Wiki. It’s a short, funny sounding word that seems to be popping up all over. From the ever-popular Wikipedia, to the infamous WikiLeaks, wiki has become a buzzword in technology circles. According to Wikipedia, the word wiki is Hawaiian for “fast.” In computer terms, a wiki is simply a website with an edit button, and it is another application of Web 2.0.
Most websites are created, managed, and maintained by an author – the webmaster. During the early days of the web, webmasters needed to understand HTML – the complex language behind the pages and images displayed by the early web browsers like Netscape and Internet Explorer. Today, many user-friendly web editors are available that eliminate the need for understanding the background code. Still, most websites are under the sole control of their authors. In contrast, a wiki is a type of website that allows other people to add content, images, video clips, etc. The wiki then becomes a collaborative tool with multiple authors.
For the past three years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a dynamic team of teachers and former teachers on a new NASA educational project titled – Expedition Earth and Beyond. Through the tireless efforts of Marshalyn Baker, Michele Mailhot, Charles Lindgren, and our Project Director – Paige Graff from the NASA Johnson Space Center, Expedition Earth and Beyond (EEAB) offers students in grades 5-12 the opportunity to engage in the process of science. The students use an online database of thousands of images of Earth features captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station and other manned spacecraft. The collaboration tool we chose when designing and writing activities for EEAB was…you guessed it…a wiki. In fact, using a wiki worked so well that we also made it the collaboration tool for the students’ research.
Last week Wikispaces.com, the service that hosts tens of thousands of educational wikis, notified us that they selected our project wiki to showcase on their weekly blog. This was a very exciting endorsement of our project and a tribute to all of the students, teachers, and NASA scientists that have participated in the initiative. I guess you can now say that we’re almost wiki wizards.