Rachael Lewitzky’s Wikipedia Collaboration Assignment

Teaching Area: Mathematics

Wikipedia Page Edited: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probability

 

Part 1

At first, I found the idea of editing a Wikipedia page daunting: I wondered what contributions I could possibly make to a database that seemingly had a boundless breadth of information. I found myself comparing the task to looking through a dictionary for words that were missing: every known word was already there, much like the information on the pages of Wikipedia. However, upon registering for a Wikipedia account, I felt as though I was looking at the pages from a different perspective; I was able to navigate pages that were recommended for revision, which is how I discovered the page I selected for editing on probability.

There were several changes I made to the Wikipedia page on probability over the past couple of weeks. The changes I made fell primarily into two categories: clarification and application. The changes I made in the first category came naturally: as both a teacher and tutor, I always try to explain things in a way that are accessible to all individuals. The page I had chosen to edit had been deemed “confusing” by Wikipedia superiors and indicated that the material it covered was difficult for individuals to understand, unless they had a thorough background in probability. Moreover, while editing the page, I made every effort to provide explanation and further clarification in areas that I anticipated confusion or misinterpretation.

The second class of changes I made dealt with including examples and applications of the material discussed on the Wikipedia page. With probability, it is very easy to get absorbed with theory and statistical terminology. While it is important that theory and vocabulary be included and explored via Wikipedia, I feel adding real-life examples and applications of the material helps to strengthen what is being said. In my experience, resources that provide such connections have a much stronger impact on my understanding.

While editing the probability Wikipedia page, I did not use the Talk Page, as I did not have any questions or comments worth adding. Nor did I receive feedback. However, I did explore the Talk Pages and their protocols. I was surprised to see how many rules were implemented with regards to discussion. For example, I learned there was a certain format for posts (indenting, using bullet points, etc.), and that there were very strict guidelines for what was appropriate to post and the consequences for not following the rules.

My experience working with Wikipedia has shown me the benefit of using it as a basic tool in education. While I would not consider it an appropriate resource for students to cite in their projects, assignments, etc., I do believe it is a terrific stepping stone for understanding a certain subject. In my opinion, using Wikipedia as a quick reference provides an introduction to a particular area, and can be beneficial for both educators and students. However, Wikipedia is only a beneficial source, if, as indicated by Shen, Cheung, & Lee (2013), both the mechanics behind Wikipedia and its’ reliability are understood before utilization.

 

Part 2

I would not use editing or creating pages in Wikipedia with my students. As mentioned earlier, the idea of finding a page to edit/add to made me feel as if the knowledge I had attained over the course of my life was insignificant, as I felt I had nothing to add to any page. As I discussed in the previous section, I would not accept Wikipedia as a source for a project, and explain to my students that research has been done that suggests Wikipedia averages four inaccuracies per page (Giles, 2005). However, I believe that using Wikipedia as a way to introduce topics (e.g. Fibonacci Spiral, ancient number systems) is an appropriate way to implement it in the classroom. Additionally, Wikipedia animations could be used in the classroom to help visualize concepts. Two exceptional examples include the Wikipedia page on Pascal’s Triangle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_triangle) and the Riemann integral (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riemann_integral). Both pages provide animations that help explain the numbers in Pascal’s triangle and the visual representation of the Riemann integral, respectively. By including both visuals and animations, I feel students get more out of the lessons and are able to further appreciate the material being taught.

Moreover, I would use Wikipedia in my class as a basic introductory tool for topics to help students familiarize themselves with a new idea.

 

Works Cited

Giles, J. (2005). Internet encyclopaedias go head to head. Nature 438(15): 900-901.

Shen, X., Cheung, C., & Lee, M. (2013). What leads students to adopt information from Wikipedia? An empirical investigation into the role of trust and information usefulness. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(3): 502-517.

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