Using Wikis for ELT Project Work

When you hear the word “wiki”, what do you think of? Wikipedia probably. Wikipedia is indeed the best known example of a wiki, it is so well known in fact that it has pretty much taken over the meaning of the word “wiki”.

What makes Wikipedia a wiki is that it is editable. Anyone can register to be an editor and they can add, modify and delete content. Wikipedia is a crowd-sourced venture, which relies on the belief that with enough people collaborating on the project, you will get a complete and accurate repository of knowledge.

While some people might disagree with the concept behind Wikipedia and think that a trustworthy encyclopaedia should be compiled by an appointed team of learned experts, wikis themselves can be excellent pedagogical tools, particularly in ELT.

As wikis are tools that are designed for collaboration they can be successfully exploited for collaborative writing tasks and projects. Teachers can set up a wiki for their class and assign different tasks to different students. The students can login to the wiki, complete their task and save it. Then it can be viewed and commented on by the other members of the class or others, such as parents.

A simple project using a wiki could be this project about the British Isles.

1. Teacher sets up a Wiki with a Home Page and four separate pages for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

2. Teacher describes the task on the Home Page and gives instructions for the class.

3. Teacher places a simple grid on each of the following pages with sections for: A) Geography, B) History, C) Culture, D) Sport.

4. Teacher divides the class into four groups of four and each group has an A, B, C, D student.

5. The students login to the wiki and complete the task.

Student A from Group 1 needs to research and write about the Geography of England, Student B from Group 1 needs to research and write about the History of England and so on.

Student A from Group 2 needs to research and write about the Geography of Scotland, Student B from Group 2 needs to research and write about the History of Scotland and so on.

As wikis generally allow for rich media to be included, students could include photos and videos that they find during their research.

At the end of the task, the class will have built up a webpage with their descriptions of the British Isles, with photos and videos. In a way, I think this can be seen as similar to the kind of illustrated projects that we put up on our class walls. The class can ask others, such as their parents, to visit and see their project online. You could even make it even more interactive by asking class members and visitors to vote on which country they would most like to visit using the polling tool available on most wikis.

Richmond is currently developing a wiki to be offered on its Learning Platforms. In my opinion the best, free wiki tool available is wikispaces: www.wikispaces.com They have lots of tools and tips for teachers.

Quick quiz: Please write in the comments for this blog post where the word “wiki” comes from and what it means.

Luke Baxter

Luke Baxter is the Digital Publisher at Richmond in Oxford. He taught English in Argentina and then Madrid, where he founded a Business English academy. He joined OUP as an Editor before going to Richmond in 2010. Luke has an MA in Latin American Literature from Warwick University.

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