Teaching with Wikipedia


A recent survey by Yougov found that around two thirds of the British public trust Wikipedia more than traditional news outlets including the BBC, ITV, the Guardian and the Times.

One of the most visited websites worldwide, and now one of the most trusted, Wikipedia is a resource used by most university students. Increasingly, many instructors around the world have used Wikipedia as a teaching tool in their university classrooms as well.

Indeed, as the drive for scholarly research to become ever more Open Access gathers pace, Wikipedia will increasingly become the digital gateway to this research.

Some years ago, I read the University of Huddersfield’s Engaging the ‘Xbox Generation of Learners’ in Higher Education (PDF) where they describe the concept of students ‘powering down’ or disengaging from learning because “their preferred technologies and the technological skills they have acquired are not provided for…”

Empowering learning is therefore the opposite scenario where the technologies students “use effectively outside the classroom in their personal learning and leisure are used to enhance learning in the curriculum.”

As the Wikimedian at the University of Edinburgh, my year-long residency is to further both the university’s commitment to digital literacy as well as the quantity & quality of open knowledge. More practically, this will involve delivering skills-training sessions which will fit in with and, importantly enhance, the learning & teaching within the curriculum.

Wikipedia editing sessions will be a large part of this, and we’ve just had a terrifically successful History of Medicine editathon for Innovative Learning Week which you can learn more about here: Storify – story of History of Medicine Wikipedia editathon as well as more recent editathons for Art+Feminism as part of Women’s History Month 2016.

However, the residency isn’t just about Wikipedia and there are numerous ways where staff and students can get involved and directly contribute their knowledge & expertise to develop Wikimedia UK’s diverse range of projects. More details of these projects can be found on my blog: A smorgasbord of Wikimedia projects to choose from: not just Wikipedia!

Wikipedia is much more straightforward using the new Visual Editor interface which makes editing Wikipedia now as easy as using Microsoft Word. Students can be taught how to edit in up to 60 minutes and thereafter can research and write, with academic rigour, brand new Wikipedia articles.

Some recent examples of approaches to teaching with Wikipedia are detailed here:

1.    Teaching with Wikipedia (University of Edinburgh examples)

2.    How to use Wikipedia as a teaching tool (PDF)

3.    Wikipedia Education Program – Case Studies

If you would like to know more about how Wikipedia fits in with academia then these recent articles make very compelling reading:

1.    Wikipedia 15 and education

2.    Wikipedia the digital gateway to academic research

The project page for the residency with details on upcoming events is located here: Wikipedia: University of Edinburgh

I will also be attending the OER16 Conference in Edinburgh on 19-20 April. Should you wish to discuss teaching with Wikimedia or collaborating on any projects then I would be only too glad to hear from you at ewan.mcandrew@ed.ac.uk

Read more:

Ewan McAndrew

Ewan McAndrew is the current Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh. A PGDE English & Media teacher for the last few years, Ewan has taught in various parts of Scotland and worked increasingly with heritage institutions, most recently with the Glasgow School of Art’s Archives team on their WW1 ‘Roll of Honour’ project.

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