Teaching with Wikipedia: 5 questions with Professor Kurti

Debby Kurti is a professor of Computer Information Systems at Victor Valley College in Victorville, CA. She incorporated the Wikipedia assignment into her classroom for the first time in spring 2024.

1. This is your first time teaching with the Wikipedia assignment, and you knocked it out of the park! Why did you decide to incorporate the assignment into your course?

With nearly three decades of experience teaching Computer Information Systems and a background in linguistics, my focus has always been on exploring technology’s impact on communication, fostering creativity, facilitating knowledge sharing, and cultivating communities of practice across diverse contexts. The Wikipedia assignment seamlessly integrated into my curriculum, offering a real-world application using a resource I’m personally passionate about. After engaging with the Wiki Education team, I was convinced it was an opportunity I wanted to take advantage of. I am glad that I did!

2. How would you describe the power of Wikipedia in shaping people’s awareness and understanding of information?

When I was a kid, I had a set (or two) of encyclopedias that I would read just for fun (yes, I was THAT kid) or when I was curious about a subject. Wikipedia is a modern version of that, a first-line knowledge source that people go to when they wonder about something. It is usually the top search result when looking for information about someone. Wikipedia is more accessible than my old set of Britannicas because most people have a cell phone in their pockets and access to the internet. They can use that to find out what they need to, and want to, know. The power of Wikipedia lies in the credibility of the sources used to create the knowledgebase and in the transparency of the process where anyone can verify and validate the information presented.

Debby Kurti and Wiki Education’s Brianda Felix, Irvine, CA.
Debby Kurti and Wiki Education’s Brianda Felix. Irvine, CA. Image courtesy Debby Kurti, all rights reserved.

3. What are your students’ top learning outcomes from this experience?

My students learned that they can be valuable contributors to the global knowledgebase and not just passive consumers of information. They learned project management skills and how to break a large project into attainable, measurable goals. Students learned what a reliable source looks like and how to make a case for notability in a professional and unbiased manner. They were equipped with knowledge and the ability to respond intelligently to the question ‘Why use Wikipedia?’. Most importantly, however, they gained the capacity to critically analyze the content they encounter, discerning its authenticity, truthfulness, and relevance.

Students also found inspiration in the chance to showcase influential figures who mirrored their own identities. Early in the semester a student shared her frustration with the lack of positive role models for her daughters. She felt disheartened by the narrow portrayals of Latinx individuals in mainstream media, often confined to stereotypes of crime or poverty. The Wikipedia project sparked her excitement as it directly addressed this issue close to her heart. As she immersed herself in her assigned biographies, her confidence grew, empowering her to reach out directly to her subjects. I believe that their responses affirmed her belief in her capacity to make a tangible impact, fostered a sense of empowerment, and provided validation in her ability to enact positive change for her community.

4. What are your biggest takeaways from teaching with Wikipedia?

This project confirmed what I already believed about Wikipedia and increased my level of respect for the resource by an order of magnitude. Because of my background in linguistics and CIS, I really enjoyed getting a “behind the scenes” look at how articles are created and the entire editorial process. I was extremely impressed with the Wiki Education team and the underlying process-oriented educational philosophy driving the organization. Honestly, in an era of standards-based, testing-focused, high-stakes learning environments, working with Wiki Education was a breath of fresh air. They put the focus squarely where I strongly believe it belongs – collaborative, open-source knowledge creation and sharing.  

5. Would you recommend the Wikipedia assignment to other post-secondary instructors? If so, why?

This is a cross-curricular project that has applications in any discipline and can be customized to any subject area. On a practical level, students will develop baseline digital literacy skills with a relevant outcome. They will learn how to find, validate, and use information to create content that informs others in a neutral and unbiased manner. Their work jumps outside the classroom walls and into the real world of readers and editors that will see what they do, add on to what they do, and maybe even edit what they do. They learn that no matter how hard they work, sometimes another editor sees something they missed and reverts their efforts pending more supporting evidence. The ability to participate in distributed work environments while collaborating with classmates and mentors is a valuable skill that will benefit students in very real ways in the world of work we find ourselves in today.

Interested in incorporating a Wikipedia assignment into your course? Visit teach.wikiedu.org to learn more about the free resources, digital tools, and staff support that Wiki Education offers to instructors in the United States and Canada.


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