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Writing, collaboration and learning – where there’s a will there’s the wiki way November 7, 2010

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
Tags: ,

from Dr Katina Zammit

In this post Katina Zammit points to the motivational and learning outcomes gained through having students undertake collaborative writing using a wiki.


Do your students lack interest in writing? Looking to encourage collaboration between your students in an authentic manner? Then using a Wiki may be the answer.

For many years, students in primary schools have been asked to construct both written and multimodal texts for assessment purposes. However, these texts have been created on paper usually as an individual project.  Many students copy and paste great slabs of information from an Internet site and paste it into their information report, adding some images – either hand drawn or copied from the Internet.

So… what is a ‘Wiki’?

The word ‘wiki’ comes from the Hawaiian wiki wiki, which translates as ‘to hurry’ and wikis certainly make it quick and easy authoring direct to the Web including text, images and hyperlinks; to edit existing content; track changes; and to return to previous versions (Parker & Chao, 2007). A wiki enables students to collaboratively construct knowledge beyond just information gathering and sharing (Lamb & Johnson, 2009; Wheeler, Yeomans, & Wheeler, 2008)

So … what are the benefits of incorporating wikis into the classroom?

The use of a wiki:

  • ‘stimulates writing (‘fun’ and ‘wiki’ are often associated);
  • provides a low-cost but effective communication and collaboration tool (with an emphasis on text rather than software);
  • promotes the close reading, revision, and tracking of preliminary work;
  • discourages ‘product oriented writing’ while facilitating ‘writing as a process’; and
  • eases students into writing for a wider audience’ (Lamb, 2004, cited in Parker and Chao, 2007, p. 61)

So… how does it work in a classroom?

The outcomes of a research project entitled Teaching the texts of the 21st Century conducted in 2009 with a year 5 and year 4/5 class confirmed the benefits for students as well as for the teacher of incorporating the construction of a class wiki on Antarctica. Students worked in pairs, with the ESL students in small groups so the ESL teacher could work with them, to construct a page about an aspect of Antarctica. The teachers decided upon the topics and each page had a set of guiding questions, to scaffold the students’ information seeking process. Students were assessed on the process, not just the final product using a rubric that the teachers developed in consultation with me.

As a result of their involvement in creating a wiki, students shifted from being ‘consumers of the Internet to creators’(Lamb & Johnson, 2009, p. 48). A community of practice developed, with students and teachers providing ongoing feedback, suggestions to improve students’ individual pages and information they might like to include, for example a good website on their topic. It provided an avenue for students who were less interested in writing to create a text and for a few students it was the first time they had completed a ‘written’ task. They were more engaged with the process of writing.

Students found the experience very rewarding, rating the change to the process of learning, the content and the use of technology as the best aspects. The students rated the process the highest. Students believed that being able to contribute anywhere – at home and at school, and learning how to take notes electronically were important aspects of their involvement. They also believed they learnt more about the content (Antarctica and their own topic) than when they made a paper-based multimodal information report.

So … what?

Working with wikis provided the opportunity for students to engage with 21st century literacy practices. It also provided a space in the classroom to trial changes to a conventional pedagogy, curriculum and assessment practices.

References:  Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2009). Wikis and collaborative inquiry. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 8(April), 48-51.   Parker, K. R., & Chao, J. T. (2007). Wiki as a teaching tool. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, 3, 57-72.   Wheeler, S., Yeomans, P., & Wheeler, D. (2008). The good, the bad and the wiki: Evaluating student generated content for collaborative learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(6), 987-995.

Dr Katina Zammit is a Lecturer in literacy education in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She is particularly interested in the application of information and communication technologies in children’s literacy learning.


1. margaret vickers - November 7, 2010

Katrina – what an interesting idea – of course young students should be encouraged to author text that ‘goes public’ via a wiki – but it is also challenging to think that all kinds of people (not just your own teacher) might read it. I would like to learn more.

2. Colleen Young - November 7, 2010

I really like using wikis and now have several for various groups. Margaret raises an important point about all kinds of people reading. There are various wikis available I know. I used Wikispaces, it is easy to set up a (free) private wiki for a class, so only the class and their teacher can view and edit. My class liked the fact that only the class could see the wiki, found it easy to learn and use and I would say learned valuable skills of trust.

If this is of interest I have some links here:

(scroll down a bit for the correct link for Wikispaces)

3. Jane Hunter - November 9, 2010

Really interesting Katina – I’m seeing eactly this in action at the moment – a Year 6 class and their teacher use a wiki as a type of active lesson plan for most of their learning at school. It’s set as ‘private’ ie just their class has access, and many students choose to do their wiki work from home to complete projects. In class the students each work on laptops and they can quickly refer back to the wiki to see what they have to do next … really supports focus, engagement and in task behaviour.

4. Kimberly Masserman - November 10, 2010

My 5th grade students currently use a wiki to write book reviews. After they have read a book they have strong feelings about, the students write and review and post it on their own page on our class wiki. Students can then discuss the books with each other. They also discuss mechanics and correct each other. Students also look to the wiki when they are in need of a book to read.
Recently, Monday, we had a videoconference with another of our elementary schools and my class taught them what wikis are and they taught us what blogs were.
Wiki’s definitely motivate students to write. My students are on the wiki everyday…including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!!

5. Karma Chewang - November 19, 2010

I have also just started using wiki(PBworks) with my student teachers in college in Bhutan. I have also collected data from student so that I can find out it is effective. I also like your topic – where there is will there is wiki.

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