In the unique little web community in which I spend a lot of my time (too much?), we’ve heard a lot of talk about the possibility of students contributing to Wikipedia as one way to make their research more authentic.
But what happens when a teacher actually tries that? It turns out the results are not as idealistic as some of us might have hoped.
A professor at the University of Washington-Bothell required her students to create articles for Wikipedia instead of writing a traditional term paper “which typically has an audience of one (the professor) before ending its career in a recycling bin”.
To that end, she assigned two of her classes the task of generating Wikipedia entries focused on globalization and sustainable development. 34 students in one class and 14 student groups in a second participated; all but one student found it a valuable experience, and many reported that they felt more personally invested in the work. For her part, Groom felt that the quality of the work was superior to the typical in-class assignment.
The Wikipedia community, however, was not as impressed. One article didn’t survive for 24 hours following its introduction, and four additional ones were ultimately deleted following extensive discussion, their contents merged into existing entries. Groom also noted that some of the comments in the ensuing discussions “were delivered rudely.”
Editors and critics delivering their commentary rudely? Now that’s authentic. :-)
There were also some issues with students learning the mark up language used by the site to format the material, as well as adapting to the language and style required for the online encyclopedia.
Ok, so Wikipedia may not the best format for students to use for publishing their work.
However, this one example doesn’t lessen the need for kids to be able to offer their research, ideas and thoughts for review and critique by a audience than that sitting in their classroom.
wikipedia, education, student, publishing