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What are wikis?

Wikis are web pages that can be created and edited by a group of people. Anyone in the group can add information and change bits here and there. The most famous wiki is the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia.  But many more are used in schools.

All wikis rely on people working together to create a series of web pages. Members of the group use a shared online space to contribute material and edit or update it regularly.  They can add new pages and links between pages.

How wikis are used in school

Wikis are very creative and dynamic. They are a perfect tool to explore topics quickly.  When studying poetry in English, for example, learners can:
• read the poem and notes online
• ask for help in understanding what the poet is saying
• follow links to additional information
• join a group discussion and add their own thoughts. 

Getting peer support this way benefits those asking and also those offering help.
“In a classroom, only one person would put up their hand at a time and you can only do listening and speaking that way. This way, everyone’s got a voice.” Dane Court Grammar School

Benefits of wikis

One of the big benefits of wikis is that learners feel far greater ownership of their work.   Wikis can create a sense of community by giving all pupils a say in things. They can also go on thinking about their ideas after the class in their own time.

Wikis have many other benefits, including building up skills such as:
• negotiation
• teamwork
• collaborative writing
• drafting, and
• editing.

Using wikis also sharpens pupils’ judgement. Because many public wikis are not checked for accuracy, users have to decide whether the information they are reading is truthful and reliable.

Wikis in practice

An ICT teacher in London used a wiki to create a set of class rules. The teacher compiled a wiki and added some draft rules. For instance: you must run around the class, chew gum and spill drinks on the keyboards. When the pupils were shocked by this, the teacher said they could change it.

The children eagerly learned how to use the wiki and went through 17 drafts until the whole class was happy. All the children felt they had a choice in what they said and did and were able to help make the class rules.

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