March 20, 2009

Can Wikipedia be Used to Teach Writing?

Teaching and LearningTechnologyThe use of Wikipedia for class assignments or as a citation source has been an ongoing debate. Some professors accept the website's use, usually after encouraging their students to caution what they take from the website. Other professors absolutely abhor the use of the website by their students. Robert E. Cummings says that he has found a new way to incorporate the use of Wikipedia into his classrooms and makes a strong case for using it in higher education, particularly as a writing tool.

According to Cummings, detractors of Wikipedia's use in higher education assignments have reasons to be concerned. Wikipedia, indeed, is an open source where essentially anyone can edit or create information concerning almost any subject. With this in mind, people who use the website do expose themselves to getting inaccurate information or are subject to relying on information that is unfounded.

On the other hand, Cummings believes that Wikipedia offers several advantages for students. He believes the major advantage to helping student essay writing with the use of Wikipedia is that students have audiences that are real and can provide plenty of immediate feedback to their writing. In his classes Cummings literally has his students post their work to the website for people all over the Internet to provide them with comments concerning their work. More importantly for the students, Cummings believes that students are writing and having more exposure to having having to write formally. According to Cummings,

"Composition assignments in Wikipedia frame writing as a collaborative practice hosted within a network. This arrangement seems much more predictive of the environment our students will find themselves writing in after they leave the composition classroom, both in later college courses (as they collaborate across networks with fellow students in coursework) or in the workplace (as they collaborate with co-workers to prepare reports, proposals, or Web pages)."

We invite you to read Cummings' article and see if what he has to say can be beneficial in any of your classes.


Nils Peterson said...

Wikis can have several possible roles in learning. Writing for real audiences as your post suggests is one. At WSU's CTLT, we have described several other ways.

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Writing a Research Paper said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.

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