Last modified on 25 January 2010, at 17:23

Wiki Pedagogy/Templates and Tools

In this section some of the available wiki programs are presented. This is followed by an outline of the more commonly available wiki features. Following this, a recommendation of wiki software programs is offered, with special emphasis on two that are deemed most suitable for educational use, based on this author's experiences. Choosing wiki software

According to meatball wiki (2003), there are more than 200 wiki programs, although only a handful are considered unique. Schwartz et al, (2004) compare the following "unique" wikis (unique in the sense that they offer differing options) in terms of source code, wiki management, page formatting, access control, communications, support and other advanced features:

  1. WikiWikiWeb (the first wiki)
  2. SeedWiki (a WYSIWYG)
  3. DolphinWiki: everything to do with creation of robots using LEGO
  4. PhpWiki or here
  5. MoinMoin
  6. SwikiClone
  7. TwikiClone
  8. UseModWiki
  9. WikkiTikkiTavi
  10. Zwiki Clone
  11. Open Wiki

For other comparisons see the sections "Comparing wiki features" in Teaching and learning online with wikis and "Choosing a wiki" in Making the Case for a Wiki.

For a list of many other wikis see the Wiki Directory.

For an excellent list and commentary on Francophone wiki software options, see Framasoft. Common wiki features

Modular construction means that wikis can be very simple or complex according to user needs and skill levels. There are SandBoxes in which to practice, RecentChanges to see changes in any given text, NewRecentChanges for versions of previous pages, search engines through FindPage, UserName for identification, and so on.

Wikis allow for external web links (hyperlinks) and internal wiki links (crosslinks between wiki pages). Creating links requires no particular knowledge of hypertext markup language (HTML); you simply type in a web address (URL) or write the name of an existing wiki page. Links are automatically created. It goes without saying that this permits an extremely interesting referencing system for organizing and linking content.

Participants can be notified about new content by using email notification.

Low graphic use results in pages that load quickly.

Access is flexible: all that is needed is a computer with a browser and an Internet connection. Particular wiki features

While not all wikis automatically come with all these features, any given feature can potentially be incorporated into any other wiki by accessing and customizing the source code. Those marked with an asterisk are common features in most wikis. According to Leuf and Cunningham (cited in Schwartz et al, 2004), a wiki functions independently of any special add-ons or plug-ins (advanced features such as blogging, polling, calendars, RSS, etc.), and so tends to better meet the needs of a fairly broad audience.

  • editable via major browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Netscape,etc.)
  • simple markup formatting instead of HTML [1]
  • no markups for links (pages, external links, images, etc)
  • supports HTML
  • text editing
  • image insertion [2]
  • hyperlink insertion
  • lists (numbered, bulleted, hierarchical)
  • media insertion (streaming audio/video)
  • link checking
  • search engine
  • What You See Is What You Get formatting (WYSIWYG)
  • spell-checking
  • tables
  • emoticons
  • blogging
  • polling
  • calendar
  • RSS feeds
  • drawing tools
  • equation editor
  • synchronous text messaging

Starting your very own wiki

To choose the wiki package that will best suit your needs, think about the features you need. Remember, however, that more features mean more complexity. For example, how much text variety should students be offered? Do you need WYSIWYG formatting? While WYSIWYG formatting can be a distraction — since students can get carried away with the formatting rather than concentrating on the content — they are nonetheless used to these features.

If you work in the francophone world, two wiki packages integrate almost all of the unique elements outlined above. The first is Wikini MST, adapted for educational use by RÉCIT MST Quebec. This wiki software program allows for the insertion of mathematical symbols, text highlighting and colours, RSS and many other options that are important for educators. Merci mille fois RECITMST [3]! The second — and most popular — wiki package is MediaWiki, available in English and French. Both of these wiki packages offer extensive documentation and FAQs, and accept requests for additional features to be considered in upcoming versions.

Before you decide to use MediaWiki, please take a look at other wiki engines (see, for example, the list at http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiEngines) and determine whether one of them might better meet your requirements. For small wikis, UseMod (http://www.usemod.com/cgi-bin/wiki.pl) is always a safe bet — it does not need or support a database. The latter is, of course, also a bottleneck in terms of functionality. Requests for new features should be submitted to MediaZilla (http://bugzilla.wikimedia.org). Important resources :

  • Incsub: Open Source Wikis for Education
  • Wiki software resources (All you want/need to know about how to begin.)
  • OOPS (Opensource Opencourseware Prototype System)

[1] However, the large diversity of markup formatting (however simple it may be) has led to a lack of standardization across wiki programs.

[2] GIF/JPEG images can be inserted only by referencing a URL; they must be uploaded to the net.

[3] NOTE: Wikinis do not, by default, come with image insertion possibilities. However, this capacity can easily be added to the software. See this Framasoft article for a presentation of WikiniMST features.