Probably the best known wiki is wikipedia and the definition of a wiki from that resource is (at the time of writing, of course):

"A wiki is a page or collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. The collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia is one of the best-known wikis. Wikis are used in business to provide intranet and Knowledge Management systems. Ward Cunningham, the developer of the first wiki software, WikiWikiWeb, originally described it as "the simplest online database that could possibly work".
"Wiki" (/wiːkiː/) is a Hawaiian word for "fast". "Wiki Wiki" is a reduplication. "Wiki" can be expanded as "What I Know Is", but this is a backronym. "

The founder of Wikipedia is Jimmy Wales. Jimmy Wales on the birth of Wikipedia video from
Watch anonymous Wikipedia edits in (close to) real-time.

Commoncraft's Video about Wetpaint wikis:

Commoncraft has another video about wikis, but the one above makes a stronger case.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Most wikis have built-in functionality to
  • modify web pages using either a visual editor or the markup language editor
  • track all changes made to the pages
  • revert to a previous version of a page
  • discuss the content of a page
  • receive notifications of changes to pages (by email or RSS)
  • manage security for authors
  • search
  • make pages visible to search engines
  • report statistics
There are lots of options for using wikis that are free or of low cost.

Some typical drawbacks of using wiki software are:
  • only one person at a time can edit a page
  • limited ability to customize the look and feel of the pages (can result in an unprofessional look)
  • it's easy for wikis to live beyond a project's life, to become orphaned, or to live as a sounding board for half-formed, unsure, and speculative ideas
  • A wiki can quickly get messy, and you may need to perform routine maintenance.
  • if externally hosted, a loss of control (e.g., use of advertising)
  • lack of import/export options - if the page is ultimately going to be in another form (e.g. a Word document), consider using an alternative

Some Sites which Host Wikis

wikispaces - be sure to sign up for a K-12 site to avoid ads
external image teacher1.php
wetpaint - can request ad-free (see


If you want to be able to work on the document at the same time as your collaborators, think about using Google Docs or Etherpad.

Other alternatives include generating standard Web 1.0 web pages, using professional tools like Microsoft Sharepoint, or using Change Tracking in documents.

Some Examples of Wikis for Teachers

Web 2.0 in Education (UK) - has a very extensive list of tools for teachers
Charlotte Area Math Educators Wiki
Tapping Into the Collective Intelligence of the Read/Write Web in Education Learning Network - a page created as a result of a request to the Personal Learning Networks of three presenters

Some Examples of Wikis for Students

Mr. Mitchell's and Mr. Sampson's MHF4U Wiki
Welker's Wikinomics, winner of the 2007 EduBlog Awards "Best Educational Wiki" award, for students and teachers of Economics

Some Resources

Clay Shirky's Talk to Web 2.0 Conference - The Cognitive Surplus: Gin, Sitcoms and Wikipedia

Eight Ways to Use School wikis
Vicki Davis' Slideshare about wiki in the classroom
SITMO Equation Editor for web pages, blogs and wikis. Create the equation, download the image and insert it into the page.

To add this to a wiki page, go to Embed Widget (the TV icon) | Other HTML and enter the code from the SITMO site.

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