Submissions/Wikipedia Goes To School

From Wikimania 2011 • Haifa, Israel

This is an open submission for Wikimania 2011.

Review no.


Title of the submission
Wikipedia Goes To School: lessons from the classroom about integrating Wikipedia as a teaching tool
Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)
Author of the submission
Annie Lin and Amy Roth
E-mail address or username (if username, please confirm email address in Special:Preferences),
Country of origin
United States
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
Wikimedia Foundation
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (please use no less than 300 words to describe your proposal)

Over the 2010-2011 academic year, the Wikimedia Foundation partnered with 37 professors from 26 universities to introduce wiki technology into class assignments. In this workshop, Wikimedia staff from the Public Policy Initiative team talk about the lessons learned through this coordinated effort to integrate Wikipedia in the classroom. We present student learning results and student motivations. We also talk about the lessons learned in what makes a successful Wikipedia assignment and the challenges faculty and ambassadors face when using Wikipedia as a teaching tool. Overall, students expressed a greater motivation to produce quality work in Wikipedia than for a traditional assignment, even though many also indicated that a Wikipedia assignment is more difficult than a traditional research paper. Many students commented on the satisfaction in producing a classroom assignment that had value beyond a grade.

Our data come from several sources: ambassador interviews, ambassador survey, student focus groups, a series of professor interviews and student surveys conducted by nonprofit educational research firm WestEd, and Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship conducted video interviews of both graduate and undergraduate student participants. Through student video interviews and quotes from faculty interviews, professors and students express in their own words their experience of using Wikipedia in a class assignment. We use activities from the Wikipedia Ambassador training module and facilitate discussion about the challenges of using Wikipedia in the classroom. This workshop focuses on how a Wikipedia assignment differs from traditional research paper assignment, and the related advantages and challenges.

The student video and professor interviews show that student skills improved in seven learning areas. One big learning area is media literacy; which we define as the ability to identify credible sources, especially with respect to the quality of Wikipedia articles. Expository writing is the second learning area; students improved in informative or summary style writing. Wikipedia's neutral point of view policies helps students develop this skill. The third learning objective is critical thinking, and Wikipedia assignments successfully challenge students to improve in this area. In the way of Wikipedia, students also practiced collaboration, specifically collaborative writing. Some students also found a group of people working in and learning about the same topic they were interested in; this community of practice is the fifth learning area students experienced. Improvement in literature review skills and researching papers is another improvement area. Finally, students increased in technology fluency and learned wiki markup and online etiquette, an essential skill in today's workplace.

Students also expressed a variety of motivations for the Wikipedia assignment that differ from traditional assignment. The student motivations included usefulness of the assignment, the global audience, and showing it to mom and dad. It is exciting to see the light in student's eyes when they talk about their Wikipedia articles.

The workshop wraps up with some of our learning points from the project and seeks audience input on the challenges to integrating Wikipedia as a teaching tool. A successful Wikipedia assignment pairs students with an Online Ambassador designated to be their mentor. Wikipedia works best for literature review centered assignments, it is not appropriate for original research or analytical writing. Sufficient time must be allocated to the assignment with designated milestones throughout the term. We also found that selection of article topic is key to a positive experience; the topic must be notable and there must be an adequate number of primary sources about the topic.

The Wikipedia principles of a creating knowledge base that is available to everyone, information development through a collaborative and transparent process, and working within a community of practice, align nicely with the goals of higher education. We find that integrating Wikipedia in the classroom can be very successful and a positive experience for students. Now, in coordination with academic institutions Wikipedia continues its mission toward “a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.”

Track (People and Community/Knowledge and Collaboration/Infrastructure)
Wiki and Education
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
I hope so!
Slides or further information (optional)
We have activities, discussion topics, professor quotes and student video interviews all embedded in our presentation!

Interested attendees

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  1. --Frank Schulenburg 23:09, 28 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Spiritia 09:09, 29 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  3. --Sage Ross 21:02, 29 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  4. CT Cooper · talk 13:23, 30 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Vibhijain 11:30, 5 May 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  6. Elly Koepf (WMDE) 19:29, 18 May 2011 (UTC)[reply]