The American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting takes place this week in Minneapolis. I’m here at the conference with Outreach Manager Samantha Weald to talk about how students improve the quality and coverage of public knowledge of anthropological topics on Wikipedia. In our time working with professors of anthropology and related fields, like through our partnership with the Linguistic Society of America, we’ve seen ample opportunities for students to make a difference. We’re excited to recruit more anthropologists into our Classroom Program.
Since 2010, hundreds of college instructors have assigned their students to expand and improve Wikipedia. As an educational tool, developing Wikipedia articles allows students to work collaboratively and have a visible impact on a global audience. It requires careful sourcing, involves classroom peer review, and spreads anthropological knowledge to a global audience. Students gain deeper insight into their course material and learn to evaluate critically the reliability of sources. Faculty and students report high levels of motivation for the Wikipedia assignment over the traditional term paper.
Anthropologists have a lot to contribute to Wikipedia from their deep study of the human past and present and up-close knowledge of parts of the world usually ignored by mass media. Anthropology students editing Wikipedia have written about ancient humans, indigenous peoples, cultural relics, languages, and cultural practices. They have critically reworked existing articles to find missing or misrepresented information, helping to overcome geographic, gender, and conceptual biases in one of the world’s most consulted information sources.
We have created a suite of online tools and training materials to assist instructors in designing, leading, supporting, and grading Wikipedia assignments. We also have several printed resources aimed at students in particular fields overlapping with anthropology, like sociology, women’s studies, and linguistics.
Samantha and I will be in the exhibit hall all week, eager to discuss the importance of Wikipedia in sharing accessible information about anthropology with the world. In tomorrow’s workshop from 1:00–5:00pm, Dr. Carwil Bjork-James and I will talk about why improving Wikipedia matters and how students can work on anthropological topics. Attendees will learn about best practices for using Wikipedia as a teaching tool and how Wiki Ed can support you and your students.
If you’re at the conference, please stop by to see us and join us at the workshop. If you can’t make it, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.