Last week, Outreach Manager Samantha Erickson and I joined instructors at the University of San Francisco for a faculty luncheon. We discussed how to bring Wikipedia into a classroom and the many benefits of the assignment.
Dr. Jonathan Hunt, an instructor in the Rhetoric and Language department, told us that the online training seemed like a great way to introduce students to the community behind Wikipedia. He compared Wikipedia’s community to any other community his students might join, even temporarily. He remarked that he would never take students into a physical community without first explaining the community’s norms and expectations. He would also advise students to respect those community values and best practices, especially if they wished to be treated as a part of that community. Likewise, we know students fare better on Wikipedia when they have been exposed to and strive to follow Wikipedia’s cultural norms.
In a discussion about student learning and motivations, we heard from Dr. David Silver, who teaches interdisciplinary courses in Environmental Studies, Media Studies, and Urban Agriculture. This term, his students are improving Wikipedia articles about San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
Dr. Silver’s course is a first-year seminar, and at first, students were hesitant to admit they’d even used Wikipedia. Now, after studying Golden Gate Park for weeks and comparing their learning to existing Wikipedia content, the students are excited to engage in public scholarship about a park that is (literally) in their back yard. While learning about Wikipedia’s neutrality policies, students identified biases in existing articles, often in ways that surprised their instructor.
The discussion and interest proved yet again that a Wikipedia assignment can be a great fit for any academic topic. Attendees at the luncheon represented a range of disciplines and departments at USF. That included Rhetoric and Language, Modern Languages, Psychology, International Studies, Media Studies, Chemistry, Art History and Museum Studies, and the university library.
Wikipedia serves as a tool to achieve comprehension in any topic, while cultivating media literacy, critical thinking skills, writing development, and collaboration among peers and other editors. Wiki Ed can help instructors design and implement such an assignment.
With insightful instructors like Jonathan and David leading the charge, we can’t wait to see our programs grow at the University of San Francisco!