The Lesson
How does a wiki work? Rather than uploading files to a server, wikis use scripts that allow for instant maintenance of web sites. PMWiki uses PHP scripting language. The software is so easy to install no knowledge of scripting is needed, the administrator just uploads the scripts to a folder on the server. End-users then do not even need to know HTML or FTP in order to make changes.

Europe in the 1500's


Europe in 2000

How can students edit web pages on the fly? This particular wiki has various tabs to navigate through different actions, including edit. On the edit page, the existing marked up text is present and can be edited or expanded in the edit field. There is a guide to aid in editing, as well as toolbars that automatically insert wiki markup. The text can then be saved instantly.
What features of a wiki can motivate students? Since wikis can be edited instantly and still maintain server security, students will be more successful than traditional web pages where knowledge of HTML/FTP, and server account access would normally be needed. Many popular modern day web sites are now being edited on the fly and several of these (Wikipedia, Myspace, Flickr, and various blog sites) have become popular with this age group. The ability for a student to be a content provider rather than just a passive information receiver also increases engagement and encourages achievement.
What features of a wiki can benefit teachers? Using wikis, teachers can jump into teaching content rather than technology. The collaborative nature of wikis makes them a natural for developing and displaying group projects. Wikis could also be used as a "pen pal" project where students from different parts of the world could communicate. They have also been used to share scientific data collected by classrooms in different schools.
How did we use the wiki here to scaffold a difficult lesson?

Using the wiki, we were able to develop several supports that could be taken away in later uses of the same type of project:

  • Collaboration
  • Feedback
  • Increased time
  • 24/7 access to the wiki and resources
How does the wiki foster collaboration? Any group member could edit or modify their wiki page. in addition, students gave each other feedback from within the wiki.