Educational Wikis: The what and why

Sep 02 2016

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Image by IICD

Technology has always been linked to education, either as a tool of reaching better understandings or by itself as a subject. The first documented event since when technology started being perceived as an integrated part of what we know nowadays as a library, both in physical or virtual state, has happened in the 1450’s. In a time when only the more privileged could have access to education, Johann Gutenberg has empowered others to dream to new horizons. By inventing the printing press he has accelerated the diffusion of knowledge on the European continent and made the first steps in the spread of written information as we know it today.

Based on the same concept as a library, a wiki is a database managing in a structured way, a large number of documents, the equivalent of books, containing information worth sharing. As the data is collaboratively developed by multiple users and archived in a central location, it allows to be accessed, shared and consumed, on the go and often free of charge. Being such an adaptable and flexible technology, wikis are able to satisfy many purposes as long as there is an objective behind.

From the educational standpoint, wikis can be used to structure a huge amount of educational materials, ranging from academic papers, workbooks, teaching slide to official documents, grades and notes. The core idea behind such a platform is the philosophy it was built upon. A wiki represents the accumulation of knowledge, know-how and experience that all class members have to offer, on a reciprocal basis and not the results of one's expertise. It promotes the collective creativity and ownership without removing the sense of responsibility and personal satisfaction. Educational wikis allow their users to create custom apps especially for learning purposes such as dictionary, assignment management, task planning, calendar, event manager, achievement database and so on.

Two open education projects that are changing the way teachers educate and students learn, are Curriki and Sankore. They are both implemented on top of the XWiki Open Source Platform , which is developed by XWiki SAS, as this solution was considered the most suitable for the above mentioned purpose.

Curriki is a community whose mission is to reduce the educational gap between people having access to high-quality learning resources and the others who don’t enjoy the same privilege. Following the vision, they have created an open license website to support the collaborative development and the free distribution of learning materials by allowing teachers to share any material relevant to their work. On the other hand, students are able to search for new lessons and give feedback by rating the available resources. In the situation where something is missing, both parties can fix the problem by simply updating the content.

The Sankoré project, launched in 2009 with the support of the French government, aims to enable the digital side of education to be accessible to developing countries, especially from the African continent. To reach this objective, an interactive whiteboard application and an open licence platform were developed, both allowing the creation and dissemination of free educational resources. Based on the same platform as Curriki, the Planète Sankoré website allows teachers and students to use a range of educational materials, collaboratively managed and developed by the platform's members.

Using an open source wiki supported by a worldwide community, not only offers free access to years of development and expertise, but also gives unlimited, free of charge community support for further improvements and bug fixes in a short time. Both Curriki and Sankore, are the living proof that by developing a platform on open source wiki technology along with allowing access to free resources, the humanity is able to offer educational support to those in need.