Should pupils really edit Wikipedia?

In a previous post, The Upside Downs of Wikipedia in the Classrom, I claimed that the use of Wikipedia in the classroom can and should be turned upside down from time to time by having the students/pupils write and edit articles instead of just reading and citing them. You might ask, Is this really practical? Can pupils really edit Wikipedia? What is Wikipedia going to end up like if they do? I believe that this to a large extent depends on how it is done, especially how the topics are selected.

A few weeks ago, I said to a class I teach in both Norwegian and English (K-11/Vg1, Media and Communications): “I am going to present you with a real challenge now. In mid-February, I am attending a workshop to learn about how to edit Wikipedia. This is because I want to teach you how to do this. So the challenge is: Write an article in Norwegian for Wikipedia. Are you up for it?”

They were surprisingly positive. Actually, many of them seemed excited, and no one objected. I went on: “Of course, if you are going to write new articles, instead of just editing existing ones, you have to be really careful about what topics you select.”

We then talked this over for a while. For example, three of them are involved in a band. Would it be possible to make a Wikipedia article about that band? The students spent some time that session brainstorming. When I asked them the next week, almost all of them had an idea for an article. While some of them had found gaps in the Norwegian edition that they wanted to fill (not planning to make translations, though), others had more local topics, for which they perceived themselves as experts to a reasonable degree. So I would say we are ready to go–after the workshop on Friday next week.

To be continued …

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