Students Writing History: Wikipedia in the Classroom

May, 2015
Students Writing
History: Wikipedia in
the Classroom
Dr Rob Nelson, Department of
Dr Heidi Jacobs, Leddy Library
Sydney Murray, History
Robert DeRose, History
Do all History classes start with the professors
saying ‘We really don’t know much about the
subject of this course. But let’s all figure it out as
we go along’?
– A second-hand report of non-major’s comment after the first day of
“History on the Web,” January 2014.
danah boyd
“Being exposed to information or imagery through the
internet and engaging with social media do not make
someone a savvy interpreter of the meaning behind these
artifacts. . . teens will not become critical contributors to
this ecosystem simply because they were born in an age
when these technologies were pervasive” (171).
- It’s Complicated: The Social Life of Networked Teens
Rob: Beginnings
Initial Situation – English
~2,100 words
7 dodgy citations
3 references
0 cohesion, poorly structured
Made up statistics
“We’re under siege!”
Chris Troutman
Troutman “made our article considerably better.
[He] deleted our content and edited our writing, but
he did so with good intent, always justifying his
edits and private messaging us with editing
guidelines and formatting tips and tricks.”
–Calin, Sydney, Justin and Emile
One year later…
After reverting “about a million changes” by one pesky
user, Troutman lives on as a crusader of the Wikitrenches
Rob II
Demystifying the Discovery of Machu
Human Sacrifice, Aliens &
Machu Picchu and L. Ron
“ Scientologists believe that their founder L. Ron Hubbard was
the re-incarnation of the Incan king Pachacuti, who was believed
to be a direct descendant of an alien from the highest class of
elites. Pachacuti's thetans travelled to earth from a distant
planet after being banished by Xenu. These thetans were reincarnated into Hubbard upon Hiram Bingham's meddling at
Machu Picchu in 1911. It is no coincidence that Hubbard was
born in March of that year which was the precise time that
Bingham had re-discovered the lost city.”
Concluding Thoughts
"of all the changes
made on the Machu
Picchu page, the
most insightful and
informative is that the
correct pronunciation
and spelling is in fact
Machu Pikachu."
Rob: Nurturing Historians
Adam, Gillian, Caitie and Rebecca
“this project gave us the opportunity to contribute to a
neglected history page expanding and adding to history on
the web.”
“We felt like historians…”
Rob and Heidi
“More specifically, we wanted students to see Wikipedia as
something they could use their voices and expertise to
change and make better….Our students realized they were
not just writing for their professors: they were working
toward something larger than a final grade, something that
could potentially make a difference in the ways people saw
or understood history.”
(Article forthcoming in Reference and User Services
Heidi: Conclusions
danah boyd
“Censorship of inaccurate or problematic content does not
provide youth the skills they will one day need to evaluate
information independently. They need to know how to
grapple with the plethora of information that is easily
accessible and rarely vetted. . . we cannot abandon them
to learn these lessons alone” (181-182)
danah boyd
“Talking about youth as digital natives implies that there is
a world in which these young people all share and a body
of knowledge they have all mastered rather than seeing the
online world as unfamiliar and uncertain for us all” (192).
It’s Complicated: The Social Life of Networked Teens
Thank you for your time
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