DOWNLOAD:  Using Wikis
 Using Wikis

A. What is a wiki?

“Wiki wiki” is Hawaiian and means “very quick”.

If Wikipedia is the only wiki you know, you might want to find out more before starting to use wikis in your language teaching. You can love or loathe the basic idea behind Wikipedia – that a community of people can generate more knowledge more quickly than any commercial publisher – but wiki-technology has a lot more to offer for language teachers and learners.

Wikis are simple webpages with only two functionalities, namely reading and editing. They can be written and updated very quickly using text editing. The skills users need to write and update a wiki are comparable to simple text production using word processing software, e.g. Word. Wikis also allow the import of images and other media files into the webpage. Because the wiki is so simple, wikipages can be edited within seconds and made available to the next user. This makes them ideal collaborative writing and reading spaces on the web.

B. Why would I want to use wikis in my teaching?

Wikis fit in well with the practice of constructivist teaching and learning. Basically, if you believe that students learn better by actively participating in the learning process, generating their own “theories” about how language works, and practising language in collaboration with peers, then wikis are a tool you cannot neglect.
Wikis support this kind of collaborative learning as they allow users to develop their own rough version of a text (or theory) which can then be updated and edited by others. Writing becomes a collaborative process, and every contributor becomes at once a critic of other entries, an author or co-author and a reader. Checking, correcting and up-dating the wiki entries can be a potentially valuable way of learning to write in a foreign language, with help and support from peers (rather than solely from the teacher), and also with a ready audience.

A few good reasons for using wikis in language teaching:

They are quick and simple to use and allow collaboration, independently of time and space, via easily accessible online spaces.
They offer authentic writing practice.
They allow students to be actively engaged in reading and writing: correcting, editing, and up-dating.
They teach students the skills of collaboration alongside language skills.
They present the student writers with a ready audience and critics.
They are flexible enough to incorporate multi-media content (without clogging up your email).
They can potentially be shared with a wider audience and made public (but see F).
Most students will already know at least one wiki (“Wikipedia”).
Wikis can help students become better organised because they can store their work in folders.

In addition, wikis can also support teachers in their classroom management.

Of course, wikis are more suitable for some tasks and pedagogies than for others. To find out more about suitable tasks, go to section D.

This initiative is carried out within the framework of a cooperation agreement between the European Centre for Modern Languages and the European Commission, entitled INNOVATIVE METHODOLOGIES AND ASSESSMENT IN LANGUAGE LEARNING