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Wikis as Educational Tool

Wikis as an Educational Tool
Introduction of the Concept of Wiki
            A wiki is a website that runs on wiki software that offers a simple mark-up language editing functionality or to as what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) (Wikipedia, n.d.). Wiki is a collection of webpages that are interlinked and are editable by a person viewing the webpage. Wikis serve as the humblest content management systems that allow collaborative work. As a content management system, the wiki software provides a template for the layout of each page that make up the wiki (Brian, n.d.).
How do Wikis Allow Users to Place Content on the Web
            The simplicity of a wiki lies in the what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) mark-up language that allows anybody with or without the knowledge of computer programing language and with a basic literacy of computers and the internet to edit a page or create a new page on the wiki. Editing and creation of new pages occurs in real time and changes are noticeable immediately on the wiki. The real-time feature and ease of editing makes wikis great collaboration tools. The wiki software that manages how content appears on the wiki offers a rigid input structure that ensures all content added to the wiki appear in the same manner on the whole wiki. A person editing the wiki can only type in, insert hyperlinks and to some extend an upload facility for multimedia content is availed. People who wish to edit wikis need to log into the site (Brian, n.d.).
Wide Range of Topics found on Wikipedia
            Wikipedia is currently the most popular wiki in the world. It offers about eight million pages that have been interlinked and are editable by anyone who can access the wiki. According to Wikipedia (n.d.), the site offers 18 million articles that are a product of voluntary collaboration. The English version of the wiki has over 3.6 million articles. As of 2008, Wikipedia had covered the following subjects: culture and the arts, biographies and persons, geography and places, society and social sciences, history and events, natural and the physical sciences, technology and the applied sciences, religions and belief systems, health, mathematics and logic, thought and philosophy (Wikipedia, n.d.).
Use of Wiki as Training or Learning tool
            The collaborative nature of wiki makes it more of a way of working rather than a tool because the density of the collaboration defines the wiki. Wikis offer subject specific repositories and provide a real opportunity for increasing knowledge distribution on a given topic because of the wiki’s ease of deployment across the internet (Smith, n.d.)
There are several approaches of using wikis in the teaching or learning process. The most common is the cooperative or collaborative paradigm where students form heterogeneous groups that maintain and facilitate individual learning. The main advantage of the setting is that it nourishes a positive interdependence among the group members while enhancing the individual accountability and appropriate development and use of collaborative skills (Parker & Chao, 2007). Wikis facilitate computer-supported collaboration and this is extendable to the learning process. The wiki serves as a knowledge platform on which members of a collaborating community share interesting work together and discuss issues that concerns the common work among them (Parker & Chao, 2007). Since wikis meet the requirements of any successful community of practice, they provide the best means of collaborative work. Students can use wikis to conduct group discussions with their fellow students or collaborate on class assignments for student groups.
Secondly, there is the constructivist paradigm that view knowledge and meaning as a construction rather than a natural occurrence. This approach emphasizes on the learner interaction to be active and manipulative, constructive and reflective, authentic, challenging and conversational as well as meet real world cooperative and collaborative expectations. To fit into this category of learning tools, wikis allow learners to be explicit in their reflection of the learnt material. In addition, wikis offers rich and flexible functionality that transcends the minimal technological barriers presented. Given that people learn by social and communal activities, wikis assist to enact knowledge when used educationally because they provide a community focused approach (Parker & Chao, 2007).
Other than group collaborations, wikis allow a dyadic collaboration of teacher and student on a given topic because of its real-time editing structure. Such collaboration is achievable in form of writing articles and irrespective of the geographical location of the participants (Parker & Chao, 2007). The open nature of wikis broadens their use depending on the imagination of the user. Current popular forms of educational wiki are single user wikis for personal collection and editing of thoughts, lab book wikis for students to keep notes online for peer reviewing, collaborative writing wikis for joint writing and knowledge base wikis for providing a knowledge repository (Smith, n.d.).
Educational areas that best adapt to use of wiki are project-based learning that rely on wikis for project planning and documentations. Secondly, online education use wikis to disseminate information allow group discussions of geographically distant students as well as form knowledge repositories for online classes. The final benefit of wiki in education is the ability to freeze them by making them private so that information contained in them remains cannot be edited thus creating a knowledge artifact (Parker & Chao, 2007).

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