Finding agency and building confidence through a Wikipedia assignment

By on October 27, 2017

Finding agency and building confidence through a Wikipedia assignment

By on October 27, 2017

Finding agency and building confidence through a Wikipedia assignment

Looking through posts by guest contributors on our blog, one might notice a few patterns. Many professors reflect on their Wikipedia assignment somewhat in awe of what it has inspired in their students. In general, they find that students feel invested in the process of learning about Wikipedia and excited by the opportunity to present their work to a larger audience.

Someone reading through these posts might also notice student voices echoing professor observations. In her post How editing Wikipedia empowers students – a reflection, Rice University student Katie Webber positions editing Wikipedia alongside civil responsibility.

“I call my senators, I vote, I donate to the ACLU, and now, I edit Wikipedia,” she writes. Digital citizenship is a deep value at Wiki Education. So to hear from students that they are committed to this mission after participating in the program is a great measure of success.

In their reflections, professors often remark upon the confidence and empowerment that their students find in contributing to Wikipedia. Allison Schuette of Valparaiso University in Indiana, for example, polled students at the beginning of her course, asking how they felt about a project with Wikipedia.

“The tag cloud returned ‘anxious’ as the most frequent sentiment,” she wrote in her reflective blog post. “Upon completing the assignment, my students’ attitudes had changed. Asked what it felt like to be an amateur contributor, students tagged ’empowering’ above all else.”

Students have agency around what topics or articles with which they engage, which contributes to their feeling empowered and invested in their learning.

“We found that allowing students to choose the article they wish to edit, within certain parameters, they were more engaged in the process and developed a sense of belonging to the community,” writes Kelee Pacion, Instruction Coordinator for the Albert R. Mann Library at Cornell University. “Many of the students went above and beyond what we asked them to add to an article, and put in a lot of work for what was a one credit, pass/fail seminar.” Kelee also speaks to the diversity of students that the Wikipedia assignment attracted. Students ranged “in gender, nationality, and age,” speaking to the universality of an assignment around Wikipedia, one of the most popular sources of information around the world.

Andrew Stuhl, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Bucknell University, describes his classroom’s final reflections after a four month Wikipedia editing project:

“Now, as their research went live on the web, we sat in our classroom, thinking about what all that work meant. What did students take from the experience? The words echoed off the back wall. The room filled with anticipation. One student raised his hand. ‘I feel like I finally have something to say.'”

If you’re interested in teaching with Wikipedia, email us at contact@wikiedu.org for more information about our tools, online trainings, and printed materials.

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