Free Tools Challenge #23: Go wild with Wikispaces

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This is the 23rd post in the “30 days to using the best of the web’s free tools for educators” series. Be sure to subscribe to the Teacher Challenge blog by RSS, like us on facebook, and follow us on twitter to keep up with future challenge posts as they are published.

This guest post was written by Elizabeth Christophy.

Objective:

In this activity you will:

  1. Introduced to what is a wiki
  2. Explore ways to use Wikispaces in your classroom
  3. Begin your own Wiki
  4. Plan a way for students to contribute to the Wiki.

Overview:

When people hear the term “wiki”, their immediate thought is Wikipedia and its sometimes dubious content.  But Wikipedia is only one example of a class of websites known as “wikis”.

Wiki comes from the Hawaiian word for “quick” and a wiki is a website that can be modified quickly and easily. What makes Wikipedia so controversial is that anyone can modify any content at any time.

Using Wikispaces, the control of the website is kept in the teacher’s hands. When you set up the wiki, you can control whether anyone can view and edit the pages (public), anyone can view the pages but only members of the wiki can edit them (protected) or only wiki members can view and edit (private). (This last option does have a fee.)

I usually use a protected wiki – anyone can see the pages, but only my students and I can edit them. One of the reasons to put student work on the internet is to give them an authentic audience, so I feel there is no reason to use a private wiki .

Getting Started

1.  To begin, go to Wikispaces.

2.  Choose ‘Wikis for Individuals and Groups’.

Signing up for a wiki

3.  Enter your username, password and email address then click ‘Join’.

Joining wilkispaces

4.  Check your email and click on the link to confirm your account.

5.  Next click on ‘Create a new wiki’.

Click on create a wiki

6.  Add your wiki name, selected Protected (free) so you can control who can edit, select K-12 if you are a primary or secondary educator and then click ‘Create’.

Creating your new wiki

Editing your Wiki

Once you’ve set up the wiki, you click on “Edit” to add your own content.

Editing a wiki

Their user-friendly interface allows you to type in content, add links, upload files to insert, embed media….

Adding your content

Changing your theme

Click on Manage Wiki > Look and Feel to change your wikis color and appearance.

Changing your theme

Adding New Pages

Adding a new page is as simple as clicking on ‘New Page’.

Adding a new page

Requesting your free K-12 plan wiki

If your wiki is going to be used exclusively for K-12 education, then make sure you go to Manage Wiki > Subscriptions and click on requestion your free K-12 plan Wiki.

They upgrade you to a Plus wiki, which has no advertisements and includes a User Creator tool for creating student accounts in batches of 100 without needing email addresses.

Upgrading to a K-12 wiki

Adding users to your wiki

If you want your students to be able to edit the wiki you’ll need to add them as users.

If you are using a free K-12 plan Wiki then go to Manage Wiki > User Creator and create your student accounts for them.

Alternatively get your students sign on to wikispaces, and click the “join wiki” button at the top of your wiki.

Joining a wiki

You’ll receive an email with their request to join.  All you need to do is click ‘Approve’.

Wikispaces Help

You’ll find all the Help for setting up your wiki here!

Ideas for use in the classroom

Once the wiki is set up, there are many different ways to use it.

You can create as many pages as you need, with a menu appearing on the left. Each page has a “history” tab, so you can keep track of changes that you and your students make to the page.

There is also a discussion tab, that allows for questions to be asked and answered on each page.

Here are a few examples:

  • IWBChemistry – I use this page to collect all my interactive whiteboard files, so students can easily find them and use them when needed. I have also had students post their own whiteboard files to the page.
  • SHANuclear – This page is completely student created. I assigned groups of students a topic in nuclear chemistry, centered around the recent incidents in Japan. The students took the initiative, created several pages per group, and created a comprehensive site about nuclear energy.
  • SHAcrucible – The site belongs to one of my colleagues, and illustrates a way to use Wikispaces in a discussion class. Each page is devoted to a character in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Students have added their impressions of the characters, with quotations from the story to back them up. They also have opportunities to ask and answer questions in the discussion tab.

Here’s some resources to help you:

  1. The wikispaces help page
  2. A tutorial with ideas for using wikis in the classroom.
  3. Educational Wikis – A site dedicated to using wikis in education.

Challenge

Think about how you might use a wiki in your classroom to:

  1. Collect resources for your students.
  2. Have your students learn about a topic and display what they have learned to an authentic audience.
  3. Create a place where students can interact with each other about a subject, work of literature or artwork.

Then go to Wikispaces and get started!

Please leave a comment to let us know:

  1. How you are going to or how you use Wikispaces?
  2. What’s your tips for getting the most out of using Wikispaces?

About the Author

Elizabeth Christophy is a chemistry teacher and assistant director of technology at Sacred Heart Academy in Connecticut. She is enthusiastic about integrating technology into classrooms to help students with engagement and critical thinking.

4 thoughts on “Free Tools Challenge #23: Go wild with Wikispaces

  1. Great post- funny timing. I just created a wiki project for the first time this weekend. My textbook is out of date and it leave out a few of the more recent presidents. So I created a wiki page for each recent president. I am assigning my classes as researchers, writers, and designers of the wiki page. I envision is a work in progress that will get modified every year.

    I think you need to be open to trying new things. I hope it goes well. I will post updates and the assignment on my blog.

    Follow me on my blog from the last challenge http://notanotherhistoryteacher.edublogs.org/ or twitter @mseideman

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