Raising the stakes: writing about witchcraft on Wikipedia

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Raising the stakes: writing about witchcraft on Wikipedia
Authors: Elizabeth Ann Pollard [edit item]
Citation: The History Teacher 42 (1): 9-24. 2008 November.
Publication type: Journal article
Peer-reviewed: Yes
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Link(s): Paper link
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Raising the stakes: writing about witchcraft on Wikipedia is a publication by Elizabeth Ann Pollard.


[edit] Abstract

Wikiality, Wikimania, WikiGnomes, WikiTrolls, Wikibots, Wikipediaholism… all these neologisms have been coined in recent years to talk about Wikipedia, the online, open-source encyclopedia.1 Comedy Central’s Steven Colbert, in a recent interview with Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales, quipped, “Wikipedia is the first place I go for knowledge, or when I want to create it.”2 As professors, we have all encountered this resource, either in student footnotes or as the first hit in our own “googling.” While the knee-jerk reaction among many educators is to discourage sharply student use of Wikipedia, the goal of the project described in this article was to craft a pedagogical approach that incorporated student-contribution to Wikipedia in order to teach History methods students how to be historians. In this project, History 400W students contributed to or created new Wikipedia entries on witchcraft and magic accusations from the Greco-Roman period through Colonial America.3 Student learning goals included researching and writing about a specific historical topic, recognizing the relative value of various resources for historical research (including Wikipedia), contributing to high-stakes historical discourse, understanding and constructing historiography, and sharing the process of that discourse with peers. My rubric-based assessment and student survey responses demonstrated that supervised student participation on Wikipedia fulfills these goals, while preparing life-long learners equipped with skills valuable to the historical profession and beyond. This article reviews the relationship of academia with Wikipedia and how it led to the aforementioned assignment, describes the assignment the students completed, explains the methods and rationale for my assessment approach (both rubric-based and student survey-based), and discusses the problems I anticipated as well as those that the students and I actually encountered. This article concludes by evaluating how this assignment helped students become better historians and provided them with twentyfirst- century learning skills such as digital-age literacy, inventive thinking, effective communication, and high productivity.

[edit] Research questions

"this article reviews the relationship of academia with Wikipedia and how it led to the aforementioned assignment, describes the assignment the students completed, explains the methods and rationale for my assessment approach (both rubric-based and student survey-based), and discusses the problems i anticipated as well as those that the students and i actually encountered. this article concludes by evaluating how this assignment helped students become better historians and provided them with twentyfirst-century learning skills such as digital-age literacy, inventive thinking, effective communication, and high productivity."

Research details

Topics: Student contribution [edit item]
Domains: Rhetoric, Education [edit item]
Theory type: Design and action [edit item]
Wikipedia coverage: Main topic [edit item]
Theories: "this open-source encyclopedia and its new presence in the “read-only culture” of academia have certainly created a buzz. in 2006, no fewer than fifteen articles addressing Wikipedia appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Covering everything from the degree of accuracy of the entries—including discussion of fall-out after the much-heralded Nature study comparing errors in Wikipedia against those in Encyclopedia Britannica—to debates over the creation of a Wikiversity, theorized as “an electronic institution of learning that would be just as open.”

i adopted Joni Spurlin’s model for assessing the effectiveness of a technological innovation in pedagogy. Spurlin’s model emphasizes “a focus on student learning; the collection, analysis, and interpretation of information; and application [of that information] for the purpose of improvement.”" [edit item]

Research design: Action research, Statistical analysis [edit item]
Data source: Direct observation, Survey responses [edit item]
Collected data time dimension: Cross-sectional [edit item]
Unit of analysis: User [edit item]
Wikipedia data extraction: Live Wikipedia [edit item]
Wikipedia page type: Article, History, Discussion and Q&A [edit item]
Wikipedia language: English [edit item]

[edit] Conclusion

"The results are definitely worth the minimal additional effort on the part of the instructor. the proof is in student response to this project. All students surveyed in my course commented on the benefits of the assignment and encouraged me to continue to use it in other courses"

[edit] Comments


Further notes[edit]