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Ten reasons why your next pathfinder should be a wiki

Pathfinders lead researchers through information jungles.  They make sense of the huge variety of information buckets. 

They can suggest keywords and tags and call numbers. They can suggest books and journals to browse. They link researchers to critical readings and websites and blogs and wikis and portals and databases. They suggest strategies for searching and for documentation. 

In the voice of the librarian, they make sure that student researchers know about the very best tools in their information toolkits.  Pathfinders allow us to intervene in ways that offer learners they independence they crave.

In the 70s we created them in print.  I suspect some of us still do. 

In the 90s we began publishing pathfinders as webpages.

Now, I am convinced that wikis are the way to go and I plan to spend some of the summer converting my Web pathfinders to wiki pathfinders. 

And here are ten very compelling reasons why you should too:

1. You too can get your colleagues to fall on the floor laughing by overusing words like wiki in pretty much every conversation you initiate.

2. You can decorate wiki pathfinders by uploading beautiful, copyright-friendly images

3. Wiki pathfinders allow you to link with ease.  Link to your style sheet, your other wikis, to specific websites, to media in all its glory and all its formats, to e-books, audiobooks, wikibooks, subscription databases, etc.  (If not for my pathfinders, my e-books and my databases would go unused!)

4. Wiki pathfinders allow you to easily upload documents.  Your pathfinders can now host your presentations, your handouts, your rubrics, your organizers, as well as models of student work.

5. You can easily create a wiki index to keep track of your growing collection of wiki pathfinders.

6. Wiki pathfinders are splendidly organic.  You can edit them anywhere, on the fly, whenever you discover a new resource.  FTP is so 1.0! 

7. Wikis require no knowledge of HTML code.  My favorite wiki creation tool is Wikispaces for teachers.  The folks are Wikispaces give teachers free, ad-free wiki sites.  Just remember to click on the button that identifies you as a K12 educator to remove the pesky ads.

8. Wikis are collaborative documents.  They make a party of the pathfinder experience.  (Do I need a life?) Now, you no longer have to do your pathfinder thing alone.  Wikis allow you to invite individual collaborators (teachers or students or mentors or experts) or, if you are brave, to allow the world to collaborate.  You can easily track edits and changes.  (It’s all very 2.0.)

9. Wikis will allow us to build together if we choose to.  I can imagine beginning many a wiki pathfinder this summer.  I can imagine all of you millions of readers, who share our school’s curriculum interests and needs, collectively working to build uberpathfinders.  (Imagine all the people, building pathfinders together.  You may say I’m a dreamer. . . )

10. And, speaking of 2.0, wiki pathfinders are the ultimate illustration of exploiting new tools for authentic and highly useful purposes. Our wiki pathfinders might just be another opportunity to showcase the work of the critical efforts of teacher-librarian in the 2.0 educational landscape!

Write if you come up with any more reasons.  I will share my work as soon as I am more proud of it–that means post-NECC. 

Please also share any models in the comments.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Frances Jacobson Harris says:

    Oh, yes, I’m sold! I’m taking a break right now, but this is absolutely my plan for the fall.

    P.S. Please, SLJ, update the RSS feeds for this blog and for Fuse #8 Productions!

  2. Alice Yucht says:

    Ditto to Frances’ request for updated RSS feeds for these blogs!! I *want* to read them via Google Reader, but can’t get a workable feed.

  3. Alice Yucht says:

    PBwiki is also offering free wikis to educators.

  4. Carole Ashbridge says:

    I will be anxious to see your examples. I will be attending a regional technology workshop in late July where I hope to convince TBTB to remove the filters from wikis and blogs. Having concrete examples will help my case, I am sure. Thanks for the leadership.

  5. LAURA JUDSON says:

    OK, and now I am thinking that class “projects” should also be wiki -fied (are you rolling on the floor, yet?) For example, the 11th grade US history reports/PPT on “a major event that happened after WWII” could have been a wiki so that the students bibliographies that included such great web sites and sound etc would have become part of the wiki as well as their final powerpoints.
    Am I thinking along the right lines

  6. JOAN MARCH says:

    I decided to take this one step further and address website evaluation at the same time. The next teacher scheduled to bring classes in for research has agreed that students can ONLY use a site other than those in the “starter” pathfinder I created for her topic IF they post it to the wiki first. To do this, they have to follow my example and explain briefly how the site satisfies the criteria for reliability.

  7. I am sold too, but here is my question – how do you sell teachers on using Wikis? How do they then get the student ”

  8. student buy in? how do you maintain the Wiki and the excitement of using a wiki? i feel like many teachers/librarians think they are great, get them all set up, and somehow the steam and motivation falls to the wayside because there is not enough collaboration or input from all sectors involved.

  9. joycevalenza says:

    Erikka, for the pathfinders, I have a few students help and I make sure I thank them for their contributions, but mostly it’s a teacher/librarian collaboration. Teachers love it when I get them started, especially since I often help them upload our lessons and rubrics and handouts too. It’s nice to have everything in one place, easy to edit! Buy-in has been NO PROBLEM!

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