WikiConference India 2011/Submissions/Embracing Wikipedia as a Learning & Teaching Resource

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Title of the submission

Embracing Wikipedia as a Learning & Teaching Resource

Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, or presentation)


Author of the submission

Toni Sant

State of your origin (Country, if you are not based in India)

United Kingdom


There is the general feeling among teachers at all levels of education that Wikipedia (and other Wikimedia projects) are not suitable for academic purposes. It is understandable that those of us trained through authoritative, fixed texts would feel this way about Wikimedia projects. The countless examples of mischief across all sorts of wiki pages, especially on Wikipedia, reinforce the mistaken idea that this is not a useful tool for learning and teaching, especially in higher education. However, Wikipedia remains popular with students for all sorts of reason; in most cases it is among the top 5 websites visited by students regularly. It's an obvious shortcut to finding out about something, even if what you find out is not always entirely accurate. It is also a great springboard to further online (even offline) information about a specific topic.

If students are going to use Wikipedia anyway, one way or another, why don't we as lecturers and tutors provide them with a support mechanism that ensures they: a. understand how a wiki really works b. learn to distinguish between "reliable", "less reliable", and "unreliable" sources c. comprehend the difference between subjective and objective viewpoints d. discover ways to produce data on the internet rather than just consume it

Maria Chatzichristodoulou and I have been exploring the use of Wikipedia as a learning and teaching resource through assessments on undergraduate modules at the University of Hull’s School of Arts and New Media (SANM) in Scarborough (UK) since 2009/10.1 Parallel to this work with Dr Chatzichristodoulou, I have also been working with Darren Stephens, a SANM Academic Support Specialist, on the implementation of the MediaWiki software package for a collaborative multimedia database of Maltese music and associated arts.2 This Malta-related project currently also involves three PhD students within SANM, and we’re currently exploring engagement with the MediaWiki software development community for our BSc Web Design and Development students working towards their dissertation projects. Our MediaWiki project is visible at http:/ / and a position paper outlining plans for this project was published in the Journal of Music, Technology and Education in 2010.

Nationally in the UK there’s little work being done with editing Wikipedia in higher education institutions. This is in stark contrast with the USA. The UK is slowly catching up and we’re looking to be on the forefront of these developments. Our work in Scarborough builds upon the broader academic expertise of all three Univerity of Hull members of staff involved, as well as the first hand experiences of the students in the resprective Wikimedia communities. It allows us to integrate our research on new media technologies with our teaching at the university. One of the main purposes of our work at SANM is to explore real world engagement with new media technologies. Doing this with students nearing the end of an undergraduate degree, we also attempt to encourage some of our students to pursue postgraduate studies in this area.

My talk will outline the work undertaken with Wikimedia-related projects at the University of Hull in 2009/10 and 2010/11, as well as our plans for 2011/12 and beyond, in the context summarized here.