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Digital Pedagogy: Wiki

Objective

I was a Wiki skeptic. A Wiki seemed too close to an uncritical fact-finding mission, or the sort of assignment one might get in primary school. Like many academics, I was also not keen to encourage the methodology of the dreaded not-a-legitimate-resource-source, Wikipedia. But now I am using a Wiki assignment with my first year students. Some teachers embrace Wikipedia itself and incorporate student editing of Wikipedia entries into their courses. A Wiki assignment can be a good introduction to doing scholarly research and using library resources (don’t use Wikipedia for your Wiki?). It can also encourage thinking about the importance of diverse representation within wiki pages, such as assignments created by FemTechNet instructors, where objectives include exposing gender biases in extant Wikipedia entries. Other forms of bias such as those based on race, sexuality, religion, and their intersections, can also be addressed. A course-based Wiki can also help students to think critically about how we use technology, such as this assignment by Amanda M. Greenwell (Central Connecticut State University), aimed at getting pre-service teachers (education students) to think about how they will use technology in their classrooms using wikis. I use a course Wiki to encourage students to think about historical contexts for literature, and as a piece of the scaffolding for our final projects. History instructors could use this assignment to emphasize historiographical methods (or any discipline-specific methodology or theoretical perspective) and how seemingly objective facts are subject to interpretation as well as how events depend upon and interrelate with each other.

Considerations

Like me, many students are prejudiced against the encyclopedic format. Make the value of the assignment and your objectives clear. Because Wikis involve crowd-sourced editing and embedded LINKS to the work of others, a true wiki is a collaborative effort. Because of this, some students may find it difficult to take ownership of their work on a Wiki. To benefit from the communal aspect of the Wiki, be sure students read each others’ Wiki posts and strive to make connections (including literal hyperlinks) between their perhaps seemingly disparate topics. Build in multiple drafts and/or a peer review process to reinforce the importance of collaboration, a scholarly community, and writing for a public. Narrow the topics for the assignment to provide students with a manageable amount of data, perhaps by providing an instructor-curated list. Make your Wikis stylistically distinct (reflective pieces, written from a specific methodological or theoretical approach) or tied specifically to your course content and objectives to avoid students simply plagiarizing from source material. Another idea is to begin by analyzing the formal characteristics of an extant Wiki page that students think works well. If you don’t want to use Wikipedia, you could also check out fan culture sites like the Tardis Data Core (the Doctor Who Wiki) or Wookieepedia, the Star Wars Wiki.

 

Skill Level and Tools

Beginner: Post word-processed wiki-formatted documents to your LMS, or use your LMS’s Wiki tool.

Intermediate: Post your course Wikis to your course website or blog or edit Wikipedia entries—Adeline Koh has some great tips for getting started on her website.

Advanced: Some advanced archival and image management tools have their own Wiki components.

Sample Wiki Assignment

(For my First Year Seminar on Adapting Austen*)

(*This assignment is an adaptation of Diane Jackacki’s Wiki assignment, for which I have no hyperlink because it's behind a university firewall, but the trial and error process that initiated its development is described well in this blog post.)

Overview:

I want you to think critically about a wide spectrum of living conditions and cultural practices and events during the late Georgian period. It wasn’t all about bonnet ribbons and country dances. We will develop a course wiki and timeline in which you explain significant historical events and cultural artifacts relevant to understanding Austen’s novels and connect them to at least one of the novels. A complete first draft must be posted to the course website by due date TBD. Revise and incorporate links to the other course wikis by due date TBD.

 

Objectives:

  • Understand literature as a product of a historical context by connecting themes, characters, and practices within to historical events and cultural practices of the time during which it was written
  • Grasp relationships between a small town such as Emma’s “Highbury,” London (thirty miles away), the British empire, and the world
  • Conduct focused, purposeful library research using electronic AND print sources
  • Choose and deploy information based on interpretation and critique of the accuracy, bias, credibility, authority, and appropriateness of secondary source material
  • Produce sophisticated writing stylistically appropriate to its purpose

 

Assignment Guidelines and Instructions:

  1. Write a 500-750 word course wiki entry about your topic. This entry must be based on at least three research sources and at least one must be found in the Xavier library and/or its resources. While you may use Wikipedia to learn elementary information about your subject, YOU MAY NOT use it as one of your sources. Images and links to credible websites and other students’ wiki entries must be incorporated. You must also provide a References or Works Cited section at the end of your Wiki entry. Use MLA format.
  2. Write your Wiki to an Austen-centric readership, NOT a general readership such as that anticipated by Wikipedia. While you may want to use the Tardis Data Core (the Doctor Who Wiki) or Wookieepedia, the Star Wars Wiki as models, we will aim for a more formal, academic tone. Final decisions about the tone and style of the Wiki will be determined collaboratively as a class, before the final edits are due.
  3. Post your Wiki to the course website by date TBD. Revise and incorporate links to the other course wikis by date TBD. We will devote the course lab day between drafts to a discussion of tone and style. Thus grading criteria below may be tweaked based on collaboratively determined course standards for the Wiki.
  4. Give a 2-3 minute “flash” presentation on your completed wiki to the class. Classmates will provide instant feedback for your presentation via our WordPress comments section.
  5. Final revised wikis addressing feedback are due TBD. Giving students an opportunity to revise one more time in response to comments provided during the flash talks results in much more polished work and builds class community. Students take each other's comments seriously and the wiki entries become truly collaborative efforts.

 

Grading:

Wikis will be evaluated in terms of:

  • The quality of your research
  • The detail and accuracy of your entry
  • The clarity and stylistic finesse of the written text
  • The adherence to class-determined Wiki guidelines for tone, style, and appearance
  • Demonstrated understanding of the connection between the novels and the event, object, or practice, including very brief albeit specific references to the novel(s) where appropriate
  • The inclusion of relevant visual or auditory elements
  • Inclusion of links to other relevant course wikis and credible websites

Rubric

 

 

Advanced

Competent

Developing

Basic

Content

Covers topic in-depth with details and examples. Subject knowledge is excellent. Connections to novel(s) are relevant and interesting. Multiple links to other wikis and sites demonstrate both careful attention to peers’ work and understanding of interrelated topics.

Includes essential knowledge about the topic. Subject knowledge appears to be good. Connections to novel(s) are effective. Links to show understanding of peers’ work and interrelated topics.

Includes essential information about the topic but there are 1-2 factual errors. Connections to novel(s) are minimal. Sparse links suggest a lack of understanding of peers’ work and interrelated topics.

Content is minimal, OR there are several factual errors. Negligible connections to novel(s). Missing links suggest little attention to or understanding of peers’ work and interrelated topics.

Organization

Content is well organized, using headings or bulleted lists to group related material where appropriate.

Content uses headings or bulleted lists to organize, but the overall organization of ideas or topics appears flawed in some ways.

Content is logically organized for the most part.

There was no clear or logical organizational structure, just a list of disconnected facts.

Use of Research

Reliable, accurate sources used. Source material is cited correctly and incorporated exceptionally well.

Reliable, accurate sources used. Source material is properly cited and used correctly.

Source material is contextualized and documented appropriately.

Research is not specific, wholly accurate, reliable, relevant, or sufficient and/or is incorrectly documented.

Visual Appeal

Makes excellent use of font, color, images, graphics, effects, etc. to enhance presentation of entry.

Makes good use of font, color, graphics, images, effects, etc. to enhance presentation.

Makes use of font, color, graphics, images, effects, etc. but occasionally these detract from the content.

Makes use of font, color, graphics, images, effects, etc. but these often distract from the content.

Accuracy

No misspellings or grammatical errors. No HTML errors in wiki (e.g., broken links, missing images).

Very few misspellings and/or mechanical errors. Minimal HTML errors.

Several misspelling, grammatical, and/or HTML errors.

A distracting number of errors in spelling, grammar, and/or HTML.

 

Comments and Grade:

List of Possible Topics

Once you begin to do your research, you may find you need to refine these topics. Most likely, given your word limit, you will need to narrow rather than expand. Let the novels guide your decisions about how to narrow and focus (and the time period, of course!). Just keep me posted on your progress and how your topic is shifting. Also, if there is a topic not listed here that you would like to explore, let me know and we may be able to add it. I have intentionally left off topics covered extensively in the Interactive P&P annotations.

The Regency  (i.e. the monarchical crisis of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries)

The Gordon Riots

The Luddite Uprisings

Abolition of the British slave trade

The French Revolution

The Napoleanic Wars

The periodical press

Tea

Sugar

Coffee houses

Women’s “work” (i.e needlework)

Female education (socioeconomic class matters here! You can stick to one class if you wish)

Male education (see note above)

Women’s legal property rights (portion, pin money, jointure)

Inheritance laws (primogeniture, entail)

Marriage laws/marriage contracts

Agricultural practices

Enclosures

Poor laws

Letter writing practices/the post

Dissenters

Governess

Anglican clergy

The Peerage

Gentry

The Servant class

Regency-era fashion (this will need to be narrowed. Consider one fashion item or one gender, for example)

Shopping

Transportation

Assembly rooms at Bath

Medical treatments

Apothecary

Surgeon

Conduct books for women

Visiting Etiquette

The East India Company

The Militia

The Gothic

Ann Radcliffe

Frances Burney

Maria Edgeworth

Samuel Richardson

Henry Fielding

Sir Walter Scott

Mary Wollstonecraft

Hannah More

Samuel Johnson

Edmund Burke

Thomas Paine

William Gilpin (picturesque)

Humphry Repton, Capability Brown (or landscape gardening)

Josiah Wedgwood