A wiki is a type of website development software that allows multiple users to create and edit pages from a web-based interface; the term is also used to refer to sites developed with wiki software. The first wiki to appear on the Internet was installed by Ward Cunningham in 1995 and named the “wikiwikiweb,” after the Wiki Wiki shuttle bus at the Honolulu International Airport (“wiki” means quick in Hawaiian).
Common features of wiki software:
- Typically use a simple mark-up language for formatting, though many are evolving to more robust wsiwyg editors
- Allow uploading of documents and embedding of media
- Track history of changes, and can be restored to previous versions
- Include commenting or discussion areas
- Often link extensively to other sources within the wiki or to external sources on the web
- May be public or restricted-access for both viewing and editing
Wiki Uses in Education
The functionality of wiki software makes it particularly well-suited for a number of tasks, including:
- Building a body of knowledge collaboratively – have students contribute to a wiki for a class research report or paper
- Documenting collaborative research
- Producing group projects in a course
- Facilitating communication among a dispersed group to increase depth and regularity of class discussion and collaboration.
- Building a website with multiple contributors
The following examples illustrate different uses of wikis:
- Open WetWare
A wiki that promotes “the sharing of information, know-how, and wisdom among researchers and groups who are working in biology & biological engineering.
Neurodegeneration Research Wiki
An example of collaborative knowledge development for a community of faculty, researchers and students.
Software and hardware documentation developed collaboratively by a community of users.
A sample of using a wiki for project management.
Wiki Software Options
Several online sites offer free or reasonably-priced wiki environments with built-in templates and a range of features. If you want to get started quickly, you might consider:
There are also many options for installed wiki software, both commercial and open source. Wikipedia offers a comprehensive comparison chart of current wiki software.
Considerations for Building a Wiki
Like any website development project, a wiki begins as a blank slate. Perhaps the biggest challenge at the outset is organization. To create a wiki that is easy to use and meets the needs of it’s audience, consider:
- Brainstorming group needs collaboratively
- Establishing a basic site structure up front
- Assigning a “wikimaster” to monitor site and bring organizational issues to group’s attention
Also of Interest: