Wikis for School Leaders by Stephanie Sandifer available at Eye on Education.  Click image above for more information and code for purchase discount.
Wikis for School Leaders by Stephanie Sandifer available at Eye on Education. Click image above for more information and code for purchase discount.

Session Description

How do wikis support and enhance the development of literacy skills? Explore how wikis can be used in the classroom to build traditional and 21st Century literacy skills. Discussion will focus on the development of critical thinking, comprehension, and collaborative writing/editing skills as well as basics of getting started with wikis in the classroom and "lessons learned" by experienced wiki-using educators.


  • Understand how wikis can support and enhance literacy skills while also developing 21st-Century collaboration and communication skills.
  • Explore the use of Wikispaces as a tool for creating a wiki in your classroom.


What are wikis?
“The simplest thing that could possibly work.” — Ward Cunningham

“A wiki is software that allows users to create, edit, and link pages together with ease. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. These wiki websites are often also referred to as wikis; for example, Wikipedia is one of the best-known wikis. Wikis are used in many businesses to provide affordable and effective Intranets and for Knowledge Management.” — Wikipedia

“Create an idea-sharing environment where incomplete can be linked together and from this, creative solutions emerge.” — Ward Cunningham, Portland, 2007

“The wiki is rapidly growing in name recognition and use in organizations because its simple design and function enables equal participation by people at all levels of technology knowledge and savvy. On top of that, it has an unprecedented ability to adapt to different uses, bring people together and strengthen teams, and promote a collaborative approach to problems.” (Mader, 2008)

How they can be used professionally
In the Classroom
In Administration
  1. Lesson Summaries (summarizing lessons learned, often by students)
  2. Notes Collaboration (archival record of AP course notes between students or test notes, embedding of video games for studying course content, sharing videos to explain topics)
  3. Concept Introduction and Exploratory Projects (students assigned a topic, research, and edit)
  4. Learn Shares (students work in pairs to learn and share with classmates and receive feedback)
  5. Individual Assessments and efolios (collection of content from coursework over a time period)
  6. Rewards (blog or wiki hall of fame, nomination of others for recognition)
  7. Classroom Organization (teacher websites, embedding calendars)
  1. Collaborative Writing (Grant Writing and Management, Curricular Plans, Technology Planning, Product Evaluation)
  2. Meeting Planning (Agenda Development, Dissemination of Pre-meeting materials,Meeting Minutes, Action Items and Reporting)
  3. Reporting (Teacher updates, reference materials)
  4. Professional Development (Professional Learning Communities, Critical Friends Base, Sharing Best Practices)
  5. Documentation (Memos, policies and procedures, forms, other documents, curriculum and instruction clearinghouse, how-to)
  6. Coordination (Home/School, PTO, Event Planning and Sharing, Vendor Relations)

Academic & Professional Skills Developed Through the Use of Wikis

  • Knowledge building — with and for others… actively involved in creating knowledge that will benefit other students… student leaves on “imprint” on course – Allow for wider, diversified teamwork
  • Text-based — directly reinforces reading & writing skills
  • Maximize Interplay — maximize written word advantages of reflection, reviewing, publication, witnessing cumulative/collaborative written results
  • Democratic — Anyone can play (regardless of normal voice)
  • Work in real time — can allow for “think time” before writing/editing
  • Distributed authorship
  • Promote negotiation — non-hierarchical decision-making — must collaborate to decide what matters most
  • Open editing — writing is subject to peer scrutiny… witnessing & participating in progression of editions… can lead to heightened creativity and more nuanced writing skills… quality analysis
  • Feedback — public and durable
  • Require trust — in the people, in the process…

Wikis reinforce and support the following “Elements of Effective Adolescent Writing Instruction”
(from Writing Next: A Report to the Carnegie Corporation of New York)

As an experienced wiki user and a former Literacy Coach and Literacy Curriculum Specialist, I am convinced that the use of wikis in classrooms across the curriculum (with sufficient planning) can support, reinforce, and enhance all of the following:
  • 1. Writing Strategies, which involves teaching students strategies for planning, revising, and editing
  • 2. Summarization, which involves explicitly and systematically teaching students how to summarize texts
  • 3. Collaborative Writing, which uses instructional arrangements in which adolescents work together to plan, draft, revise, and edit their compositions
  • 4. Specific Product Goals, which assigns students specific, reachable goals for the writing they are to complete
  • 5. Word Processing, which uses computers and word processors as instructional supports for writing assignments
  • 6. Sentence Combining, which involves teaching students to construct more complex, sophisticated sentences
  • 7. Prewriting, which engages students in activities designed to help them generate or organize ideas for their composition
  • 8. Inquiry Activities, which engages students in analyzing immediate, concrete data to help them develop ideas and content for a particular writing task
  • 9. Process Writing Approach, which interweaves a number of writing instructional activities in a workshop environment that stresses extended writing opportunities, writing for authentic audiences, personalized instruction, and cycles of writing
  • 10. Study of Models, which provides students with opportunities to read, analyze, and emulate models of good writing
  • 11. Writing for Content Learning, which uses writing as a tool for learning content material

Based on my work with the district-wide literacy initiatives, I think one of the most important components on this list is #11: Writing for Content Learning. Too often, teachers of content areas other than English do not think of themselves as writing (or reading) teachers, and in some cases may not assign very many writing assignments. The use of wikis as a means of facilitating collaborative projects can be an effective instructional strategy in any content area — with the benefit of supporting the development of writing skills because of the nature of the medium.

Basics of Use & Anatomy
  1. Content Page or Article
  2. Revisions History
  3. Discussion or Talk page
  4. The importance of TAGGING
  5. Edit or Page Notes
  6. Links

· Do not be rude or offensive when posting comments or making edits.
· Do not write “Click here for more information about Collaborative Learning.” Instead, write “More info about Collaborative Learning.” Avoid doing this for external links as well.
· Do correct typos or content errors.
· Do contribute original content or referenced materials. Follow normal citation and reference rules for academic writing to avoid plagiarizing or violating copyrights, and include links to original material if available online.
· Do use actual dates. For example, write “In August 2009 we implemented a new intervention program…” rather than writing “Last August we implemented a new intervention program…”
· Do add your signature to comments if applicable and do avoid using first-person references when creating wiki content.
· Do remain objective when adding or creating content. Pros and cons should be included when appropriate.
· Do be bold. Go ahead and create content or edit someone else’s work. Remember that this is all about collaboration.
· Do not be offended if someone edits your work. Remember that this is all about collaboration.
· Do include “notes” when you make changes to explain what changes were made and why you made them.
· Do recognize useful content and give praise to constructive work that adds value to the wiki.
· Do help build structure. Allow for collaborative synthesis and structuring of the content by everyone.
· Do follow basic rules of grammar and avoid writing in ALL CAPS, which is considered “shouting” in online communications.
· Do use your own name and not an alias. This helps to build trust among the team and holds everyone accountable for his or her contributions.

Wiki “Golden Rule”
“If it isn’t on the wiki, it is not because it doesn’t belong on the wiki… It’s because YOU haven’t added it to the wiki!”

Links & Resources

Get your FREE wikispaces account and education wiki:


For more ideas on how to use Wikis in the classroom: