Teaching with Wikipedia, the Fall 2017 Edition

Image from the Eli Coppola Wikipedia article created in Fall 2016 ; Polaroid photo of Eli in 1992, captioned by Eli

This fall I am again working with Wikipedia in my Feminist Theory course (check out: Why You And Your Students Should Work To Improve Wikipedia, Feminist Praxis and Wikipedia in the Classroomand Adding Voices to Scholarship: Wikipedia Editing). It’s the second time that I’m mixing the Wiki Education Foundation’s online dashboard with our Linda Lear Center’s archives. This Wikipedia-based assignment continues to be a uniquely engaging for students because they are not only able to contribute to public knowledge, they become Wikipedia editors. They shift from being passive visitors to the Wikipedia site to editors with a working knowledge of the principles and culture of Wikipedia and an ability to add and edit Wikipedia pages.

In this blog post, I want to offer up a few key reasons to consider using Wikipedia in your class:

Ubiquity

As of As of Friday, November 10, English Wikipedia had 5,491,385 articles and is estimated to be the seventh most popular site in the United States, and the fifth most popular in the world. I have yet to teach a student who has not visited Wikipedia. While there is a longstanding skepticism of the reliability of Wikipedia, students are often unclear about how the encyclopedia works and yet often use it for information. Through a Wikipedia-engaged assignment, faculty can assist students in learning when Wikipedia could be useful and when it is not an appropriate source.

You can do it!

Thanks to the Wiki Education Foundation’s development of an online dashboard, there is an increasingly easy to use and nicely scaffolded way to plan out an assignment. My dashboard allows me to draw on the trainings provided by Wiki Education to help students learn the basics to Wikipedia as a community, as well as how to edit, conduct research, write an article, and provide substantive feedback to their peers. It also harnesses the transparency of Wikipedia to make it easy to track students work throughout a project. Plus, each class gets connected to a Wikipedia content expert who can provide additional support to students. I have asked my content editors to video chat with students the past two years and that has been helpful for establishing rapport. All in all, while I don’t ever feel like I’m an uber-Wikipedian, I know that I have the basic knowledge needed and when I hit a roadblock, I have the support I need.

Built-in Motivation

Students respond well to the challenge of a Wikipedia assignment because it engages with a public-facing platform. In this case, it’s a site that possibly everyone they know has visited at some point. As a result, they care more about doing high quality work because they have a sense of responsibility towards a public audience. They also look forward to sharing their work with friends and family. Finally, I already have had a student be asked to do Wikipedia work during a junior year internship, and she surprised her placement supervisor by already having this experience.

Student Feedback & Assessment

This fall in their reflection essays, students noted that this assignment allows them to engage with a mainstream audience.

As a student argued:

In 2017, in a climate of extreme political polarization and turmoil, as well as an increasing sense of distrust in news and credible sources, assignments such as the Wikipedia Project are exceptionally valuable, in terms of the content they produce, as well as the online communities they form and support.

Another observed:

Student created content creates a sense of accountability and agency within learning. Producing knowledge is empowering. It gives students a sense of greater purpose within the classroom, creating a conversation in which students can be critical of information and its production. Instead of simply reading about theories about voices being left out and that there is not enough content written by women, I was able to learn transferable skills and add to the voices on Wikipedia that are written about and by women.

Overall, while they noted some limitations of both Wikipedia (an important element to the assignment to develop their understanding of concepts like positivism, objectivity, situated knowledges, and standpoint epistemology) and working with materials from the archives, students reported that this was a particularly compelling assignment unlike a standard research paper.

In regards to assessment, Wiki Education provides suggestions and an assessment rubric that can be repurposed for your own needs.

Interested, but not sure about all this? Drop me a line and I will be happy to meet up to look through the dashboard with you.

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Getting It Together! Teaching with Digital Portfolios: Part 2

Partial screenshot of “Extracurriculars” page in a student portfolio.

This is the second of two posts in which professors Ari Rotramel (GWS) and Sabrina Notarfrancisco (Theater) team up to share their experiences teaching with digital portfolios.

Preparing for Graduation through Eportfolio Work

Last spring, I worked with Jessica McCullough to integrate the digital portfolio platform, Digication, into the newly offered Gender and Women’s Studies Senior Capstone course. Connecticut College’s Digication page is here and you can visit also their company’s site for more information here. Even better, you can set up a time to meet with Jessica McCullough to chat!

Sidenote: Digication holds possibilities for students tracking and reflecting on their work throughout their studies. E-portfolios are worth considering as an option both for Pathways and majors to support student learning. It is particularly disappointing when students lose an important assignment they had in a lower-level course, and an e-portfolio could help both with preservation, considering why their work matters, as well as making connections across experiences.

Back to the course… Students were assigned to create a basic portfolio that addressed proposed areas like their “about me” page, coursework, extracurricular activities, and five year plan. The aim was to help them to pull together their work and develop a more professional online presence (they could choose to make their portfolio publicly available). Digication was an attractive option because it has basic functions that are easy to use for editors, we were able to create a template to share, and it is easy to access student work through the Digication site.

I coupled the work on Digication itself with work within a Google Drive folder where students would collect material and images, as well as draft written content for their portfolio. Overall, Sstudents appreciated the opportunity to reflect and organize on their undergraduate work and future goals. As Digication was in its beta stage, there were some hiccups that they found to be aggravating, and that was a challenge to navigate as a faculty member with my main response option being “Keep on trying, let me know if it’s still not working!” In sum, the platform was a mixed bag, but the overall assignment goals were met and students understood the significance of this work.

My discussions with Jessica suggest that this year, we may want to offer students the opportunity to use either Digication or another platform they already are familiar with (Tumblr, WordPress, etc.). While normally it is an issue to have students work on different platforms, in this case as students are preparing for graduation it may be empowering to allow them to use something they already use while also providing a simple and well-supported option.

Concluding Thoughts

Any portfolio requires taking the time to introduce it to students. We also suggest faculty decide how much direct support from instructional technologists and/or peers is appropriate as well as how much time in class for work, troubleshooting, and feedback may be needed. Students respond well to using technology when it has a practical application, so make that connection in your assignments explicit. They also may be very excited about an outward facing portfolio or prefer to keep their work more private.

Filling in the Gaps Together: International Women’s Day Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon

Rose Olivera introducing the edit-a-thon

By Lyndsay Bratton, Rose Oliveira, Becky Parmer, and Ariella Rotramel

On Wednesday, March 8, we hosted the first annual International Women’s Day Wiki-Edit-A-Thon in Shain Library’s Advanced Technology Lab (ATL). International Women’s Day is observed throughout the world on March 8 and in some countries it is a public holiday. While celebrations in some countries include bringing women flowers or celebrating with a women’s night out, the day has a political history that resulted in this year’s call for a women’s strike in the United States.  International Women’s Day provides an important opportunity to reflect on ongoing gender inequality and the ability of women and allies to act to make change. Editing Wikipedia collectively provides one platform for responding to issues of gender inequality.

According to the 2011 Editor Survey, 91% of Wikipedians are men. Not only does such a homogenous editor force yield a body of work that reflects a limited scope of perspectives, but the survey also found that the relatively few women editors each make far fewer edits than men editors. Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons are staged periodically around the world, and often focus on reversing such trends by bringing women editors on board to fill in gaps in content related to women’s issues and women in history. A great example of one such initiative is the Art + Feminism Edit-a-Thon.

To address these issues of gender bias, we held an International Women’s Day Wikipedia-Edit-A-Thon. Edit-a-thons are events where newcomers and experienced Wikipedians alike come together to learn and participate in editing. Everyone was welcome and no prior editing experience was needed to participate. We had 13 people attend the evening’s event to create or improve articles on women and related topics.

Faculty, staff, students, and community members at the edit-a-thon

Rose Oliveira, Becky Parmer, and Ariella Rotramel started the event by talking about the the gender issues that face Wikipedia and how Ariella has used Wikipedia in her feminist theory class. Becky and Rose then reviewed the Five Pillars of Wikipedia to ensure that editors understood how to carry out their work effectively. Rose demonstrated how to create content on Wikipedia and the basics of editing. Andrew Lopez and Ashley Hanson shared a set of library resources they curated to help participants get started in their work. We also linked many resources on our Wikipedia libguide to assist editors in moving into editing.

Articles edited or created during the edit-a-thon

For the remainder of the time, we dove into the work. People chose to either collaborate in teams or work by themselves to research, create or improve a variety of articles. They contributed citations; rephrased poorly written sections; added new content to existing entries; and began work on developing new entries. All of these actions help improve Wikipedia by creating or strengthening content that relates to women and other underrepresented groups. In the last 10 minutes, everyone added their entries that they worked on a whiteboard: Lois Gibbs; Mary Foulke Morrisson; 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence; Trans Day of Action; Caroline Black; Avtar Brah; Beatrice Cuming; and Marie Hoppe-Teinitzerová. We concluded the evening by taking turns sharing the woman, organization, or event that they worked on. It was rewarding to see what we were collectively able to do in a short amount of time.

As a result, on the third Wednesday of every month, we have decided to hold an informal Wiki Meetup or “Wiki Wednesday” at The Social at 5:15pm. We welcome new and experienced editors! To check in about the meetup, please contact Rose Oliveira (roliveir@conncoll.edu). For more information about working with Wikipedia in the classroom, please contact your instructional technologist or library liaison.

Don’t Yuck Anyone’s Yum*: Using Google Drive and Moodle for Courses

venceslao_gennaio_castello_buonconsiglio_trento_c1400_detailIn 2017, many faculty use an online platform to provide their students with course content and engage with them in or outside of the classroom.  At Conn, we have two major ways to organize such work – Moodle and Google Drive.  As I started to use Google Drive to organize my work from job applications and budgets to collaborating on conference proposals with colleagues across the country, I was drawn to it as a potential course platform.  Its limits could serve my need for simplicity, and while there have been  updates to Google Docs or Forms, I was able to get my approach to using these tools locked down quickly.  For this post, I have been in conversation with colleagues to identify and share some key elements of Google Drive and Moodle, sharing what draws us to one option over another when considering 1) student communication, 2) organizing content, and 3) grading.

Student Communication
Online professor-student contact has become a regular part of class-related work, from updating students about an assignment or snowday plans to fielding questions about a reading.  Sending out messages efficiently is easily handled by Moodle’s quickmail function that sends a message to the entire class.  Working with Google requires more set-up initially, but provides further flexibility.  At the start of the semester, I set up a student e-mail list through Groups.  One cheat is to use the mail students function on Camelweb to grab the set of e-mails.  Once set up, I can have the ability to use Boomerang to send a message to students later or have a repeat message sent their way.  Other functions to explore on Moodle and Google Drive include chat functions, including chatting on a Google Document as students work through an assignment or collaborate on in-class research.

Organizing Content
With the advent of LMSs and websites, faculty now have the opportunity to organize course content in much more complex manner than a syllabus, texts or reader.  With Moodle’s sections, it is simple to create a readings section so students can easily find upcoming readings and download or print them easily.  With Google Drive, it is possible to move or copy a folder’s worth of readings for students to similarly access.  I appreciate the ability to link readings in my syllabus (a shared Google Doc) either to a reading in a Google Folder or to the library’s site to support the tracking of usage of our online journals.  tudents or I set up folders and documents for collaboration or individual work throughout the course.  

Grading
Moodle and Google offer distinctly different opportunities for grading-related work. Moodle’s Assignment activity includes the ability to create rubrics for grading and the gradebook has a wide array of grade calculation functions, it also has a marking guide that you can use to set categories and provide comments. I prefer using a paper rubric that I either upload from my desktop or edit online for paper assessment.  For exams, I create a spreadsheet rubric that I similarly edit and upload to my students’ folders.  These methods are more or less the same ones that I have used for ten years, allowing me to document and back up my grading process in case there are any points of contention.  Moreover, if I find that I am spending too much time staring at my computer screen, I can print out rubrics and/or papers and grade by hand easily.  For the semester’s-worth of grading, I keep a spreadsheet with an attendance page and a total grade page that simply calculates the percentages I have given to different assignments. The limitation of this approach is that students are not able to keep tabs on what grades and attendance have been recorded for them over the course of the semester through the platform. The Moodle gradebook and Attendance modules offer functionality for those faculty who prefer for their grade records to be more transparent to students, including attendance, rather than asking students to track and calculate the value of their own assignments. Through Google, a professor could also use a shared grading spreadsheet with students that is updated throughout the semester if they wanted to provide similar transparency.

Overall, both platforms have something to offer faculty seeking to streamline their online engagement with students. A final factor that has drawn me to Google Drive is that it has value for students embarking on internships or post-graduation jobs, as they will have at least navigated for a semester this platform and learned how to use some of its key components. Meanwhile, as Moodle is our College-wide Learning Management System (LMS), utilizing this platform ensures that students have more ease accessing all materials from the first day of classes.  

*I think it’s a beautiful edict, on par at least with the Golden Rule, and it simply means that no one in that safe space should attack or tear down what brings joy to someone else and which also doesn’t hurt anyone else.

Thank you for input from Diane Creede, Jessica McCullough, Anthony Graesch, and Lyndsay Bratton!

Adding Voices to Scholarship: Wikipedia Editing

I developed my Fall 2015 Feminist Theory course with metaliteracy as a learning objective to assist students in studying theory in context.  Metaliteracy is a framework that promotes critical thinking and collaboration in a digital age (Mackey & Jacobson).  The focus on metaliteracy helped challenge students’ common understandings of theory as distanced from empirical research and everyday life, and reinforced an understanding of research and academic writing as an iterative process.

Wikipedia page

The Wikipedia assignment that I used for the first two months of class provided a means of working with students to translate theoretical insights into accessible knowledge.  Each student created a new entry for Wikipedia on a topic related to gender and women’s studies.  Students’ firsthand experience with creating knowledge for a general audience provided an opportunity to struggle with questions of representation that otherwise they would have engaged largely as spectators rather than participants.  The project developed out of my interest in connecting with ongoing projects that seek to address the problem of gender and racial inequality in Wikipedia as there continues to be a significant imbalance in participation and content (see Gender bias on Wikipedia).  Moreover, the 2015 National Women’s Studies Association Wikipedia Initiative that connects Gender and Women’s Studies classes with Wiki Education Foundation staff provided further materials and support to carry out this assignment.

I took a scaffolded approach to the assignment.  Students started reading about Wikipedia through a critical perspective, including issues such as trolling and bias.  We took a paced approach in completing the wiki training and beginning to add content (the class Wiki Dashboard shows how the training was scaffolded and organized). Next time, I plan to integrate the discussion of bias with an in-class editing session to break the ice more efficiently. We also connected with our Wiki Education Foundation content expert, Adam Hyland, via Google Hangouts midway through the assignment, and next time we will introduce collaborators earlier to help students put a face to the person and become more comfortable reaching out about specific questions they have around their Wikipedia work. Students appreciated having the scaffolded approach to the assignment that allowed them to pace themselves and revise their work.  Finally, they gained much from presenting their work in a poster session supported by the Academic Resource Center as they received direct feedback from visitors and saw firsthand interest in their work, adding an face-to-face interaction that is missing from online work itself.

“it is one thing to be looking at all this information for one’s own personal benefit and use… it is a completely different thing to be able to not only use this information for one’s own personal sake, but also share it with other individuals that are seeking information.” – student reflection


Students’ reflection essays included many claims that the project did indeed help them understand theory as part of feminist knowledge production.  One student reported that the project was “
a direct way to overcome the lack of connection between theory and praxis” as they created information for a general audience.  In addition, students appreciated and found a sense of empowerment by creating content that will be widely shared and used. Students sharpened their research skills, and in some cases contacted individuals involved in the topics they wrote about such as The Kilroys, a theater gender parity group and the activists behind the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag.  This shift from consumption to synthesis and distribution of information helped demystify one key source of information online for students.  

Statistics graph for Sister OutsiderSome entries have received quite a bit of traffic.  The entry for Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde’s well-cited essay collection, has received 2,293 visits (25/day) over the past 90 days (see graph to left).  Previously, there had not been an entry for the national Green Dot Bystander Intervention program that is a core component of Connecticut College’s violence prevention work.  A student created an entry and the site has received 285 visits (3/day) over the past 90 days, and basic information about the program is now accessible to Wikipedia users.  In conclusion, while there are always some glitches and complications in carrying out an assignment like this one, it is evident from the semester and teaching evaluations that it was worth the effort.  Across the board, students gained a deeper understanding of knowledge creation and representation through this hands on experience.

Mapping Women’s Movements

Following up on our earlier post about Google Maps Engine Lite, Ariella Rotramel, Visiting Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, recently created a collaborative assignment using Google Maps in her Transnational Women’s Movements class last semester.mapwomen'smovements

The goal of the class project was to “help students explore a broader range of women’s movements beyond what we could cover in our course materials and help students gain first-hand experience with the complexities of researching and representing women’s movements…” Students were organized into groups based on region which enabled them to support each other and provide peer feedback on their map entries. Each student added 10 unique sites to the map. Each site included a brief synopsis of the site’s relevance, images or video, links to additional information, including news, academic or advocacy sources. After creating the map, students used their research as a starting point for a short paper, providing them with the opportunity to engage more deeply with topics that grew out of their map research.

Professor Rotramel worked closely with librarian Ashley Hanson and an instructional designer Laura Little in the design and implementation of this assignment, and they both visited the class to introduce elements of the assignment. Students were encouraged to contact them with research or technology-related questions during the course of the project.  Professor Rotramel hopes to further refine the assignment and work with future classes to develop the map.  Her long term aspiration is that the map can receive additions from people across the globe and become an open-access teaching tool.

Visit the Transnational Women’s Movements Map here. How might you use maps in your class? Post in the comments below, contact Professor Rotramel with questions about her assignment, or your Instructional Technology liaison with questions about using Google Maps Engine Lite in your class.