Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Editing Wikipedia

During the course of working with students, Wikipedia invariably arises. I do not discourage looking at Wikipedia. I do tell the students that it is not a trusted primary source. It is a great place to get overview information on a topic and to look at the links people reference in gathering their facts for the Wikipedia article.

Learning to Edit Wikipedia
Last spring, I decided to give the seventh grade students the opportunity to understand what it takes to edit Wikipedia. The reasons were two-fold. First, they get to learn the wiki markup language. Second, they experience how easy it is for anyone to edit the Wikipedia.

I started by having the students edit in the Wikipedia sandbox in anonymous mode. We, sadly, found that anyone - near and far - could modify what the students were doing. Wikipedia has a tutorial that uses a public sandbox that is erased on a fairly frequent basis.

I ended up creating an account for each of my students using the standard username and password they have for other accounts such as Edmodo, Diigo, and Google Docs. Each account has a personal sandbox. It is very unlikely that a stranger will happen upon the student sandbox page. The work is much more private and protected. Additionally, the updates are not deleted automatically by the system.

I had the students complete the Wikipedia: Editing Tutorial to learn the basics of the markup language. They followed directions in a simple handout and submitted screen shots of their edits to Edmodo.

Modifying the School Entry
After learning the markup language, the students compared our school entry which is very sparse with another more robust school page that covers the same grade levels as our school.

Each student proposed an entry for our page and wrote a potential entry in a word processor document. We ran out of time at the end of the school year, but we will make the edits early in the new school year.

The students were really excited to learn this new skill.

New at Wikipedia
As I was beginning to think about the lessons for the new school year, I had to edit our Wikipedia entry to update the link to our new school domain. There was a new link "Edit Beta". It seems that over the summer Wikimedia has been building a visual editor. It will give me something new to talk about as we head back to the project as an eighth grade class.

Image Source:
Screenshot of Wikipedia page.