Wikipedia: How it Works and How it Can Work for You
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Type of Work6 pages
Citation of Original PublicationNix, E. M. (2010). "Wikipedia: How it Works and How it Can Work for You". The History Teacher, 43(No. 2), 259-264.
As RESPONSIBLE TEACHERS OF HISTORY, we all try to steer our students toward reliable sources. Many of us have been reluctant to authorize students to use Wikipedia in their classwork because we do not fully trust the open source encyclopedia. But as increasing numbers of scholars and teachers work with Wikipedia, its influence becomes undeni- able. In the Spring of 2007, Cathy Davidson suggested in the Chronicle of Higher Education that instead of banning Wikipedia from our classrooms, we history professors "make studying what it does and does not do part of the research-and-methods portion of our courses."1 Davidson went on to suggest that we have students submit articles to the site. I did just that in my "Exploring the Past" course at the University of Baltimore (UB) in the Fall of 2007. My students found it to be one of the most stimulating and useful exercises of the entire semester. In fact, the assignment went well beyond evaluating Wikipedia as a research tool and turned into an unexpected opportunity for students to actively construct history. UB requires all history majors to take "Exploring the Past," but the course attracts a large percentage of non-majors as well. From the begin- ning, the sixty students in my two sections understand that they will be "doing" history through the analysis of a variety of primary documents. We work our way through James West Davidson and Mark H. Lytle's After the Fact2 to learn methods of dealing with various types of sources, and then students embark on their own research projects centering on a particular era of American history that I pick each year.