It was a pleasure in my first week here to meet UBC History professor Tina Loo, who Brian and tipped me off to as far as doing inventive work by incorporating the Wikipedia Education Program (WEP) into her HIST 396 class on North American Environmental History.
Part of my mission here is to learn more about the successes of the UBC Wiki project and what we might be able to leverage form it at University of Mary Washington. But in listening to Tina describe her integration of the WEP program into her class, where students spent a semester developing and working on content written for Wikipedia (see the final work), I am getting also interested in that as a potential for what UMW classes already do well with their students- conducting and publishing research in the open.
Tina and I met for conversation over lunch, and I recorded a bit of our talk (sorry for background sounds as we were in the busy student union building).
A few highlights… The WEP did require a semester long format, and provides a syllabus approach to doing this kind of project– but it does not become a class about wikis, and the tech part comes much later into the process. Tina reporte that the technology learning curve was not as steep as she expected although some students did have challenges with the editing.
Writing for Wikipedia is different from the other articles read in class and essay assignments in that the genre is an encyclopedia and does not conveying an argument, presenting information. It aims to be “Just the facts” and a well rated article should reflect a consensus opinion among scholars.
According to Tina, a selling point is about the pedagogy and what it means for students to write in the public:
Don’t you want them to care about what they do? Don’t you want them to take the experience out of classroom and to live beyond the parameters of a class. One of the things that excited the students was that the work they were doing would have a life beyond the 13 weeks… they show their parents, their grandparents what they did.
I also asked about the difference between publishing in a local space (especially a nearby vibrant wiki) versus on Wikipedia — Tina said it was the value added was the students were doing
something that matters because it is living on beyond the context of the course and other eyes are seeing it beyond the professor and the teaching assistant it engages the students so they take it much more seriously
She did acknowledge the Large potential for this kind of project is combined with responsibility not to put out “shoddy” information- there is more at stake working in a public space, and it can scare students at first.
What they gain is a sense of a bigger audience for their writing, plus real world skills– working in social media, collaboration with people you may not meet with.
The last time I checked, there is no one working in an office with a responsibility to write an essay.
I’m digging in a boit more to the Wikipedia Education Program and also hope to interview a few of students who did Tina’s project.