Students Contribute to Wikipedia


Our University-hosed wiki is about to be retired. This page, developed in Sept-Oct 2005 seemed work keeping. I’ve ported it here changing links to preserve the navigation. – np

CTLT Reflection on Experience

Andy Carvin has acknowledged “the hostility that many educators have towards the [Wikipedia] website, particularly their concerns that it can’t be considered a reliable source.”

At WSU’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology, we are approaching classroom use of Wikipedia not from a concern about “reliable” reference sources. Instead, we view it as an active learning environment, and a collabortative one, where students can learn by engaging an authentic task. Furthermore, we want to challenge some of the criteria that have traditionally been used to determine the quality of learning. To get at broader criteria, it is helpful to ask ourselves what kinds of intellectual performance give evidence of deep understanding. As students write, revise, edit, substantiate, and collaborate, Wikipedia offers them opportunities to:

  1. Develop an intellectual voice by persuading an actual community of interested readers
  2. Justify and defend thought in a public setting
  3. Increase awareness of, and engagement with, the history of the writing — the controversies, analysis, perspectives, assumptions, and evidence
  4. Collaborate with others, beyond disciplinary silos
  5. Engage in an authentic task

Recognizing that students might be at varying stages of readiness to contribute to Wikipedia, we have added a scaffolding process where students can explore a topic area, using Wikipedia and other resources, identify key terms and concepts, identify gaps in Wikipedia (missing articles, articles with missing concepts or citations) and then develop and submit new entries to Wikipedia.

To facilitate this scaffolding work, WSU has launched its own instance of MediaWiki, where students and instructors can do things that would be unacceptable in Wikipedia (for example, create categories for specific courses, post syllabi, or other instruction), and generally work in a quiet area outside the rough and tumble of Wikipedia itself. By using MediaWiki for our wiki, students can practice the markup, software features, and protocols of Wikipedians while at the same time learning in a safer space.

See Collaborative Reflection on The Cultural Politics of Sport

See also Wiki as a Portfolio which provides an assessment mechanism for the work above.

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