December 1, 2020

From Gerald R. Lucas

Complete: Some Thoughts on Fall 2020 covid-19: day 254 | US: GA | info | exit

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.[1] 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 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:

Another response addressed the importance of supporting the underrepresented on Wikipedia:

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.


  1. 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.