Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon

Overview: As a class, students participate in a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon by selecting underrepresented topics and revising and editing Wikipedia entries.

Description:

Wikipedia Edit-a-thons are events designed to bring people together to edit Wikipedia by focusing on a central theme, usually related to an underrepresented group or topic.  In this assignment, the class collectively decides on a few main edit-a-thon topics (Ex: Women in Hampton Roads History, LGBT Public Officials in the US, Diversity Organizations at CNU).

Each student chooses a specific entry to create or edit related to one of the main topics.  Students research their topics using a variety of traditional and digital sources, including news, magazine, and academic journal articles, as well as blogs, websites, and social media posts.  Students work on their entries during an in-class Edit-a-thon (although they will also have to dedicate time outside of class to their entries.).  This assignment connects to the Rhetorical Analysis and (Un)Controlling Vocabulary assignments.

Learning Outcomes:

1.  Students will identify parallels and discrepancies between information in digital and traditional formats in order to reflect on their existing digital practices, critique established systems of information production and organization, and develop strategies for adjusting to a continuously evolving information environment.

  • Students will analyze their preconceptions about the value and authority of information in digital vs. print contexts.

2. Students will evaluate user-generated information in a variety of participatory online environments in order to create, share, and interact with digital information effectively and ethically.

  • Students will identify aspects of quality Wikipedia entries by reflecting on issues like bias, collective authorship, information organization, and accessibility. 
  • Students will apply aspects of quality Wikipedia entries as they create and revise their own entries.

4.  Students will effectively argue a position, i.e., produce information, in light of critical evaluation and analysis, in particular, via the production of media-based texts/artifacts that persuade by way of multi-modal writing.

  • Students will analyze arguments that are implicit even in sources that we traditionally consider bias-free, such as dictionaries and encyclopedia entries, in order to organize and write an effective Wikipedia entry.

Technology:

Students will need to create a Wikipedia editor account and bring laptops to class on the day of the Edit-a-thons.  For voting on Edit-a-thon topics, the instructor can use any polling technology such as Poll Everywhere, Socrative, or Plickers.

Instructor Preparation:

Students will need instruction on how to edit Wikipedia entries, which can be provided through short tutorial videos designed by the class librarian.  They will also need guidance as they collectively choose main Edit-a-thon topics, and as they select individual topics that relate.  Once they select topics, they will need instruction on how to conduct research using traditional library resources such as databases.  Students might also benefit from “Research Conferences” with the class librarian.

Student Examples:

These examples come from Lauren’s Spring 2014 Politics of Information course at The University of Montevallo.  This was a smaller project in which students were asked to create or edit Wikipedia entries on any topic, without the frame of the class-wide Edit-a-thon.

Majority Opinions by Brennan
This student chose to revise the page for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan by adding a table listing all of the cases for which he wrote the majority opinion.  In a reflective blog post, she discusses how she decided to create the chart because of her experience in another class of being unable to find information sources that organize cases according to the involvement of specific Supreme Court Justices.  She recognized that this would be a valuable way to present information about Supreme Court cases.

Writing for Wikipedia, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Coding
This student tried to create a new Wikipedia page for The David Mathews Center for Civic Life, and her entry ended up in what she called “Wikipedia Purgatory.”  In her post, she reflects on realizing how difficult it actually is to edit a Wikipedia page, because it requires some coding, and how difficult it is to post a new entry, because it is subject to a three week review period.  The project made her reassess what she had been told about Wikipedia as a source that cannot be considered trustworthy because it is openly editable: “Yes, “anyone” can go in and edit or write articles, but that “anyone” is pretty limited.”

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