I've been dying to know more about wikis for a long time. I've heard co-workers rave about how they're using wikis in classes, and I have classmates in my grad program who've taken courses that require them to make contributions to wikis, but I've never really played with them myself (save for one foray into wiki-world I'll explain in a moment). But all that's different now - I've seen the light. I enjoyed seeing the different wikis we were directed too, and I already have some ideas about how I might start integrating them in my classes.
My only real experience with wikis has been a kind of boring one. My So Be Fit team has a wiki that consists of a chart that all our team members can enter our steps for the day. It's simple and straightforward, but not so dynamic. Functional, sure, but blah. That's not at all the reaction I had to some of the wikis put together by different classes. My eyes were opened by how much more engaging a wiki could be, and also to how many different kinds of applications they might have. I love the way that a fifth grade class is using a wiki to invite responses to questions about what to do in the summer. It is a simple project, but friendly, and I'm sure the students love seeing the suggestions that arrive daily. The Small Stones wiki is super impressive! It appears that a class has essentially created their own online textbook based on topics covered and work done in class. They share ownership of it, and have successfully supplemented the course materials in a way that's useful not only to them, but to other students who study calculus.
I can easily see ways to use wikis in class. I like the idea of having students collaborate on a sort of online coursepack that might provide historical or cultural background for the stories we're reading. If we created different topics and students had to upload just one link or small piece for each of them, there would be a lot available to all of them by the end . I also like the potential that wikis have for allowing collaboration even outside the classroom. I teach three sections of American Literature that, because they meet at different times, feel as if they're three different classes. Using a wiki to do some processing of course content would give students in the three sections an opportunity to engage in a dialogue or project with others who have the class at a different time, and I think that's very cool.
I used to wonder how wikis were different from blogs, but I see now how significant the shared authorship idea is, and the ability to allow visitors to actually alter content (instead of merely to comment upon it) is huge. I'm a fan.
P.S. The Simpsons Wiki is just about the funnest thing I've ever seen on the web. I plan to waste hours and hours poring through it.