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Wikipedia as a teaching tool in humanities modules

By Gerard Sasges

For me, the internet is a great way to allow educators in the humanities to build classes around outcome-based projects rather than around exams or other assignments. In this presentation I'm going to discuss a graduate modules I taught at NUS in SEM 1 of AY2012-13, SE5213. The module's subject was revolt and revolution in Southeast Asia. All work except for the final exam was web-based. The first half of the modules saw students write book reviews they then uploaded to Google Books and Goodreads. In the second half of the module, students created Wikipedia entries on topics of their choice. Wikipedia-based projects, I will argue, represent an exciting opportunity to create humanities modules that allow students to engage in the public and genuinely useful production of knowledge. In my presentation, I'll touch on aspects of module design, discuss how the module worked in practice, highlight some of the more exciting outcomes of the classes, and invite discussion of ways to improve the modules and apply the ideas to other contexts.

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Wikipedia as a teaching tool in humanities modules

  1. 1. Using  Wikipedia  in  the  humanities    Gerard  Sasges,  Department  of  Southeast  Asian  Studies  BuzzEd  2013:    Teaching  with  Technology  NaDonal  University  of  Singapore,  January  10,  2013    
  2. 2. Who  I  am  •  Historian  of  modern  Vietnam  •  From  2002-­‐2011  I  directed  the  University  of  California’s  Study   Abroad  Program  in  Hanoi  •  Joined  NUS  in  2012  •  Been  experimenDng  with  technology  in  teaching  since  2006  as   a  way  to  create  project-­‐based,  real-­‐world  learning   opportuniDes  •  Earlier  projects  include   •  Project  Kiếm  ăn       •  hWp://   •  hWp://  
  3. 3. SE5213    Revolt  and  Revolution  in  Southeast  Asia  •  Taking  the  commitment  to  “real,”  project-­‐oriented  learning   that  had  shaped  my  earlier  courses  and  upping  the  “public”   element  •  Inspired  by  a  short  and  very  pracDcally-­‐oriented  arDcle  in   Perspecves  on  History  by  Jeremy  Brown  and  Benedicte   Melanie  Olsen  enDtled  “Teaching  Tiananmen”   •  hWp:// Teaching-­‐Tiananmen.cfm  •  Which  led  me  to  another  arDcle  by  Roy  Rozenweig  enDtled   “Can  History  be  Open  Source?”   •  hWp://­‐on-­‐history-­‐new-­‐media/essays/? essayid=42  •  Which  in  turn  led  me  to  the  list  of  essays  and  resources  at     •  hWp://­‐on-­‐history-­‐new-­‐media/essays/    
  4. 4. A  poll  that  is  also  an  argument  • How  many  of  us  use  Wikipedia?    For   what?  • How  would  we  characterize  the  content   and  coverage?  • How  many  of  us  have  contributed  to   Wikipedia?  • Do  academics  have  a  role  to  play  in   Wikipedia?      
  5. 5. SE5213  module  design  •  Students  free  to  choose  any  topic  related  to  “revolt  and   revoluDon”  broadly  understood.  •  The  module  had  two  parts  corresponding  to  the  first  and   second  half  of  the  semester.   •  In  part  one,  students  review  two  books  related  to  their   general  topic  and  upload  the  reviews  to  Goodreads/ Google  Books.   •  In  part  two,  students  either  modify  an  exisDng   Wikipedia  entry  or  create  a  new  one.  •  Each  part  requires  students  to  do  an  outline,  draf,  and   peer  review  before  uploading  final  draf.  •  Note:    while  the  module  was  organized  around  individual   projects,  it  could  just  as  easily  be  organized  around  group   work.      
  6. 6. What  we  learned  from  the    book  reviews  •  Useful  preparaDon  for  Wikipedia  entry  (usually)  •  Challenging   •  Argument   •  Context   •  length  •  Could  be  used  on  its  own  
  7. 7. What  we  learned  from  the  Wikipedia  entry  •  Importance  of  clear  wriDng  •  Importance  of  clear  organizaDon  •  Importance  of  citaDons/sources  •  The  challenges  of  the  “Neutral  Point  Of  View”  (NPOV)   •  A  different  way  of  wriDng   •  On  one  level  true   •  Students  have  to  idenDfy  least  biased  sources,  synthesize  available   informaDon  into  a  meta-­‐”story”,  idenDfy  and  explain  important   debates   •  On  another  level  completely  false   •  Students  learn  in  a  very  concrete  way  that  the  narraDve  is  the   argument   •  have  to  make  crucial  choices  about  where  to  start  and  end  their   story,  what  to  put  in  and  what  to  leave  out  
  8. 8. Challenges  • Wikipedia  is  a  clunky  interface  • Too  much  freedom?  • The  eternal  challenge  of  the  peer  review  • Was  it  too  much  work?  
  9. 9. Successes  •  All  of  our  work  had  a  context  and  a  public  •  We  made  a  genuine  contribuDon  to  improving  the   quality  and  coverage  of  popular  resources  like  Google   Books  and  Wikipedia  •  We  wrote  and  we  got  creaDve  •  We  got  involved  in  controversy  •  We  changed  history  (and  people  actually  read  it)!  •  We  did  projects  that  were  meaningful  to  us  (and  maybe   meaningful  to  society)  
  10. 10. •  hWp://­‐1895  •  hWp://  •  hWp://  •  hWp://­‐Arqam  •  hWp://  •  hWp://  •  hWp://  •  hWp://    •  hWp://  •  hWp://  •  hWp://  •  (1:  Main  page)  hWp://  and  (2:  Brief   separate  page)  hWp://  •  hWp://  •  hWp://  •  hWp://  •  hWp://  (SecDon  on  Buddhism  &  the   Pathet  Lao  •  hWp://  •  hWp://  •  hWp://  •  hWp://  •  hWp://  •  hWp://­‐Tinh_Revolt  
  11. 11. For  discussion  • Ideas  for  improving  • How  to  adapt  to  other  modules  in  other   fields  • Anything  else  we  want  to  discuss