I just came from a presentation (PPT link) at the online ELI Spring Focus session on authentic learning with technology. The presentation was by Martha Groom and Andreas Brockhaus at UW Bothell, who are having their students students post articles to Wikipedia, in place of writing term papers.
I have to say, I love this idea. Students get to see their work as relevant and interesting to people outside of their classroom, even outside of the campus. They get to build knowledge in the real world. They get feedback from a huge range of readers (some of it kind, some of it sharp.) They aren’t babied. They have to learn to write neutrally rather than argumentatively. They see scholarship as an iterative process. They learn to evaluate information carefully. They learn how easy it is to post to the Web, and how hard it is to meet the quality standards of a watchful, informed group of readers.
In the chat session and resources list surrounding the presentation, a few other interesting resources came up:
- Murder, Madness, and Mayhem (SPAN 312), a course on Latin American literature at the University of British Columbia) is also tackling Wikipedia articles. In their case, they’re working to bring existing articles up to “featured” status, which is an interesting approach to take.
- The Expertiza Platform, developed at NCSU, supports peer evaluation of student work. This, in turn, helps students develop critical thinking skills and delivers some of the same benefits as the Wikipedia project that Groom and Brockhaus are doing.
- The Authentic Task Design page by the University of Wollongong is a great starting place for developing authentic (i.e. real-world, relevant) learning activities for students.
- Fostering Integrative Learning, by the Carnegie Foundation, offers some great articles about how and why to tackle this kind of instruction.
EDUCAUSE members can find more (ELI resources, etc.) at the session page.