May 1, 2021

From Gerald R. Lucas

Wikipedia Woes

I spent all morning helping my WritDM students along on their Wikipedia projects. I wasn’t able to get to them all, so I concentrated on some of the ones that needed the most assistance. I think there remain a couple of main problems:

  1. Procrastination might be the biggest. There’s nothing more I can do here, I’m afraid. This may just be the nature of being a student. I have tried various ways of encouragement, including written and verbal attempts to get them started early; I have tried giving them grades for any work done during the week; I have tried even doing some work for them hoping to prompt them to take over. None of these has really worked. Many just put it off like they might a research paper, then begin to panic when they realize there’s more to it than writing a research paper. My lesson to then is that you can procrastinate on a known medium, but an unfamiliar medium must be started early.
  2. Coding is a part of that unfamiliarity. This also requires an attention to detail. I think many of them try to edit on their iPads or iPhones which does not give them the same sort of space or control that a computer does. And even though I tell them not to use a mobile device, well, many do. (And don’t even get me started about email: many students use email like texts—they send after each sentence, so I have a string of emails often without a context. And why is it so hard to send a URL when they want me to look at something online? No, no, that’s OK, let me go look for it.) I notice this most with spacing; for some reason, missing spaces between words or after punctuation seems to happen on mobile device users.
  3. Attitude. I received the comment from many that they might have liked the Wikipedia assignment better had they been at all interested in the subject. Fair enough, but I have tried this approach, too. When I ask them to choose something, for example, relevant to their major or intended career, they procrastinate (see #1) or pick something way to popular that a neophyte Wikipedia editor should go nowhere near. I had student one semester who was trying to edit the Tesla page to disastrous results.
  4. They know best. Even with all of my detailed instructions and WikiEdu training, they just do their own thing. I think many students just do not read—even when it’s integral to their success. I think some don’t even read answers to questions they ask me directly via email. Maybe this is a lack of patience? Maybe they’ve been rewarded in the past for just doing something—anything that remotely seems to kinda be what the assignment called for. Yes, effort is important, but it is not all. You have to show some work—some evidence that you have learned the material. Some improvement.

I don’t know. I’m in the midst of students scrambling to get things done, and the class has ended. Based on many of the emails I’m getting—“Hey Mr. Lucas I did those missing assignments from back in January”—they seem to blame me for their current confusion and panic, even though I have evidence of inconsistent work habits over the last 16 weeks.

I know this entry makes it sound as if all the students have been poor performers when that is not the case. Many have enjoyed the Wikipedia work, and their articles seem to prove it. It’s all due tomorrow night, so my real evaluation begins on Wednesday morning. I’m ready for a break, though it won’t be a lengthy one.