Teacher’s Guide to Set Up a Classroom Wikispace
Using free wikis to enhance your communication, instructional, and assessment toolbox.
A wiki is a website that allows users to add and edit content using a text editor. What this means is that anyone with basic word processing skills can hop online and create a beautiful, creative, and purposeful website.
Wikis can be fun, informative, and collaborative. Here are a few ideas for how you can use a free wiki during the 2012–2013 school year.
Wikis as a Communication Tool
Thousands of teachers are already using wikis as a tool for communication between their classrooms and parents and administrators. Apart from adding text and graphics, Wikispaces allows you to upload documents. Compared to other sites, this is a feature that makes a wiki more sophisticated.
Give students access to homework assignments, class notes, and study guides all with the click of a button. Apart from that, parents can easily stay in the loop and be better able to provide support from home.
Embed a calendar
Wikispaces also provides the ability to embed a variety of “widgets” into your website. These widgets include slide shows, maps, discussion areas, and my personal favorite: calendars.
In my own classroom, I use this feature to communicate lesson topics as well as homework assignments and upcoming assessments. My students never have the excuse that “they didn’t know,” and parents appreciate having a quick and easy resource to check in on what’s happening in class. The “plan” is always changing, but by using an embedded calendar it is easy to communicate those changes and stay organized.
Wikis During Class Time
Apart from connecting our classroom to the outside world, wikis can also be incredibly useful during class time.
As A Home Base
One of the simplest uses for a wiki is as a home base for a series of links, videos, or other online resources you want your students to access during class. Instead of students writing a long URL on the board, have them visit your wiki where all the resources they’ll need for the day are in one place. The URL for your wiki will likely be shorter and more familiar to your students (and maybe even “favorited” by them), and it will make transitioning into online time easier and more time effective.
I love to engage students by creating WebQuests for them to explore information online. A WebQuest is an inquiry-based activity in which students engage with the Internet to learn about an assigned topic. One of my favorite things about WebQuests is that you can differentiate them to meet the needs of all learners, from beginner to expert.
While WebQuests can be printed on paper, they can also be created using a wiki. From here, students can access all the necessary links, assignments, and assessment rubrics tied to the assignment, no matter how simple or comprehensive the assignment may be. For more information on WebQuests and how to build one using a wiki, I highly recommend visiting Make a WebQuest,where you will find lots of resources, ideas, and examples.
A How-To Guide for Your First Wiki
Wikis as an Assessment of Student Learning
Because of their collaborative nature, wikis can also be great for assessing student learning.
If your students become “members” of your wiki, they can add and edit content. Students can upload documents they have created, or leave a comment on something someone else posted. From displaying student work to facilitating academic conversation, wikis can serve as a valuable way to check student understanding.
Getting students involved
Once you have gotten a grip on wikis and their ins and outs, introduce wikis to your students. Next time you do a class project and give students choices and options on how to present their findings, give them the option of creating a wiki. Your students will love that they are creating a website, and the fact that the rest of the world could potentially be their audience will motivate them to post only their best work.
Secondary students can also use wikis to create digital portfolios of their work. Help students prepare for college and the workplace by facilitating the creation of a beautiful display of their achievements. Post a résumé or cover letter, as well as anything from essays to artwork that students are proud of. Again, students will take ownership of the portfolio knowing that it has a clear purpose as well as a public audience.
Here are some of my favorite public wikis created by educators like you!
If your students are ready to start adding and editing content online, make sure you teach them how to do so in a professional manner.
Next week, I’ll share ideas on how to help students develop digital citizenship in my article about blogging in the classroom.