In the spring 2020 term, College of Wooster student Emma Schell took her first college-level history class, with Professor Katie Holt. The class was about modern Latin America and it included the assignment to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of Latin American topics, through Wiki Education’s Wikipedia Student Program.
“I was nervous when I learned I was going to be writing for Wikipedia as a part of my first class with Professor Holt,” Emma says. “Since I had little experience with college-level history, I was concerned about my ability to informatively write about history on a public website.”
Emma worked on two articles: one on Frida Kahlo’s painting The Two Fridas and another on Afro-Cuban artist Wifredo Lam. She chose these articles because of her interest in visual art, and particularly in multi-racial artists.
In the fall 2021 term, Emma signed up for another of Dr. Holt’s classes, Latin American Revolutions. Once in class, she discovered she’d be writing a Wikipedia article again. This time, she chose a topic from a list curated by her instructor: the Tzʼutujil people, an Indigenous group in Guatemala.
“I chose to research this article because I feel that Indigenous people are underrepresented in the media, even though they make up a significant portion of the Latin American population,” Emma explains. “I wanted to help to close this gap in representation and available knowledge by writing about multiple aspects of the Tz’utujil people, such as their history, indigenous religion, and how they were impacted by the Guatemalan Genocide of the late twentieth century.”
Emma says she enjoyed working on the articles. Writing for Wikipedia helped her develop skills in non-argumentative communication and digital media. She likes working on Wikipedia articles that are underdeveloped — “stubs”, in Wikipedia parlance — because she could contribute in a meaningful way, adding factual information.
“My favorite part about writing for Wikipedia was writing factually,” she says. “Although this was hard to do sometimes, especially for interpreting artworks, I feel like it improved my academic communication skills, which is useful as someone who hopes to pursue scientific research after graduating college.”
Emma, a chemistry major minoring in Spanish and Latin American Studies, says she’d be open to adding more information to the articles she worked on. She values the assignment not only for the research she did, but also for what she gained from reading classmates’ Wikipedia contributions.
“I appreciate that Professor Holt encouraged my class to research Latin American people, groups, and events that have not been highly represented in the classroom or media,” Emma says. “Researching for my project and reading other students’ Wikipedia edits helped to broaden my knowledge of diverse perspectives in Latin America.”
For more information on teaching with Wikipedia, see teach.wikiedu.org.