the subject as a group work.
But, there should be one responsible teacher or team leader to be as Chief Editor of wiki notes.
Please share your views.
Wikis are not the blind leading the blind.

1. If you set up a wiki, you can decide who gets to edit the pages. If you have the "blind" editing your pages, well, that's your choice. Users of the wiki have to decide how credible the wiki team is, but if, for example, IBM put together a wiki on computers I'd use it. If your local dairy tried the same thing, you wouldn't give it the same credibility.

2. Even publicly acccessible/editable wikis are incredibly accurate if they have enough people helping out. One of my students tried to vandalize a Wikipedia page (we disovered it when Wikipedia banned our IP) and from our school Internet filter/log, learned Wikipedia had caught our student and restored the page within half an hour of the original offence. Another time with a different class, we watched in fascination as one entry on Canada had Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper change to become the Prime Minister of India. Someone, somewhere, was damaging the page as we looked at it, but by the next day, it was all fixed.

Properly run, wikis are very powerful tools.
I absolutely agree, with the key concept, in my opinion, being the internal vetting by the Wiki team. But the potential is there, and I believe it is something of which we need to be aware, the same as we are aware of bogus or misleading websites, some self-published books, etc.

This is approximately what I was trying to explain to the district administrator with whom I had been speaking; properly run, there is a self-correcting aspect the a Wiki that helps ensure that it is correct and valid.
Jeff, I would like to pick up on three points, if I may, information security, misinformation and citizenship.

Wikis can themselves be private, pages locked or editable. I agree with James, its the informed leading the blind, but showing them only what they want them to see.

Misinformation, are we not trying to get our students to question, to evaluate content rather than just digest it? In my opinion we should not only be teaching them what we think they should know, but more importantly how to think (and question). Assessment for learning has a great learning role here.

Finally, wiki authoring and editing is a great tool for teaching citizenship. Simple statement.

Jeff, I do hope you continue your efforts to promote wikis, for some its a real important voice.....

I totally agree with you.
Hi Jeff,
I thnk it's important to unlink Wikipedia from wikis created by students as part of a teacher-guided classroom experience.

A student-created wiki is an artifact that collaboratively emerges from the group. This would be the same as a book of paintings by first graders bound and given to parents, to a high school class writing their own constitution for an imaginary country. It's certainly a great technology for collaboration, instant access, tracking changes, and democratic publishing. The activity designed by the teacher drives the process, and the product (the final version of the wiki) is less important than the process.

Next class, you start over, so each group has it's own experience. You wouldn't ask this year's first graders to edit the paintings from last year!

This is completely different from Wikipedia, where the product is important. This is not a learning exercise for the contributors, although I'm sure they learn things along the way, they are working to leave a legacy about something they have a passion for. In this case, the collective expertise and large number of contributors manages to create a fairly accurate product.

In a way, your administrator is right to ask this question. If a classroom wiki is public, should it be accurate? Does that help or hurt the process? Would you post first drafts of a paper in the school hallway? Maybe not, but you only get to a final draft by doing rough drafts. The process is important, but not made public. If the product is public, polishing it for an audience is an important lesson too, so using a wiki shouldn't be an excuse for not editing, proofing or formatting things well.

Including students in this discussion would be a learning experience too.
I agree with Sylvia! We have created wikis in the classroom for writing and for demonstrating what we've learned in research. I tell people in our school the wiki is a kind of technology that allows several writers to collaborate on content. We use wikispaces where we can control who contributes to the space. Because of the nature of the technology, we have a space for every grade level in our school. The team of teachers are going to create a grade level web space and use it as a teacher web page. This use of wiki is nothing like wikipedia. We are using the wiki technology because it is easy to use and easy to change....making the class website a "living document" where all the members can contribute rather than a static website that needs special software or special training to change and update.

My principal loves having the class websites on wikis, because she is a member to each of them and can make changes and corrections to the policies pages. She is extremely sensitive to the fact that the teacher may make typos or have misspellings when they type in a big hurry. She feels better knowing that all she has to do is click "edit this page" and make a couple of corrections. We call that being a "wiki fairy".
That's a really wonderful strategy adding the administration to the wiki. The teacher can still do what he/she needs and yet the administration can still feel comfortable with it. The school I'm going to next year seems a little uptight up with some of the control issues, especially around the Internet questions, and this could be a good way to navigate around some of that. Thanks for that.
We haven't used wikis in school yet but have discussed the opportunities. Kristian is right in saying we need to teach children how to evaluate what's online. So how I envision a collaborative wiki working in school is grading the students on the content. Points for adding content. Extra points for anyone who finds an error. More points for those who correct the error and prove the correction. So this point system will keep the children, not only adding content, but evaluating content. Has anyone tried anything like this in elementary school?
I'm not sure creating a rubric excludes scoring on a point system. We have created, with students, many rubrics where children are awarded credit based on their contributions to a group effort. Same basic idea...I'm just trying to find a method to keep the students thinking about evaluating and offering accurate information.
I agree
That is very true, anyone can write anything and it is all for everyone to see and what the person writes isnt always true. There is alot of information out there that is false or exaggerated. Information that is false or exaggerated is also on the radio, television, and magazines. This is everywhere for students in their world outside of school. I agree that as educators we teach and should teach a critical inspection of sources for information to know if it is true or not. I do not think wikis cross a line and make it too easy. As a society and people we have the right to express ourselves online or share information we feel we may be knowledgeable in or give the opinion of what we believe. As people we do not have to believe everything we come across. I feel wikis should still be used amongst teachers and students to further their learning despite what other may think.



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