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What is Wiki?

John Davies provides the following overview in his paper Wiki Brainstorming and Problems with Wiki Based Collaboration :

“The wiki concept was invented by Ward Cunningham in 1995. It was created as a means to develop collaborative web pages by allowing information and associations to be added freely by any user. Put simply, a wiki consists of web pages where everyone has rights to edit everything, and editing is not discouraged but encouraged. They provide a means to develop collaborative web pages by allowing users to freely edit both the content and the structure. As such it is a collaborative workspace where everybody has the ability to add to, amend and organize the content as they see fit. It provides a shared medium through which users from all around the world can collaborate.”

Wiki Brainstorming and Problems with Wiki Based Collaboration, University of York Computer Science Project , Jonathan Davies, Sept 2004, http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/~kimble/teaching/students/Jonathan_Davies/Jonathan_Davies.html

Wiki Communities

There are many wiki communities where you can access information or make contributions. One prevalent use of wiki is for open source software development. New code can be compared and modified by developers anywhere in the world. But, the types of communities are varied and the number is growing.

The Wikimedia Foundation ( http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Home ) is an international nonprofit organization that promotes the use of wiki to encourage free access to knowledge. They have helped to create very impressive collaborative informational projects, such as Wikipedia ( http://www.wikipedia.org ), a free encyclopedia where users are also the authors and editors.

There are hosts that will allow you to create your own wiki site as part of their collection of wiki communities ( http://www.python.org/moin/FreeHosts ).

A good article to read to understand wiki culture is Wiki Becomes a Way of Life in Wired News ( http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,66814,00.html?tw=wn_story_top5 ).

Another good Wiki site - Wiki Wiki Web  http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiWikiWeb


How is Wiki Used for Teaching?

Michael Byron, Department of Philosophy, Kent State University , has been using Tiki in his classes. Tiki is a web-based content management system (CMS) that can be downloaded over the web. It includes the wiki tool. The following is the abstract from his paper “Teaching with Tiki”.

“Many philosophy instructors came up in departments that taught in a traditional lecture style. Philosophy instructors today are looking for ways to expand this pedagogy, with its top-down emphasis and its limited modes of interaction. Many of us want our students to do more than just read the text and take notes in class: we would like them to discuss the material, to work on collaborative projects, to think and talk about the material outside of class, and to make our course material part of themselves. We also wish to take advantage of technology, though in ways that support, not dominate, our teaching. At Kent State University , I have worked on implementing technological enhancements of the traditional pedagogical model. The particular tool I discuss here is a computer application called TikiWiki, or Tiki for short. This article describes the Tiki, presents some considerations in favor of deploying it in philosophy courses of very different kinds, and explains how I have used the software in two of my courses.”

Teaching with Tiki, Michael Byron, Department of Philosophy, Kent State University , http://mbyron.philosophy.kent.edu/pubs/tiki.pdf#search='tiki%20byron '



After reading Michael Byron's paper, I went to http://www.tikiwiki.org and downloaded EasyPhP and Tiki. I installed these on my computer, turning my computer into a Tikiwiki server. (I turned off most of the Tiki functionality since I was most interested in the wiki tool.)

I added comments to a wiki homepage using wiki syntax. I was able to create a simple formatted document for the homepage and create a linked page. As administrator, I added another user. This user was able to access my wiki site and add comments to the Home page and an underlying page that I had created.

Turning my computer into a wiki server was not a painless process, although the documentation for the download and install were quite good.

The use of a personal computer as a server to host wiki would only be useful for a small collaborative project. The computer (server) must be turned on for anyone to have access to the wiki site. Turning a personal computer into a server pc also increases the risk of attack from a hacker.

To use TikiWiki or wiki for a class, a department server or an Information Services server should be set up as a host.

This would mean that someone would need to act as an administrator to add users, etc. For individual classes, a departmental network administrator might install wiki on the server and perform administrative duties. To be functional for a large number of classes, the wiki server would need to be integrated with Kent State 's LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) for automatically uploading student rosters.


Wiki is a useful tool for online collaboration. It allows a document to evolve online with multiple contributors. It also facilitates group interaction. It is often used as a forum for a particular self-identified community.

Wiki is a free program. The implementation costs would include hardware (server space), and administrative costs. There may be additional costs if a commercial host is used.

While tiki is a content management system that contains many of the same tools as the WebCT Vista application supported at Kent, the wiki tool is unique and not available in Vista or any other supported application.

Any user can correct or modify information. A history of wiki changes is maintained in a database. Users can view a log of changes. Administrators may revert to an older version, if current edits are unacceptable. Users as well as administrators regulate the content. Errors and/or vandalism can be corrected easily.


One of the major drawbacks from a user's standpoint is that formatting of text must be created with wiki markup language. For instance, to make a bold font you would place two underscores before and after the text (_ _ BOLD _ _). Some commercial hosts have added user-friendly interfaces for formatting.

Also, being a free shareware product means that the documentation is incomplete and inconsistent. Support would come mainly from user communities since it is not, at this time, support by IS at Kent State .


The wiki technology would be a very helpful collaborative tool. It is unique both in its functionality and in its contribution to defining the Internet as an environment of freely flowing information. The contribution to this shareware evolution will require quite a bit of initiative on the part of the faculty/staff users.

Individuals at Kent State , such as, Eric Smith ( ersmith@kent.edu ) and Michael Byron mbyron@kent.edu , have used wiki as a classroom tool and may be useful resources of information.

Comments or questions about this site? Email me (Valerie Kelly) at vkelly@kent.edu