Help Diversify the Largest Encyclopedia in the World through Wikipedia Assignments

Last week several librarians, instructional technologists, and faculty met virtually with a representative, Samantha Erickson, from the Wiki Education Foundation. This is the same organization that Ariella Rotramel and Andrea Lanoux worked with on their recent Wikipedia assignments. The meeting was inspirational!

Wikipedia is the 7th most visited site in the world with content from over 80,000 volunteer contributors. Of this number, Samantha told us, 85% of the contributors are white, male, and Western. When most content is created by a homogeneous group, you can see their interests and viewpoints reflected in the existing content and the many content gaps in the online encyclopedia. One goal of having students add content to is to help diversify the contributions.

One interesting example is the entry for Susan Band Horwitz (see below). You can see an early entry is cursory and lacking specifics. We learned this short entry is called a “stub” – there are currently over 1.9 million stubs in Wikipedia (view the current list of stubs – this is fascinating!).

"Stub" entry for Susan Band Horwitz
“Stub” entry for Susan Band Horwitz

If you saw this entry you might assume that this scientist did not contribute significantly to her field. Through the work of students in a course using Wiki Ed’s training and tools, and as part of their Year of Science, they expanded the entry significantly this past spring.

Longer entry for Susan Band Horwitz
Longer entry for Susan Band Horwitz

Contributing to Wikipedia can meet many learning goals, including conducting research, writing, and improving media and meta- literacies, communication, and technical skills. Students learn about authority (who has authority to create information, where does that authority come from), audience (who uses this information and for what purpose), debates in your field of study (highly controversial topics are often “locked,” editing wars break out), and the importance of citation practices.

Wikipedia assignments can take 5-15 weeks, depending on your goals and objectives. Wiki Ed Foundation, in addition to Connecticut College librarians and instructional technologists, are available to help you through every step. Wiki Ed creates a dashboard for you and your students to access training modules and track progress, librarians are here to help students find the best sources for their research, and instructional technologists can help with technical questions.

If you are interested in pursuing a Wikipedia editing assignment, contact your instructional technology or library liaison.

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