An Interview with Jami Mathewson of Wiki Education

– Wikipedia’s come a long way in the 17 years that
it’s been around, and there are studies showing that it’s as reliable
as other encyclopedias. So I think people are
starting to realize, the requirement to have
articles be verifiable, to include citations, is the most valuable
part of Wikipedia and we wanna teach
students that. The New York Times doesn’t
cite their sources, right? There are other publications
that don’t even allow readers to dig in and see
well, who says this? What would their motivation
be behind publishing this? When was this published? When is this research from? Has there been newer research? Those kinds of questions
that we want students to be thinking about in
their critical thinking, their information literacy. And Wikipedia does provide
that and requires it. Wiki education really
wants to provide the Wikipedia know
how and expertise to our instructors,
to our students, we’ve built the Wiki
education dashboard, so this is essentially a
learning management system for instructors to
build their curriculum around the Wikipedia assignment, to direct students
towards training modules about how to edit Wikipedia,
how to participate in this community,
how to avoid copyright and plagiarism issues. We’ve had a partnership with the Midwest Political
Science Association for the last three years,
and we’ve worked with 71 courses through
that partnership. They’ve added over one and a
half million words to Wikipedia and we’re in the busiest
part of the term right now, so we might hit two
million this term. So there’s been a
lot of acceptance, the idea of if we’re
trying to reach the public, and inform them about
political science topics, and research, Wikipedia’s
the place to do that. Wikipedia has 500 million
unique monthly visitors, so that’s a lot of reach,
that’s a really far reach, and for students to
be able to do that, and to communicate science
to the public in that way as a part of their classroom
assignment is really powerful. I do think that within
political science there’s this idea that
we can affect change now, and we need to do it soon. There’s always another
election coming up, there’s always another
opportunity to inform citizens about topics related
to issues that they’re going to be voting on,
politicians, candidates. People are talking a
lot about fake news, which as we know in the
political science community is not new, propaganda
has been around forever. I think people have
better access to it because we have that
information in our pockets, so it is crucial that we
teach people to question the information that’s
being shared with them. Both the public, but
definitely students, because if they’re going
through the university, and they’re not graduating
with that skillset then we’ve missed this huge
opportunity to kind of create a better informed citizenry. So I think it’s
really amazing to see how many instructors
are embracing this, and they’re embracing
the Wikipedia assignment because by turning students
into knowledge creators they’re learning
how to consume it. They learn kind of how
the sausage gets made, and now they know
how to question that when they go and they
use that information. And of course a skillset
is not something that you only apply to
Wikipedia, or to one source, so they’re taking that to
the rest of the information that they’re getting
from the internet.

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