Wikipedia grows up on college campuses

Wikipedia is starting to lose it’s notoriety in education thanks to academic contributions

wikipedia-academia-studentsA trusted bromide in academia is that you become a better student when you become a teacher. Something like that is happening at Wikipedia.

The internet encyclopedia has grown explosively since its creation in 2001, but it quickly earned a reputation as a Petri dish for misinformation.

That’s changing. Gradually and informally, educators who repeatedly warned students to avoid Wikipedia like the plague began making it part of their course curriculum, assigning students to contribute content, either by writing original Wikipedia articles or editing existing ones.

“Many of those faculty had been Wikipedia contributors themselves,” LiAnna Davis of the Wiki Education Foundation tells me. But as the trend continued and grew, “we wanted to see what would happen if we made it into a formal program.”

Since the program’s launch in 2010, nearly 10,000 students in some 500 classes have contributed 44,000 printed pages of content, editing thousands of existing articles and creating 1,900 new ones, all of it overseen by academics while students get credit. Participating schools run the gamut from Ivy League to community college. The California contingent includes Berkeley, Davis and San Francisco, the California Maritime Academy and Pomona College.

What do students think? “They’re initially a little nervous never having done anything like that but once they get going, they love it,” said Diana Strassmann, a Rice University professor and chairwoman of the Wiki Education Foundation board who regularly assigns her students to write or edit Wikipedia articles.

(Next page: How students and faculty take the experience further)

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