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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

The Wonderful World of the Wiki

By now, most people that use the Internet on a regular basis will have heard of wikis: collaborative web sites that allow a number of people to create and edit content. Typically, a wiki is continuously "under revision" – a melting pot for the initiation and development of shared ideas.

The most famous Wiki is Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that features millions of articles written and edited by a vast army of mostly unknown contributors. The word wiki comes from the Hawaiian language and means "quick" or "fast".

As well as major projects like Wikipedia, wikis are also used by corporations to share technical data or collaborate on research, by families to keep in touch and post photos, and by thousands of hobbyists to share information on everything from fine wines to great recipes to the best places to stay when traveling abroad.

Recently, wikis have also been utilized as an educational tool, allowing students to collaborate via the web in ways that would have been unimaginable just a couple of years ago. Sites like Wikispaces are at the vanguard of this movement, making wikis freely available for educational use.

One of the strengths of a wiki is that it allows a series of individuals to correct or enhance submissions that have already been made, with the goal of ultimately reaching a document that everyone sees as reflecting the best efforts of the entire group. This consensus-building approach fits perfectly into the concept of collaboration that is such an important part of the learning process in most schools.

For K-12 students, the potential use of wikis is almost limitless – vocabulary lists and examples of words in use, observations from field trips, wiki fan clubs for favorite authors, mock debates; a wiki can be utilized for almost anything.

Some of the additional educational benefits of wikis include:

  • encouraging children to be flexible in their creative thinking, accepting ideas and input from others;
  • introducing the idea that a creative piece is never "done" and can always be improved;
  • increasing the engagement of all students;
  • developing interpersonal and communication skills, especially consensus-building and compromise;
  • practicing the hardest part of the writing process: review and revision;
  • developing teamwork.

Although wikis are designed to procure input from multiple sources, they can also benefit one-on-one interaction, allowing teachers to devote extra time to individual students for after-hours projects or home tuition.

So welcome to the wonderful world of wikis. If they haven't already been introduced to your child's school, expect to hear about them very soon!

Are wikis being used in your child's school? Share your experience with The Online Mom.           

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