‘Using Wikipedia: a scholar redraws academic lines by including it in his syllabus’

April 22nd, 2015 by 


Photo by: Tom Rettig

In a recent article posted by The Conversation, Ellis Jones, assistant professor of sociology at the College of the Holy Cross, reevaluates the use of Wikipedia in the classroom.  While many professors advise against Wikipedia in research papers, as it is often criticized for not being a “legitimate source,” Jones embraces the accessibility and inevitable use of the site and incorporates  it into his syllabus in order to enhance his students’ research and study skills. The article has had over 18,000 views world-wide.

Jones describes the love-hate relationship with the No.6 most accessed site in the world. “Wikipedia remains a popular resource for both students and professors when they need immediate access to specific bits of information that fall outside of their areas of knowledge,” Jones explains.

“In my classes, however, I’ve been experimenting for the past six years with how we might move beyond this narrow, schizophrenic approach to one of the most popular educational resources online. And what I’ve found is that my students are excited by the idea of engaging with this part of the internet that is otherwise deemed ‘off-limits’ in their courses.”

In order to adopt Wikipedia into the classroom, Jones devised a research project in which the students are assigned a social theorist, review their adopted theorist’s page, and begin the process of upgrading the information in a way that reflects research practices that meet the standards of what might be considered acceptable in academia.

Students document their research process in a paper they turn in along with a “before” and “after” version of the theorist’s Wikipedia page with their changes highlighted in yellow.

However, Jones notes that while all changes the students make may not be accepted, if they feel their addition is an important one, they are encouraged to engage in a global conversation with the “caretakers” of the page.

“They often end up in a virtual dialogue with the scholars from across the globe, who function as self-appointed caretakers of these same pages,” says Jones. “More typically, these “caretakers” embrace the opportunity to further improve, clarify, and re-write what the students are proposing until the additional material is transformed into more definitive improvements, and as a consequence the page evolves.”

Jones concludes, “Wikipedia allows us to embrace new forms of teaching that will enhance the online skills students so desperately need to integrate with their own academic training.”

Read the full article here.

This “Holy Cross in the News” item by Jacqueline Smith ’15.

For additional information, please contact Kelly Ethier at 508-793-2419.

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