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Wikis: Experimenting in the Classroom

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January 31, 2005. A wiki is a collaborative website that allows its users to contribute to a dynamic, interactive environment. "Wiki wiki" means "quick" in Hawaiian, referring to the ease with which users can modify existing material, create new content, and link between pages without having to employ complex Web authoring technologies. With simple tagging syntax that is even easier to master than HTML, wikis have become popular as truly interactive and dynamic tools that capture the "ideal" of the web as a virtual space that facilitates sharing information by enabling "open editing."

For a couple of years, CCNMTL has been using wikis as part of its project planning. They have greatly facilitated project group interactions, documentation writing, and other collaborative endeavors. Recently, CCNMTL adopted the open-source MediaWiki engine used by the popular Wikipedia project.

After a successful experiment with the History of Electronic Music seminar in fall 2004, CCNMTL is expanding this R&D effort to other courses at Columbia. We have customized the wiki interface to make it more intuitive and user-friendly for students and instructors. The goal is to learn more about potential uses in the classroom and to begin to compile some best practices that might inform future projects. Faculty in the University Writing Program, the Frontiers of Science core course, and an advanced Architecture Studio will be experimenting with wikis this spring.