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November 30, 2009

Wikipedia entries as class assignments

Jon Beasley-Murray, a Canadian professor of Spanish literature, assigned to his students the task of writing Wikipedia entries on various important Spanish-language novels. Each student would receive an A if his or her work achieved "GA [good article] status," and an A+ if the work was named a Featured Article (of which there are about 2000 in English). Indeed, his student's page on El Señor Presidente by Miguel Ángel Asturias became a Featured Article.

There is an insightful interview with Beasley-Murray on Wikipedia Signpost. He tells interesting stories about challenges and strategies for overcoming them. He also makes the general point that "educational technology" tends to ghettoize students' work on private, amateurish sites. He prefers to involve his classes in producing real social media. His students' best articles are being viewed about 600,000 times a year.

I like the idea of asking students to contribute to Wikipedia. Apparently, quite a few other professors and some secondary-school teachers have done so. In a similar vein, I asked my students this fall to publish their weekly writing assignments on a blog. We all agreed that it would not get much traffic, and it will probably be temporary, because the class is helping to build a much more sophisticated social networking website that will make the blog obsolete. Still, the act of "publishing" their work--making it accessible to search engines--has ethical and motivational significance. It means that they must consider what a community member would feel who came across their work. They are in the public sphere, which is where real citizenship takes place.

November 30, 2009 8:57 AM | category: Internet and public issues | Comments


From David Price, via email:

Hi, Peter.

Enjoyed your blog post today, as always, and agree wholeheartedly about the potential gain to society from channelling the energy of student work into cumulative, shared public resources online (a theme I explored towards the end of a lecture at ALT-C earlier this year.

Several US universities are also starting to experiment with Debategraph in this way -- and, in case you haven't seen it already, Citizendium.org has had a similar program running for a while now:


November 30, 2009 10:44 AM | Comments (1) | posted by Peter Levine

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