Educators at Fordham have taken on a new teaching tool: Wikipedia. They’ve recognized that the giant encyclopedia, with over 40,750,129 pages in English (and counting) shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed, but leveraged in the classroom for its bank of knowledge and vibrant global community. According to the Wikipedia entry “Wikipedians,” almost 30,000,000 people are registered with the site. Approximately 125,400 have edited or written for the site in the past 30 days.
Many of those editors at work on the site’s millions of articles are students and faculty from higher education institutions. They are using Wikipedia as a teaching tool for exploring concepts such as public trust and open source. It’s also a valuable opportunity to develop skills collaborative writing and do volunteer work for the public good.
“Writing for Wikipedia,” held at the Lincoln Center campus on October 26, 2016, introduced some of those concepts and skills. The event also marked the launch of a new series where Fordham faculty and others can explore the Wikipedia’s potential for the classroom. Fordham IT’s Instructional Technology Academic Computing (ITAC) and Fordham University Libraries, in collaboration with Manhattan Psychological Association, SPSSI-NY, and Psychology 21C, sponsored the event, which was open to the public and the Fordham University community.
Kristen Treglia, Senior Instructional Technologist, worked with many Fordham faculty, staff, and librarians to plan this event; she’s planning more such events that will occur later in the academic year.
“Writing for Wikipedia” featured several short presentations that were followed by a hands-on session on editing biographies in subject areas that included of women, art history, science, psychology, personal finance, health, and social work.
Dr. Sandra Turner
Dr. Sandra Turner, Director of the Fordham Institute for Women and Girls (IWG is a part of the Graduate School of Social Service), gave the first presentation. Since the IWG has a related Wikipedia event planned, Dr. Turner was invited to speak about how Wikipedia is used to support the Institute’s platform for interdisciplinary dialogue. The Institute aims to empower women and girls to participate in social change, which can take place by using collaborative research models, such as Wikipedia.
Next up and joining virtually was Samantha Weald, the Outreach Manager for the Wiki Education Foundation. This non-profit organization supports the Wikipedia Education Program in the United States and Canada. Ms. Weald suggested that Fordham students should be encouraged to edit Wikipedia for a class assignment. Rather than writing a paper that gets a grade and then gets forgotten, students can make a public and lasting contribution to the knowledge base on Wikipedia, a resource that the world uses every day.
Wiki Education believes that access to information is a human right. Moreover, Wikipedia reflects diversity and the full spectrum of human knowledge. Therefore, said Ms. Weald, contributing to Wikipedia is service learning. Contributing to Wikipedia should be a “no brainer” for a Jesuit institution like Fordham, where students are inspired to be agents of change and to fight for social justice.
Ms. Weald also pointed out that Wikipedia develops students’ digital literacy by challenging them to analyze and interpret information for fairness, accuracy, and reliability. Whether writing for Wikipedia, editing an entry, or using it for research, Wikipedia encourages students to question unreliable information, rather than passively accept it.
Ms. Weald’s presentation included examples of how student writing for Wikipedia could most effectively be incorporated into the classroom. Instructors who are interested in learning more about these assignments can contact Samantha (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information. They can also contact ITAC staff for assistance with designing assignments.
Lane Rasberry, the final presenter, is Wikipedian-in-residence at Consumer Reports, the United States-based non-profit consumer advocacy organization. Mr. Raspberry is passionate about Wikipedia, of which he has written, “Improving Wikipedia articles and available free resources is the responsibility of everyone who has a stake in community education.” During his talk, some were surprised to discover that not only is Wikipedia the largest knowledge base on the planet, more people turn to Wikipedia to learn about health than they do the National Institute of Health, WebMD, the Mayo Clinic and other health web sites.
Lane’s presentation focused on the theme of open access. He stressed that anyone can contribute to Wikipedia, and should. While publishing on Wikipedia will never be a way for faculty to fulfill their academic publishing requirements, they will surely find more readers for their research at Wikipedia, which holds a number 5 ranking of all sites visited (as of October 2016). Scholarly articles and books rarely, if ever, gain that much attention.
Lane also gave a tour of the many Wikipedia features and demonstrated how to access them and edit pages. He also showed where Wikipedia editors discuss page edits and view a page’s history.
All Hands On Wikipedia
After the talks, the audience was fortunate to be joined by the Wikipedia NYC editors. These editors offered one-on-one help those of us who were making our first edits on Wikipedia. Several Fordham librarians were also on hand, to assist with sources.
The results: By the end of the day, 25 attendees had signed into the Event Dashboard and became editors. We made 21 edits to articles, adding a total of 581. Those pages have had 3,990 article views. It was a job well done. Congratulations and thanks to all who participated!
And we’re still working… On Wednesday, November 30, at 1:00 p.m, Fordham faculty discussed how they’ve integrated Wikipedia into their coursework. Samantha Weald will participate virtually.
Wikipedia for Educators page on the Faculty EdTech PD Wiki
Writing for Wikipedia event page on Wikipedia
About the Author
Kristen Treglia is a Senior Instructional Technologist at Fordham University. She develops a wide range of technology resources for faculty, teaching them best practices in using technology-based teaching methods and materials. Kristen is an engaging speaker and enthusiastic organizer who marshals resources dedicated to training and assisting faculty. Over the past six years, Kristen has developed and implemented training curricula on a wide range of topics, including “Designing Effective Presentations,” “Fostering Discussions and Community,” and “Collaborating on the Web: Transforming Teaching and Research in Higher Education.” She strongly believes in collaboration and sharing resources, and is well versed in social media and web 2.0 technologies. Her online slide decks have totals approaching half a million views. Kristen has worked at Fordham since 2008, after teaching high school math for ten years.