Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wikis as a Student Centered tool

WikiPedia is a web-based encyclopedia that promotes online communication and interaction with millions of viewers around the world (WikiPedia, 2009). Whist it serves as a good starting point for students to gain background information when researching a particular topic, the information is not always reliable. In this post I will give an example of how a Wiki can be used as an instructional tool, where the students are the producers of information and not the consumers.

Problem/task: WikiPedia have asked you to work together to increase and improve the information they have regarding native animal habitats in your area, namely the Sunshine Coast. They need you to research this topic and provide them with accurate and reliable information to update their site.

Year Level: Grade 5
Duration: 5-6 weeks
Science-Life and Living: Living things have relationships with other living things and their environment
SOSE-Place and Space: Environments are defined by physical and human dimensions
Art-Media: Representations in media texts are selected from different settings, including time and place, and for different audiences and purposes
English-Writing and Designing: Writers and designers refer to a number of authoritative sources and use a number of active writing strategies, including planning, drafting, revising, editing, proofreading, publishing and reflecting

The Sunshine Coast is one of the most biological diverse regions in Australia with a variety of habitats ranging from mangroves and wetlands to rainforests and coastal heath. Providing students with a problem or task, such as the one outlined above, aligns well with the first component of Oliver's (1999, as cited in AusInfo, 2003) Learning Design framework, 'Learning Tasks'. Throughout this unit students will be researching using a number of resources (books, internet, excursion to local wetlands and other habitats, human resources for example a Parks and Wildlife Ranger, Sunshine Coast Regional Council, etc). This supports the second component of Oliver's framework, 'Learning Resources'. Throughout the task the Learning Manager is there to scaffold the learning journey and in doing so, completes the third element 'Learning Supports'.

This unit plan could also be aligned with Kearsley's and Schneiderman's (1999) Engagement Theory and the relate, create, donate components in the following ways.
Relate-students need to work collaboratively towards an authentic problem/task
Create-students conduct research and apply their findings in a specific context
Donate-after substantial research students present their information to Wikipedia and make a worthwhile contribution to an 'outside customer'.

The use of a Wiki as a student centered tool has the ability to reach a much wider audience than say a classroom blog. It gives the students the chance to make a very real contribution to a site with existing content (WikiPedia) about a given topic, in this case 'Native Animal Habitats on the Sunshine Coast'.

AusInfo. (2003). Learning design. Retrieved August 16, 2009, from

Kearsley, G., & Shneiderman, B. (1999). Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Retrieved August 19, 2009, from

Queensland Studies Authority (QSA). (2007). Essential Learnings by the end of Year 5. Retrieved August 20, 2009, from


  1. Hi Nari,

    I had not yet contemplated the opportunities that a Wiki provides for us. Actually i must be honest, i had not yet thought of what a Wiki even was! Thanks to the tools introduced to us throughout this course i can now see so many different and exciting ways that i could use a Wiki in my own classroom. I might even begin to get one of my own sons to have a go just to increase his editing skills!

    Chat soon,

  2. Hey Nari. I have found wikis to be a great learning tool and great for collaborative tasks as well. What caught my attention though was the great task that you have set for students within your wiki. That they have to research a topic and improve the information already (or not) on wikipedia about specific native animals and habitats. What an authentic task which gives students alot of scope to pick a topic that they would enjoy - very student centred. And as you have mentioned, some great links to literacy outcomes in that their work will have a very public audience (the whole world). If you dont mind, will be keeping this idea up my sleeve for future use. Thanks.
    Regards, Glenn.

  3. I Kerri and Glenn,
    I'm sure that there are many other uses for a Wiki as a student centered tool, this idea was just one possibility that I came up with. I guess that with familiarity and practice, as with most of the tools we have explored, we will be able to offer our students many more engaging and authentic tasks.

  4. Hi Nari,
    Wiki as a student centered tool, I am yet to fully comprehend. I have no doubt Wiki is a useful tool but time or lack of, hasn't allowed me to fully explore its potential. Great blog.
    Cheers Rhonda