I recently updated a post from 2016 Learning and teaching using a wiki following the closure of Wikispaces (the platform I was using to host my wiki.) When I heard about the impending closure of Wikispaces my first reaction was to panic! What was I going to do? I had spent hours learning how to use it and hours adding content and, whatsmore, so had my students.
After the initial panic, I started to consider my options rationally. Without a doubt I wanted to carry on using a wiki with my students so the next step was to research the alternatives on offer.
The wiki software you choose will depend on your context. Different packages offer different features and are aimed at different audiences. I was looking for something simple and quick to set up given that I am no technology expert and also simple to use for my students.
As we were already using G Suite at school, I decided to research the free service that Google offers to build and maintain a website, Google Sites. As it integrates with Google, making it easy to embed and attach Docs, Sheets, Slides, YouTube videos and other features, it seemed the simplest solution for me and my students. Although essentially a website, the ability to give students permission to edit means it can function like a wiki.
I haven’t been disappointed. It was super easy to set up and it’s super easy for my students to use. After deciding whether to use classic Sites or new Sites, it took me little over a couple of hours to create. Although classic Sites offers more features (some of which will be eventually added to new sites) it seemed a little more complicated to set up. As I was short of time and looking for a quick remedy, I opted for new Sites (in the hope that these missing features will appear soon…) Also new Sites is mobile friendly and as most of my students use a mobile or tablet to access the site, this was an important consideration for me.
Setting up a site really is as simple as this step by step guide shows. New Sites doesn’t offer many themes, but they are simple, attractive and easy to personalise. Adding pages and content is a matter of clicking a button and voilà, you have a fully functioning website or wiki.. Whether your site acts as a wiki or a website will decide on the permissions you give your students. If you are familiar with other Google Apps such as Docs, Slides, Forms, Sheets, setting permissions for Sites works in exactly the same way as these.
You can choose whether they can only view pages (in which case your Site will be more like a website) or edit pages (with your students as editors, you Site will be more like a wiki.) Unfortunately, at the moment in new Sites, unlike classic Sites, you can’t set permissions at page level (although this is one of the features expected to be introduced and one which I will gladly welcome!)
If you are worried about students editing/removing important information if you grant them permissions as editors, until the page level permissions arrive, you could think about setting up various Sites. Even better, get students to set up their own (it really is that easy, honest!)
Another feature missing in new Sites is the comments feature. I am getting round this by using the Stream page in Google Classroom for class discussions, although there are some workarounds: You can install a 3rd party commenting tool like Disqus (see the Flipped Classroom tutorial here) or use Padlet.
Another way to encourage discussion and collaboration is to set up project work on your Site. You can create and embed or share Google Docs, Slides, Forms… granting permission for a whole class, group or pair to edit them. After completing the project you can then change the permissions to everyone can view so students can showcase their work.
Although new Sites has some limitations at the moment as a wiki, there are workarounds which can make it more interactive. In its favour, new Sites is extremely easy to set up and maintain and the user experience is excellent. If you do encounter any problems, Google support are first class! If you are thinking of giving Google Sites a go, a great site full of information and tutorials is STEEGLE Google Sites and G Suites specialists.
This is the Site I created to replace the wiki I was hosting on wikispaces. Together with Google Classroom, this Site allows me to extend teaching and learning beyond the classroom and provide students with more opportunities to practise digital citizenship and become autonomous learners. Check out Teaching and learning with a wiki: Part 1 for ideas on how to use a wiki with your learners.