At first it was difficult to find an article for my subject area that required any real edits. This is likely because tech ed is such a technical subject area and as such, has a plethora of materials about it. When I found the wood lathe section in Wikipedia however, I found it lacking in some important details so I changed them. I found myself really considering my audience and imagining my students accessing the page.
The changes I made were specific to the operation of wood turning. I added more information about the particulars of bowl turning, mentioning how the work is mounted to the lathe and how the tool rest accommodates the shape of the bowl (with a different rest). I also changed a bit about sanding on the lathe, mentioning that the tool rest is removed for safety for this operation.
I returned to the article a few times over the next week. I went in to the post a few times to check my content and word usage. Mostly, I was trying to be accurate in relating a very technical operation. I was also purposely trying to say what I wanted as succinctly as possible.
I felt somewhat uncomfortable making these edits. Am I an expert who is qualified to edit this post? I don’t know. I have probably spent 40 – 50 hours using different lathes, only some of them for turning wood. How will my edits be viewed? Am I right? Are these better placed elsewhere? Mostly I felt uneasy writing on Wikipedia, but as time went on, I felt more confident about it.
After my initial post, I checked on it many times. At first, every day, but after a few days, no changes had been made. I began to feel that my edits had been ‘accepted’. The “Talk” pages had no activity on my subject, but I did keep checking them for a while. Eventually I stopped checking the post. I made it as a Wikipedian!
Reflecting on this whole experience I feel like this exercise would be a great lesson for students. While Wikipedia is not a true scholarly forum, it does provide a certain authority, one that I found inclusive and welcoming. Since much basic information about almost anything can be found there as one of the first results of a google search, the ‘education’ that Wikipedia provides cannot be ignored. In “The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age”, Davidson et al. ask “If people are, in fact, self-educating via the Internet, how are we as educators, using students’ skills to help transform learning practices, both in the classroom and out?”
I think that this assignment; to edit a Wikipedia page, is an assignment that I may use in my class for assessment. I would encourage students to first read an article as a diagnostic assessment. Do they understand the jargon? Is the procedure or tool usage unclear? Dissecting the articles and any problems that students may have with them may lead into more formative assessments and summatively, if my students become masters of processes then I will encourage them to edit or create Wikipedia articles.
Davidson, Cathy N., and Goldberg, David Theo. Future of Thinking : Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press, 2010. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 23 June 2015.