I’ve decided to revisit the Wikipedia Project I used last fall in my English 120 classes–but with a slight twist. This time, as an alternative to asking students to evaluate a Wikipedia entry, I’ve also decided to allow enterprising students the opportunity to write their own entries, whether from scratch or from existing stubs that need to be developed. I’d originally planned to update last year’s assignment, but when an ambitious student asked if he could revise or develop an existing, entry, I immediately said yes. For those students–and at least 3-4 seem likely to pursue this approach–I have sent them to the Wikipedia Guidelines page for student projects. It’s a pretty welcoming page and seems to support the general thesis about Wikipedia: that the aggregate contributions of the collective are more crucial than those of any one individual.
Students can still do a variation of the project I assigned last year, which requires them to assess the usefulness of Wikipedia as a resource. This time, in addition to requiring them to cite sections of the discussion page for a typical Wikipedia entry, I am also requiring that they cite an alternative secondary source on the same topic in order to compare the aims and goals of a typical Wikipedia entry with those of other resources. I’ve also decided to continue to require that students cite at least one secondary source about Wikipedia in order to engage with some of the existing debates about the website and its place within information culture. My only concern about this version of the project is that it risks becoming a little too formulaic, but I’m hopeful that it will allow them to think through some of the questions about information literacy that we have been confronting for some time.
It’s also worth checking out all of the new projects that have been added to the Wikipedia Sudent project page, in particular, a University of Maryland project that sounds fairly similar to mine.
Update: I’ve just had a “duh!” moment when it comes to encouraging students to share resources about Wikipedia. Since all students are required to cite at least one secondary source on Wikipedia, I have offered them credit for going out and compiling sources that could be collected in a class bibliography. If their bibliography proves to be extensive enough, I’ll post it in an appropriate location.