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What is it?
Wikipedia is the free online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit. It is written collaboratively by the people who use it. Wikipedia was launched on 15th January 2001 and it is consistently in the 10 most popular website worldwide.
According to a white paper published by Turnitin, based on a study undertaken in 2012, Wikipedia is the most popular source for unoriginal text in student writing, comprising 11% of matches in the months examined. This has led to some educators banning the use of Wikipedia by their students.
Advice to educators is that (like Google) Wikipedia can be a useful first step in a student's research. Wikipedia articles have a quality classification (if you know where to look) and can provide a curated summary on a topic, with citations and a full reference list at the bottom of the article, to verify accurary and provide primary source material.
Moreover, a growing number of educators is suggesting that:
"Lecturers should be encouraging their classes to edit and improve Wikipedia pages. At the very least, more academics should become Wikipedia editors - writing on their areas of expertise."
– Neil Selwyn, professor in the Faculty of Education at Monash University
Uses & Benefits
Research Skills: Wikipedia is a good starting point for research on a topic. Students should be encouraged to evaluate the quality of any Wikipedia article before making use of the content and references. A high quality article on Wikipedia will be written from a neutral point of view, with all information presented accurately with reference to reliable sources.
Critical Thinking: By being asked to evaluate and improve an article, students will leaven to determine how well an article covers a topic, what aspects are missing, and to evaluate to what extent the article is documented with reliable sources.
Academic Writing: By editing, improving or creating Wikipedia articles, students get experience of writing for a diverse audience. With Wikipedia's emphasis on the use of reliable sources, they can also develop referencing skills.
Digital and Information Literacy: Students will gain an understanding of how Wikipedia's content development processing works, and how information is produced and consumed.
Collaboration: It is impossible to edit a Wikipedia article in isolation - the Wikipedia editing community is very active and ready to engage with and provide support to new editors. Students will receive feedback on their work and may have to negotiate with other editors in building consensus on content.
[Adapted from Instructor Basics: How to use Wikipedia as a teaching tool]
Showcase Example of Wikipedia
Showcase of Wikipedia in use in NUI Galway
An Editathon on Vicipéid (the Irish-language wikipedia) and Wikipedia was organised on Friday, November 7 2014 in NUI Galway. This collaboration was initally proposed by members of the Wikimedia Ireland Community and three of their members (Shannon Eichelberger, Eugene Eichelberger and Oliver Moran) kindly offered to supervise the training and support of participants. In this interview with Oliver Moran, he highlight s the value of An Vicipéid or Wikipedia as a learning resource.
Further NUI Galwa Examples
In NUI Galway, we are working with the Wikimedia Community Ireland to increase the use of Wikipedia in education and have organised a number of editathons in collaboration with the James Hardiman Library, the Academic Writing Centre, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, and others. For details see:
For some examples and case studies from around the world, take a look at this booklet:
If you are interested in exploring the possibility of using Wikipedia in the classroom, you are encouraged to complete this online training, which introduces the culture and rules of Wikipedia and demonstrates the basics of editing. Wikipedia Training for Educators
The Wikimedia Foundation provides a useful set of documents for getting started
The Wikipedia Education Program: Information and Resources for Educators and Students
Henderson, M., Selwyn, N., Finger, G., Aston, R., 2015, Students' everyday engagement with digital technology in university: Exploring patterns of use and `usefulness', Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management [P], vol 37, issue 3, Routledge, Melbourne Australia, pp. 308-319. (View Publication)
Parr, C. (2015, 10 February). Wikipedia should be 'better integrated' into teaching. Times Higher Education. Retrieved 29 July, 2015, from www.timeshighereducation.co.uk
Monash University (2015) Wikipedia use - nothing to be ashamed about. Retrieved 29 July, 2015, from monash.edu/news/show/wikipedia-use-nothing-to-be-ashamed-about
Rather than create a brand new Wikipedia article, which could be quickly removed due to lack of "notability", think about:
- translating an article (useful for building up content on Vicipéid, for example);
- copy editing to improve the grammar or readability of an article;
- uploading illustrations to Wikimedia Commons on a particular topic or theme;
- adding new content to an existing article;
- using Wikidata as the basis of an assignment;
- writing a news article for Wikinews (ideal for journalism students).
Wikipedia also has a number of sister projects that could be used as the basis of students work: Commons, Wikibooks, Wikidata, Wiktionary...