Wikified Schools: Using Wikis to Improve Communication & Collaboration

Session Description

Explore the use of wikis as highly effective communication and collaboration tools that enhance the effectiveness of teacher teams, PLCs, and school or district leadership teams. Wikis and their potential uses will be defined and participants will learn basic wiki “best practices.”

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.


“Running an organization is difficult in and of itself, no matter what it’s goals. Every transaction it undertakes… requires it to expend some limited resource: time, attention, or money… Self-preservation of the institution becomes job number one, while its stated goal is relegated to number two or lower, no matter what its mission statement says.” — Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody
What implications does this quote have for our work as educators?
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)
Wikis for Leadership and Administration
  • Communication and Knowledge Management
  • Meetings
  • Personal Portfolios
  • PLCs
  • CFGs
  • Lesson Plans and Curriculum Planning
  • Professional Development
  • Home-to-School/School-to-Home Communication & Collaboration

Wikis in the classroom
  • A simple Google search for “wikis in education” brings up more than 19,000,000 results!
  • Yes — wikis help prepare students with the development of 21st Century CCC skills, but they also support and enhance literacy skill development (in addition to helping students learn “wiki literacy”)
  • Within the classroom, students can use wikis for a variety of purposes:
    • Workspaces for individual or group projects
    • Student-created textbook
    • Individual portfolios
    • Interdisciplinary knowledge-base
    • Virtual projects with other schools or community partners
  • Teachers can use wikis for:
    • Class notes and lesson summaries
    • Parental and student communication
    • Handouts
    • Course syllabus
    • Course links and resource notes
    • School or class calendar
    • Collaborative note-taking
    • Concept introduction and exploratory projects
    • Dissemination of important classroom learning beyond the classroom
    • Teacher information page
    • Student-authored books
    • School or classroom newspaper/ newsletter
  • Student voice & Leadership
    • Student Council meeting minutes, project planning, etc.
    • Portfolio of Student Council work, documentation of procedures and processes
    • Posting of information related to school-wide events like blood drives, donation campaigns, etc.
    • Grade level councils can post meeting minutes
    • Prom Committee – prom planning, class voting on specific aspects of prom plans
    • Student research – surveys using Google Forms can be embedded in a wiki page with the results posted on another page
    • Student NewsPaper/Magazine can be published on a wiki rather than on paper or in addition to paper
    • Yearbook can document production and request input from classmates while yearbook is under production
    • Art club can post information about upcoming art exhibitions, art sales, field trips, and even host an online art gallery right in the wiki
    • All clubs and organizations can post reminders about upcoming meetings, meeting topics, and other group events
    • General information for all students on how to become more involved with the school’s many clubs and organizations

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

Getting started
Step 1: Decide on use of a wiki hosting service or a stand-alone wiki installed on your servers
Free, online (wiki farms)

Free, opensource (installed on your server)

You should begin this decision process by deciding which features you need or want to have on your wiki then conduct research to identify the hosting service or software that meets those needs. A list of resources that will aid you in your research is located in the Recommended Reading and Resources section of this book, and on the book wiki: Your selection at this point will dictate your choice of hosting options:
· Install the wiki software or “engine” of your choice on your server, which is either your own hardware, or a server that you rent from a web host. In this option you are responsible for and in control of all aspects of installation, maintenance, upgrades, and support.
· Create a wiki on any of the free hosting wiki farms. Someone else is generally in control of installation, maintenance, upgrades, and support. You are able to focus on content, organization, business process, and social functions of the wiki.
Step 2: Informal, grassroots implementation
Allow early-adopters to start using the wiki in their departments or teams.
Step 3: Action Research – document best practices specific to your organization, and determine what works and what doesn’t work for your school or district
Document your processes as the wiki develops and allow your early-adopters group to develop user guides for your organization.
Step 4: Focus, Structure, and Guidelines
Before rolling out to other users, determine a focus for your wiki, decide on any kind of basic structure for content (keeping in mind that this will change as the wiki grows), and develop some basic community guidelines for content creation, editing, and user interactions.
Step 5: Roll out to other users with training, support, and mentoring
A common question is “How do I get people – all people at all levels of skill and comfort with technology — to use the wiki?”
Mentors & coaching — not just one-shot training workshops
RSS feed subscriptions (can go to email)
Step 6: Nurture, encourage, and celebrate successes and innovative use
Grow your wiki by nurturing and encouraging your users, then take time to recognize success and innovative uses of the wiki. Has someone learned a new way to embed other media or developed an effective way of using wiki pages with teacher teams? Highlight those accomplishments on a “recent news” section of the wiki, and encourage those users to share their accomplishments through a workshop that they can facilitate to teach others what they have learned or developed.
Tips, Tricks, Dos & Don’ts for Successful Wiki Implementation
1. Do provide access to the wiki outside of district or school intranets.
Adoption will happen more quickly if staff can access the wiki from any location and not just from the office or campus. In order to promote adoption, it should be easily accessible and easy to use. Keep it simple.
2. Do encourage “grass-roots” adoption.
If your entire organization or school is not yet ready to plunge into system-wide wiki use, allow smaller groups or teams to create their own wikis. Be supportive of these “grass-roots” efforts and highlight their accomplishments when appropriate so that the other staff members become aware of how the wiki use is contributing to the organization.
3. Don’t impose an overly strict structure to the wiki.
Do allow employees to define a structure that meets their needs as often as possible. Start with a skeletal structure and allow employees the flexibility to change that structure as needed. Allow for an organic, flexible, and evolving structure from the beginning of wiki implementation.
4. Don’t block access to free wiki sites such as Wikipedia, PBWorks, or WetPaint.
These free sites offer all staff members an easily accessible and easy-to-use space where they can explore how to use wikis by creating their own for personal use. Access to these wiki sites also allows employees to become exposed to wikis used in other schools and districts, to network with other educators who have adopted wiki use, and to see a wide variety of uses across classrooms, schools, and districts.
5. Do get permission to publish images of students and colleagues.
This is a no-brainer for legal reasons — especially when students are involved. Some include photo permission forms as part of their admissions packet and have on file permission requests of parents. Additionally, schools should have rules for identification of people in photos. Many schools only allow first names and last initials for privacy reasons.

6. Do provide praise and encouragement for ANY participation, then, praise and encouragement for meaningful participation.
We are human. We like to receive a “pat on the back” when we participate in ways that add value to the whole. Public praise and encouragement may also send an encouraging message to staff members who have been reluctant to use the wiki in their work.
7. Do insist on real names or a consistent use of a psedudonym for username. Don’t allow for anonymous edits or comments. Do set a positive, constructive tone early.

Online etiquette is very important because we lose the visual and verbal cues that are present in face-to-face settings. The use of real names (or at least First Name and Last Initial for students) or making sure that a list of pseudonyms and corresponding real names held by the teacher or administrator helps provide the transparency necessary for safe, positive, and effective online collaboration and it holds people accountable for the content that they create.

8. Do start small and make edits together as a group the first time.
Group mentoring of new technologies can be as effective as one-on-one mentoring for most users, but, of course, this is even more effective if paired with follow-up mentoring for users who find the wiki challenging. Encourage more tech-savvy users to be bold in their use of the wiki while also acting as mentors to the users who need mroe help and guidance.

9. Do promote the use of wiki over email for projects and tasks that you are designating to be done on the wiki and avoid the temptation to provide information in media other than the wiki.
Gently remind users to share information through the wiki rather than through email if you are pushing project management to the wiki for a task. Model the use of wiki for collaboration and the use of email for short, immediate messages that do not require intensive collaborative efforts. Do not provide alternative media or locations for information and content that is more appropriate for inclusion the wiki. When employees ask where they can find that information, remind them that it is on the wiki. The wiki should become the one-stop shop for all your collaborative documentation and information.

10. Do understand that many of your users will not be comfortable with technology.

Be willing to accept that some of your employees have yet to accept email as the standard form of written communication across your organization. While you should be aware of this, you should also create opportunities for them to use the wiki with some guided practice.

11. Do let go of the notion that physical presence is the only prerequisite for collaboration and productivity.
These new tools allow for collaboration from any place, any time. Time is a scarce resource in our business, and it is frequently very difficult to coordinate face-to-face meeting times and locations with busy leadership teams who are taking care of the important school and/or district business. Much of our typical brainstorming and collaboration can take place thorough wikis and other web-based tools.

12. Do provide some one-on-one hand-holding and coaching for users who need it.
One-shot workshops on a professional development day are not effective means for helping faculty learn new technology. Understand that you will have some users who will need some one-on-one time to learn how to use the wiki.

13. Do be patient.
It cannot be stated enough that this process takes time. Be patient with the learning curves of the users and be patient with each individual’s path and pace in learning.

· 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!”


Personal Profile

Step 1: Click on "New Page" link at top of left side menu.
Step 2: Enter YOUR name for the page name. This page will become your personal profile page.
Step 3: Fill out your profile by entering the information listed below:
-- Your name
-- Your position and school/district/organization
-- Subject area or grade level or department
-- Email address (if you want an invite to Google+)
-- Any other information that you want to include

Links & Resources

Wikified Schools book wiki -

Wiki Hosting & Software
Free **Wikispaces** for Educators -- Wikispaces blog - look there for two blog posts discussing Wikispaces integration with Google Apps (GAFE)
Free wikis on **PBWiki**
Ad-Free Wikis for Educators from **WetPaint**
**Google Sites**
Free Open Source Software Package for Wikis from **MediaWiki**

"Wikis for School Leaders" (Stephanie Sandifer)
“Wikified Schools” (Stephanie Sandifer)
“Wikipatterns” (Stewart Mader)
“Using Wiki in Education” (Stewart Mader)
“Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything” (Don Tapscott, Anthony D. Williams)
“Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations” (Clay Shirky)

Books on Related Topics
“Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms” (Will Richardson)
Using Technology With Classroom Instruction That Works
Classroom Blogging: 2nd Edition (David Warlick)
Web 2.0: New Tools, New Schools (Gwen Solomon, Lynne Schrum)
National Educational Technology Standards (NETS)