December 1, 2020
Done! I just submitted my fall 2020 grades. What a relief. One of the issues with teaching on Wikipedia is how to evaluate. This time, instead of grading completed articles, I evaluated contributions as they were made. This way, it’s not the product I’m looking at, but the process—since both articles are very good: see Edith Jacqueline Ingram Grant and Dorothy Cowser Yancy.
This time, I also built course feedback into lessons and evaluations. For example, on the last “test,” I asked a couple of questions that asked them to evaluate Wikipedia and the class. The former was: “Are you likely to continue to write and edit Wikipedia in the future? Why or why not?” I had quite a few that said they would, and a few definite negatives, like this one:
|“||I am not likely to edit Wikipedia in the future because I tend to use other resources when doing research and I do not look at Wikipedia in general outside of this class. I do not see myself having a lot of time to write or contribute to a section of an article any more than an occasional copyedit, if that. It is more academic than what I would like to be on my off days as well. I also know that if I add to a body of work with my name on it, I want to give it my best effort and not a halfway done job and doing that requires patience. I only had that kind of patience because our work is graded. This sounds harsh, but I rather be honest. That is not to say I did not learn a lot from Wikipedia on how to improve my writing, but in terms of research and citing, it is a headache and is harder than essays to me. It is tough to get the inspiration to work on less interesting topics and choosing topics that I am passionate about will lead to accidental bias.||”|
I think this answer is telling in many ways. Students are programmed to write one way, i.e., the academic essay, and when required to do something different, it “requires patience” and becomes a “headache.” I agree, and this is part of the benefit of using Wikipedia, and why I will continue to do so. As I keep observing: we educators need to be cognizant not to train students to conform only to particular media, but challenge them to be versatile and push beyond comfort and “student” (a medium itself) thinking. In fact, another student astutely pointed out the limits of D2L:
|“||During my whole time of being in college, all I knew was d2l, so when I read in the syllabus that we weren’t using it made me nervous. It was a new look and fresh start into what was in store for this class. I think that’s what I like about this class. It got me out of my comfort zone and into a new spectrum of writing. I don’t think d2l would have been able to compare to the site we used to get, understand and focus on writing for digital media.||”|
Another response addressed the importance of supporting the underrepresented on Wikipedia:
|“||Yes I will continue to write for Wiki[pedia]. . . . Since taking this class I have looked up black rappers and influencers and realized that they are underrepresented in the Wiki space. For example entrepreneur Jayda Wayda who has a massive 4.2 million followers on Instagram, and a best selling book doesn't have a Wiki page, but Tik Toker Addison Rae does. As a black Wikipedian I feel as though it's my job to contribute and create pages for marginalized groups of people and making Jayda Cheaves a Wiki page is a great way to start. . . . As a writer the Wiki space will allow me to research, write, and influence others to participate in a space where everyone is welcomed.||”|
Hear, hear. I’m not sure I could have said it better myself. This is the exact reason why I decided to have the course project articles focus on Georgia women in support of the Women in Red initiative. This was a good approach for undergrads, as the research, while challenging, was not too daunting. Every student was able to make positive contributions to the two articles. Even though there were some struggles and frustrations, most commented on how the experience was ultimately a positive one. Yet, even those who stated they would don't write for Wikipedia any more, usually acknowledged a new-found respect for the process, for example: “I will be honest that I had less respect for Wikipedia writers than I do now. After trying to keep track of all the rules, track down copyright free photographs and write for Wikipedia, my respect for those who do all this for free and no praise are worthy of my respect.” Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it is rewarding.
. . .
- Working on this project made me appreciate Wikipedia even more.
- That said, what I called “tests” this time, I might change to something like “checkins” next semester. That way, I could have have questions that test their knowledge of the material, but also ask “how’s it going” and “what do you think” questions.