When I returned to teaching almost exactly 1 year ago I decided that I wanted our Computing department course materials to be available electronically. I looked at various ways I might be able to do this, and came to the conclusion that a wiki would offer the most effective solution. There are a number of free wikis available, but I opted to use wikispaces and I have to say I really like it. Our wiki homepage is http://forrestercomputing.wikispaces.com/
One year down the line and I have the bones of a curricular wiki in place. It’s still very much work in progress, with parts of some courses a little threadbare or still to be developed, and pages visually unappealing, but it is being improved and updated virtually every day. Our Computing wiki currently has 270 pages. I also hope to begin a departmental Maths wiki in the next few months. We use wikis as collaborative learning tools too, but this post is specifically focussed on using a wiki to share materials and content with learners.
As I have been building and using our wiki, it dawned on me that there are a whole range of benefits it offers. Here are 18…
1. Quick to build
This is a really appealing factor for me. Once the wiki has been created, it’s so easy to add pages and drop in content.
2. Easy to edit
Once a wiki is in place with pages, it’s simple to edit. When a pupil points out an error on a page, it can be fixed on the spot.
3. Allows materials to be developed over time
When creating a paper resource such as a booklet, the entire document must be finished, proofed and printed before sharing with learners. With a wiki the materials are available instantly.
4. Editable from anywhere
As an online resource the wiki can be updated from any computer with a web browser.
5. One URL for all materials
I regularly point pupils to resources online. Embedding these links in the wiki means that pupils only need to remember a single URL.
6. Colleagues can collaborate
Developing materials on a wiki makes it much easier for teachers to work together on content
7. Embedding PDFs
Our department used to print out course notes for pupils. Now I just embed them in the wiki and they can view the materials electronically. There’s no excuse for losing notes now!
I use Issuu for this e.g http://forrestercomputing.wikispaces.com/Higher+Data+Representation+Notes.
8. Linking to files
Wikispaces allows document files of any type to be linked within a page for pupils to download.
9. Embedding YouTube videos
Pupils learn much better from a YouTube video than reading through course notes e.g http://forrestercomputing.wikispaces.com/Software+Development+Process+wrong.
10. Embedding Presentations
I have a number of PowerPoints I use in my teaching, particularly at Higher level. I upload these to SlideShare and then embed them in the wiki e.g http://forrestercomputing.wikispaces.com/The+Processor+(CPU).
11. Hierarchical course structure
Books or course notes are linear. With a wiki the materials are organised hierarchically which is much better.
12. Using pages across multiple topics
In Computing there are a number of topics which are taught across different courses (e.g. viruses). No need to copy and paste the content – just create a new link to that page.
13. Setting homework electronically
I use Edmodo to set homework. If the homework question or exercise is on the wiki I only need to send the link.
14. Supporting absent pupils
When a pupil is absent, we are asked if there is any work which can be sent home. We can do this via email by sending liks to the appropriate page or pages on the wiki.
15. Environmental benefits
We no longer produce reams of paper notes for pupils.
16. Financial benefits
We have cut down significantly on photocopying and this means the departmental budget can be spent elsewhere.
17. Planning cover
We are starting to build a section on the wiki for cover lessons, making it easier to set cover when a member of the department is absent.
18. Learners can access from any device
Materials are available to learners on any device with internet access whether a smartphone, tablet, netbook, laptop, desktop or even game console.
So…what are the other benefits of using a wiki for sharing learning materials…?
Obligatory Wiki Photo by Alan Devine (cogdogblog on Flickr)