A Wikipedia writing assignment is a great opportunity for instructors to teach science communication skills on a world stage. In this kind of assignment, students create or improve Wikipedia articles related to course topics. They are especially well equipped to translate scientific concepts this way for a general audience, because they remember what it was like learning these concepts for the first time. And they feel an increased sense of motivation to produce quality work, considering that millions of readers can access what they write. Students also gain familiarity with the inner workings of a website they use all the time, preparing them to consume information online with a more critical lens in the future.
Jennifer Glass, a Deep Carbon Observatory collaborator at the Georgia Institute of Technology, asked her students to edit Wikipedia in a Fall 2018 Earth and atmospheric science class. Glass wasn’t sure how her students would take to the assignment at the beginning of the term. She noted that most of them have probably been told never to use Wikipedia at one time or another. “They must have been thinking ‘What the heck is this?'” She joked. Post-assignment presentations told a different story, though. Students were eager to share their take-aways and enthusiasm about their work. According to the students themselves, the assignment gave them:
- An understanding of how Wikipedia works
- Skills to analyze digital sources of information for accuracy
- A deeper understanding of course topics
- Collaborative writing skills to produce reliable information for the public
- Pride that they’ve contributed to something larger than themselves
If you are teaching an upcoming course this academic year consider implementing an assignment like this in order to assist in DCO's efforts to make deep carbon science accessible to the public. Wiki Education has free assignment templates, student trainings, and staff support to help instructors and students be successful as they navigate Wikipedia from a new perspective. To join Wiki Education's Student Program, visit teach.wikiedu.org.