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Andrea Alderman, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Definitions and background

Wikis are websites where users can read or edit content (Kimmerle, Moskaliuk and Cress, 2011). Wikis are a Web 2.0 application—an application that lets users both read and write (as opposed to Web 1.0 applications that were read-only) (Ruth and Houghton, 2009). Wikis are online, browser-based and provide open editing of all pages (Deters, Cuthrell and Stapleton, 2010). Wikis are often compared to blogs but differ in many ways; the most important of which is that blogs are organized chronologically while wikis are organized hierarchically (Schwartz, Clark, Cossarin and Rudolph, 2004). Wikis are also organized according to folksonomies (when contributors attribute tags to information to facilitate grouping and searching) (Deters, Cuthrell and Stapleton, 2010).

Ward Cunningham originally developed Wikis in 1995, with the most well known wiki being Wikipedia (Challborn and Reimann, 2005). The name wiki comes from the Hawaiian word wiki-wiki, which means quick (Goodwin-Jones, 2003). Other sources claim the name wiki is an acronym for “What I Know Is” (Gomes and Sousa, 2013, p. 627). Since the original wiki, hundreds of wiki programs have cropped up, however, most are carbon copies of other wikis with only a few distinctive services (Schwartz, Clark, Cossarin and Rudolph, 2004).


The main affordance of wikis is that they allow users to view and edit content in an “openly accessible digital space” (Wheeler, Yeomans, and Wheeler, 2008, p. 989). The content is multimedia in nature and can include text, images, hyperlinks and (on some wikis) videos (Sanden and Darragh, 2011). Wikis are also browser-based, which allows users to access them from different platforms without the need for additional software (Ruth and Houghton, 2009). When used in an educational context, the multimedia approach of wikis permits students to easily share resources and knowledge (Naismith, Lee and Pilkington, 2011). In some schools, resources are not only shared between students and teachers, but also with parents and guardians—strengthening the school-home connection (Lee, 2012). Lee (2012) also found that when schools shared wikis with the home, parents become “more involved in their children’s learning because they knew what their children and teacher were doing together without being in the classroom” (p. 96).

Wiki services provide another affordance by allowing users or moderators to return pages to prior versions in case of misinformation or tampering (Glassman and Kang, 2011). Additionally, moderators (teachers) can choose to receive a notification, generally through email, to inform them of changes to the wiki content (Matthew, Felvegi and Callaway, 2009).

Another affordance of wikis is that they allow students to collaborate from any location at any time, making learning asynchronous (Naismith, Lee and Pilkington, 2011). Fu, Chu and Kang (2013) found that when they interviewed students about their impressions of working on a wiki they “enjoyed this learning experience mostly because they were able to carry out the project at their convenience” (p. 91). The wiki approach also provided students the ability to co-author documents more easily than traditional word processing methods (such as Microsoft word) (Fu, Chu and Kang, 2013).

An additional affordance of wikis is that there exists a variety of wiki services, which makes them flexible (Schwartz, Clark, Cossarin and Rudolph, 2004). Users can thus choose how simple or complex the wiki should be, depending on their technical aptitude or specific requirements (Schwartz, Clark, Cossarin and Rudolph, 2004). The most simple and accessible wikis employ “WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) text editors” (Larusson and Alterman, 2009, p. 373).

A final affordance of wikis is their use in the language classroom (Craig, 2013). Lee (2012) reported that the research, reading, writing and editing involved in creating an entry strongly supported and fostered language-learning skills. By having students work on wikis as part of a computer-supported collaborate environment; teachers are able to make learning authentic and memorable (Gomes and Sousa, 2013).


Fu, Chu and Kang (2013) stressed that a constraint of wikis is that they are dependent on Internet access. Craig (2013) worried that Internet dependency might make wikis less accessible to some students. Additionally, some wikis have a rigid formatting system that, according to Fu, Chu and Kang (2013) make building and organizing wiki pages a challenge. Compared with current desktop publishing tools, wiki software editing is rudimentary (Matthew, Felvegi and Callaway, 2009). Matthew, Felvegi and Callaway (2009) remarked that “settings and preferences [in a wiki] are limited; at times what is displayed when editing the page is not the same as what is displayed once the page edits are saved” (p. 53). Finally, since wikis are open and browser-based, they can be affected by vandalism and viruses (Wheeler, Yeomans, and Wheeler, 2008).

The open nature of wikis can also pose a challenge to students with a lower level of technical ability (Deters, Cuthrell and Stapleton, 2010). Deters, Cuthrell and Stapleton (2010) interviewed a teacher who had a student unintentionally change the password, thereby locking out all of the students and the teacher. Familiarity with wikis and other Web 2.0 software was found to be a constraint to successful implementation of a wiki-based project (Fu, Chu and Kang, 2013). Students reported that they would have benefited from better instruction on how to use the platform and more training time with the tool (Deters, Cuthrell and Stapleton, 2010).

A further constraint of wikis is that all students who collaborate on text become owners of the text (Matthew, Felvegi and Callaway, 2009). This raised questions of ownership and intellectual property and left some students worried that their work would be stolen (Ruth and Houghton, 2009). Additionally, once a wiki is published it can still be revised and edited. (Matthew, Felvegi and Callaway, 2009). According to Wheeler, Yeomans, and Wheeler (2008), such changes could affect the accuracy of the wiki page. The final constraint that must be considered is that due to the open nature of wikis, students (specifically younger students) might be putting themselves at risk by using their identity online (Craig, 2013).


Wikispaces - Wikis for Teachers

50 Ways to Use Wikis for a More Collaborative and Interactive Classroom

Greetings From The World – Wikispace

Wikis in the Classroom - Technology Integration for Teachers

Wikis in the Classroom – Youtube

Works Cited

Challborn, C., & Reimann, T. (2005). Wiki products: a comparison. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 6(2), 1-5. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

Craig, D. V. (2013). Content creators and language learners: Exploring web 2.0 and wikis. Journal of Educators Online, 10(2), 1-21. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

Deters, F., Cuthrell, K., & Stapleton, J. (2010). Why wikis? Student perceptions of using wikis in online coursework. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(1), n/a. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

Fu, H., Chu, S., & Kang, W. (2013). Affordances and constraints of a wiki for primary-school students' group projects. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 16(4), n/a. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

Glassman, M., & Kang, M. (2011). The logic of wikis: The possibilities of the Web 2.0 classroom. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 6(1), 93-112. doi: 10.1007/s11412-011-9107-y

Gomes, R., & Sousa, L. (2013). Teaching and learning through wikis in higher education. International Journal Of Information & Education Technology, 3(6), 627-633. doi:10.7763/IJIET.2013.V3.350

Goodwin-Jones, B. (2003). Blogs and wikis: environments for on-line collaboration. Language Learning & Technology, 7(2), 12-16. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

Kimmerle, J., Moskaliuk, J., & Cress, U. (2011). Using wikis for learning and knowledge building: Results of an experimental study. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 14(4), 138-n/a.

Larusson, J. A., & Alterman, R. (2009). Wikis to support the “collaborative” part of collaborative learning. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4(4), 371-402. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

Lee, L. (2012). "A learning journey for all": American elementary teachers' use of classroom wikis. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 11(3), 1-13. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

Matthew, K. I., Felvegi, E., & Callaway, R. A. (2009). Wiki as a collaborative learning tool in a language arts methods class. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42(1), 51-72. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

Naismith, L., Lee, B., & Pilkington, R. (2011). Collaborative learning with a wiki: Differences in perceived usefulness in two contexts of use. Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(3), 228-242. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00393.x

Ruth, A., & Houghton, L. (2009). The wiki way of learning. Australasian Journal Of Educational Technology, 25(2), 135-152. Retrieved May 21, 2014, from

Sanden, S., & Darragh, J. (2011). Wiki use in the 21st-century literacy classroom: a framework for evaluation. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 11(1), 6-20. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

Schwartz, L., Clark, S., Cossarin, M., & Rudolph, J. (2004). Educational wikis: features and selection criteria. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 5(1), 1-6. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

Wheeler, S., Yeomans, P., & Wheeler, D. (2008). The good, the bad and the wiki: Evaluating student-generated content for collaborative learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(6), 987-995. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00799.x