Wiki (derived from the Hawaiian wiki for 'fast') is online software for creating simple websites which support collaborative writing, the most well-known of which is Wikipedia. While blogs tend to be written by an individual, and are therefore personal in nature, wikis are more likely to be the result of a collaborative effort. The goal of wiki sites is to become a 'shared repository of knowledge, with the knowledge base growing over time', and they are 'expected to have some degree of seriousness and permanence' (Godwin-Jones 2003). For this reason, the structure of wikis tends to be very simple, with the focus being on content and collaboration rather than design. Another major feature of wikis is that the software usually tracks any changes, so changes can generally be attributed, and previous versions can be retrieved.

In terms of pedagogical benefits, a wiki enables communication and knowledge construction beyond the classroom. Students become contributors, rather than just recipients of knowledge. As with blogging, wikis enable students to take part in distributed research communities that extend spatially and temporally beyond the classroom or class session (Mejias 2006). Students build a sense of community by collaborating on a shared goal, and they learn from observing the communal work being drafted, refined, and finalized. Accountability is increased through exposure to peers or the wider internet audience, which leads to greater care for linguistic accuracy. Additionally, as students learn to author collectively, they also learn to overcome traditional Western educational practices of promoting individual ownership (Guth 2007).

Lamb (2004) highlights various problems inherent in a 'chaotic wiki medium':

Tracking work created in wiki spaces can become a logistical nightmare, and course management can spin out of control quickly….Attribution of individual work can be difficult, and an environment in which students (or even nonstudents) are invited to rework content further complicates matters.

In the face of these issues, it may be tempting for the tutor to impose too much control over editing functions in the wiki. However, one of the major benefits of using wikis is to empower students to become more autonomous in their learning. If tutors take too much control over input, they are unlikely to see the full potential of using wikis as a learning device.

In the foreign-language classroom, wikis are generally used for class projects, or for a project based on an exchange between international classes. For instance, this intercultural wiki between students at the University of Padua and various American universities, enabled students of English to collaborate on a variety of topics (eg Recycling in Italy/the USA). It's interesting to note that initially the students were hesitant to edit each other's pages, which was tackled by integrating peer editing into the classroom (Guth 2007). Rosen and Kato (2006) of the University of Wisconsin used wikis to enable distance-learning students of Japanese to collaborate with one another. Groups of four or five students used the wiki to share personal information and ideas in Japanese, and to ask and respond to questions regarding their postings. Students were also required to peer-correct work of other groups in order to learn from each other. They found that the majority of students found the wiki a useful way of getting to know fellow students, cultural exploration occurred which wouldn't otherwise have happened, and the wiki assignments provided useful feedback on student performance. You can hear them talking about their experience on this videocast.

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