Online Community Tools: Wikispaces Reviewed

Students are using blogs and social networking on their own time in increasing numbers. Teachers can make use of this trend by incorporating Internet technology such as wikis in the classroom. Wikis are collaborative websites that are perfectly suited to educational applications. In this review, we look at Wikispaces, a wiki platform with perks for educators.

wikispaces logo

What Is It?

Wikispaces offers a convenient, easy-to-use wiki platform. What's a wiki, you might be wondering? The term 'wiki' refers to websites that allow users to alter and add to existing content. Wikipedia is perhaps the most famous example of the format. Wikispaces allows users to tailor a wiki to their specific needs, making it a great tool for a variety of applications.

This isn't a great platform if you're looking to create a personal website to which you and only you will add content - that's not the point of the wiki format. But if you're looking for a solid online collaborative tool, Wikispaces is a great choice. In order to start your own wiki, you'll need to get an account. There are separate accounts for large organizations, small groups and educational groups. Educational accounts are free.

One great perk to the wiki format is the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing style. If you aren't well-versed in HTML or other coding languages, don't worry. You'll still be able to set up and use a Wikispaces account. This can allow teachers and students the time to focus on other educational subjects. At the same time, if the goal is to teach web design proficiency, this probably isn't the best route to take.

wikispaces screenshot

Who Will Get the Most Use Out of It?

Anyone who is looking for a collaborative, community-driven Web platform could benefit from using Wikispaces. Companies and other large organizations could make use of the community involvement aspect to make policy manuals and other instructional knowledge a collaborative experience. Teachers and students are probably the best target audience for this particular platform.

The wiki format is particularly well suited for educational settings. Because wikis are so community-driven, they're natural tools for collaboration. Teachers can start wikis for homework advice, study groups, class projects, etc. Anything that students can work together on, wikis are a suitable tool. And since Wikispaces offers free, secure, ad-free accounts to educators, this is a particularly good platform to use. The ease of use means that the focus of using Wikispaces can be on the work, not on technological skill.

Summary: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Targeted accounts for K-12 and postsecondary schools.
  • Easy to use, friendly user interface.
  • Good privacy settings for classroom use.
  • Useful editing controls and safeguards, like version tracking.

Cons

  • Upgrades from basic accounts for individuals can get expensive.
  • The wiki format may not be right for everyone.

There is a blogging platform specifically for educators if you think blogs would be a better route to take in the classroom.

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