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Teaching (and writing) with Wikipedia

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 9.11.11 AMScreen Shot 2015-11-24 at 9.25.44 PMAlexa lists Wikipedia as the 7th most popular site in the world and the 6th most popular site in the United States.

It’s bigger than any encyclopedia we’ve ever before seen.  Everyone uses it.

Let’s just say, it’s important.

So, doesn’t it make sense to spend a little time helping learners figure out how it works, how to consider its content, and perhaps, how to effectively write content and contribute to the community?

The Wikimedia Foundation, which serves as a bridge between academia and Wikipedia, offers Wikiedu, a variety of tools for promoting new literacies while for using Wikipedia as a teaching tool.

While designed for the university to help fill learning gaps in underrepresented areas, there is much here to support upper level high school learning across the curriculum.Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 9.12.46 AM

Here’s what’s available:

1. Instructor Basics, a 12-page teacher guide, shares lessons relating to: Wikipedia’s key policies, writing and selecting articles, interacting with the Wikipedia community, and guidance in assessing student Wikipedia work.

2. Evaluating Wikipedia, an eight-page guide, discusses the creation and evolution of Wikipedia articles and shares tips for evaluating good articles and discerning articles of poor quality.

3. Editing Wikipedia:a 20-page guide, describes how students can contribute their own knowledge and make Wikipedia better, and covers:

  • What Wikipedia is and how it works
  • How to navigate Wikipedia
  • How you can contribute to Wikipedia and why you should
  • Important rules that keep Wikipedia reliable
  • How to edit Wikipedia with VisualEditor and using wiki markup
  • A step-by-step guide to adding content
  • Etiquette for interacting with other contributors

4. The Syllabus: guides teachers through a full-blown 12-week student writing assignment, incorporating best practice to create a Wikipedia article.  The document incorporates a Wikipedia training module for students.

Subject specific handouts, which may be explored with your content area teachers, include:

General handouts include:

All content is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Wikiedu instruction relates to: inquiry strategies, credibility, critical thinking, media and information literacy, understanding the realm of user-generated content, ethics relating to intellectual property, the writing process as it very realistically applies to the Web (for instance, scaffolding introductions with lead sections as an outline), writing with purpose for audience and feedback, and for understanding scholarship as conversation.

Not every K12 teacher librarian will use all the content in the Wikiedu lessons, but elements may be easily incorporated into high school level lessons and assignments.

Could writing a Wikipedia article with a solid lit review replace one of those major papers?

This webinar will help you get started.

Thanks to Patricia Sarles, who shared this lead on LM_NET.




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

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