Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Academic Wikis

One of the wiki industry’s foremost evangelists, Stewart Mader, is a big believer in the use of wikis in education; he wrote a book on it. More recently, Stewart was quoted in an article in Edutopia introducing educators to the wiki.

The reporter, Grace Rubenstein, opens her article with: “A simple, cheap technology with a funny name will become an even more powerful portal into creative teaching and learning this year.” She goes on to delve into the different ways that wikis can be used in an educational environment.

There are so many levels of potential use of a wiki in education. For example:
  • Students can better manage their projects, assignments, both individual and with teams
  • Teachers and professors can manage classes and assignments, on a daily, quarterly and annual schedule; they can easily create specific project areas for different classes.
  • Teachers and professors within a department can share information, collaborate on successful techniques
  • Research departments can collaborate and share research knowledge
  • Cross-departmental information can be easily shared and disbursed
  • Meeting minutes can be posted for teacher groups and discussions

A number of educational institutions have already determined how to best put wikis to use.

There are free, open-source wikis that are valuable tools for students and teachers. But from a big-picture perspective, a university, college, high school or any other type of school might find that a proprietary software tool allows them to benefit from a wiki while protecting their knowledge base. Teachers and administrators can add varying degrees of security to whatever areas of the wiki need it, while creating general areas in which anyone can participate.

The wiki possibilities are nearly limitless.

Take this, for example. The Edutopia reporter talked with a high school technology teacher in Georgia who has encouraged and organized student collaboration across continents, between the US classroom and Bangladesh. That is obviously a teacher who understands the value of the wiki and is ready to use new technology to benefit students. And that's the kind of inspiration we expect and hope for in our educational institutions and our teachers.

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