Using Wikipedia for Teaching and Learning

A Lunch Hour Conversation on December 6, 2017

In short

Beyond teaching students about information literacy, Wikipedia can be used in courses to get students excited and invested in research and writing projects.  Participants highlighted students’ feeling empowered as creators and editors of entries, while also learning how knowledge-sharing is a collaborative, social enterprise.  Students’ use of Wikipedia as a source or authority was a minor topic and there was a near consensus that, instead, students should use the references and footnotes in Wikipedia articles as a jumping-off point for their own research.

Megan Wacha

Scholarly Communications Librarian, Office of Library Services, CUNY

Megan talked about how she got involved with Wikipedia as a Performing Arts librarian at Barnard College, when the Lucyle Hook Chair of English and a Professor of Africana Studies, professor Kim Hall, called to ask if she could partner with the Library to replace a traditional course paper with having students write Wikipedia articles… 

Margaret Vendreys

Associate Professor and Chair, Performing & Fine Arts

Margaret partnered with WikiEdu for her African American art class where she had her students writing in Wikipedia about works of art on the York College campus.  Students did research, sharpened their information literacy, learned how to edit.  They were proud of what they did and felt invested.  “And something else they had to deal with: the fact that their hard work could indeed be edited later on. They were aware that they could track their own history, and so could I.  And now they are editors. They can log in and do other work in Wikipedia as well. So they become sort of special, they feel really special. I would do it again. I would, I would do it again, for sure.”

Part 1

Part 2

Junli Diao

Assistant Professor & Head of Cataloguing and Serials

Junli shared two experiences that led him from being a Wikipedia user, “good at getting information,” to understanding what’s behind Wikipedia, who are the contributors and how does one contribute.  He first participated in a Wikipedia translation project at LaGuardia Community College, then in an Asian Month Wikipedia event at the Metropolitan Museum.

George White

Associate Professor and Chair, History & Philosophy

George let us in on his trajectory from being a Wikipedia rejectionist “because of fears around technology and new things and also because of concerns as a historian with the accuracy of online information” to seeing Wikipedia as a wonderful pedagogical opportunity for empowering students and giving them a sense of investment in what they’re doing.  George also highlighted how he ended up seeing Wikipedia’s value as a scholar confronting his own or others’ blind spots with regard to gender and race. 

Dr. William Ashton

Associate Professor, Behavioral Sciences

Unable to attend the lunch in person, Bill imparted his insights as a veteran user of Wikipedia for teaching and learning in a short video.  He reminds us that Wikipedia is a social media with its light and dark sides.  York College students rarely are afforded such exciting opportunity to display their writing publicly and show the world what they can do.  Students do not succeed at “doing” Wikipedia when they don’t get that Wikipedia is a social enterprise where you have to collaborate with other editors and respect community standards.  “And that’s another surprising thing- you don't really need to teach students Wikipedia. Wikipedia is designed to teach the editors themselves. A student who has just a little bit of self-awareness as a learner can go ahead and learn to edit in Wikipedia.  You just have to be motivated.”

Yolonda Small

Associate Professor, Chemistry

Yolanda stated that she has always been “this skeptic of Wiki because it's the first source for my students and in the chemistry community, we try to drive home that they're these peer-review journals that you should go to as your first source even if it's too dense at the beginning.”  The problem is that these peer-review articles are behind a (steep) pay-wall…