Wikipedia Collaboration

For the past couple of weeks, I have been participating in the wonderful world of Wikipedia editing.  Knowing that Wikipedia is an open source, public encyclopaedia, There are rules that must be followed, and one of them is “No Original Research.” This means that the pages can only be referenced from existing research and knowledge.  With this in mind, the page I chose to edit is the page on Walking Tours.  I chose something that is a blend between my two teachable areas which are Drama and Social Studies.  I work for a walking tour company that delivers historic walking tours of Vancouver, and our tours are a wonderful blend of history and theatre in that they are delivered through the voices of historical characters, which provides variety along side other tour companies that use the “tour guide” narrative, which is also perfectly valid.

When I went to the walking tour page, I noticed that there was nothing about this kind of tour, nor is there really anything about short-length tours, which may result in further edits to the page on my part.  The way that I read the page, it seems that the tours the page was exclusively talking about were mostly tours to visited continents by large tour companies that will send guests on excursions, or day tours. There was brief mention of tours that can “be under twelve hours” but that is basically it.   This surprised me slightly as the number of short-length tour companies that exist in Vancouver alone is already quite large and growing rapidly.

I went to work.  I knew I needed to find articles to support my entry, so I ended up finding a news paper article about the company I work for in order to pull a good quote from it.  I then peppered it with my own knowledge to accurately describe the way the tour works.  In order to keep my edit on the article, as well as to link my entry to my practice, I linked my entry to another Wikipedia article on Site Specific theatre.  At first writing the edit was tricky, as it is coded in a similar way to HTML, which I am only slightly familiar with, but after seeing the code that other users have used, it is quite easy to get a grasp of.

I waited for several days to see if anyone would edit my edit.  During that time, I spent my Wikipedia time learning more about the site; Learning about Talk Pages, Viewing history, etc. I learned about how in-depth the wiki culture is.  I had no idea how vast the rules were, and how there are “wikipedians” who essentially act as watch dogs to verify sources, and ensure that the integrity of this public resource is being upheld.  I think that this site is now so public that inaccurate information is short lived on the site.   I have been fascinated with this site, which I honestly only knew on the surface.  Not one person touched my edit.  The previous edit to mine was a complete deletion of the entry previous, so as a novice I expected my entry to be short lived.

After several days, I couldn’t wait anymore, and I edited my own entry.  I wanted to add more to it, give it more detail, and link it further to history, and theatre.  Again, I chose to link my own entry to existing Wikipedia entries.  I have now linked my entry to Museum Theatre, First Person Interpretation, and Living History.  The next day, finally someone else edited the page.  My fear was that all my work was going to be gone.  When I saw the edit, I noticed that my work was not gone, and the edit that was made was just a clean up to the “wiki-syntax”.  As of writing this blog post, my entry still exists.

I am yet to contribute to a talk page.  I think that is out of my own fears, and self consciousness.  I will however in the near future, as I need to find out if my entry is a conflict of interest.  I know that Wikipedia has standards that apply to conflict of interest, but in my own opinion my entry has done nothing to exclusively support the walking tour company I work for.  I have not mentioned it by name, nor have I told people to go on a tour.  My aim with this entry was to write about something I know about with an authoritative voice; I know from experience.  I also wish for people to be aware of this kind of walking tour experience; weather it be in Vancouver, or elsewhere.  I want tourists, history students, drama students, or any other interested individual to have access to this information.  Perhaps this entry will inspire some young student to go out and create a tour like this of their own.

After working on an assignment like this, I would surely use Wikipedia in the classroom.  As time goes on, and the internet continues to grow, there is going to be all kinds of poor information on the web, and unfortunately, thanks to some gifted coders, that information could be the first information that a student comes in contact with.  For this reason, I see Wikipedia becoming a highly respected font of on-line public knowledge.  Because none of the research is original, I would caution my students against using Wikipedia as a source for research when it comes to writing a works cited page, but I would encourage my students to use Wikipedia as a jumping off point.  Start research there, and look at the sources that have been used to create the article.

“It is useful and necessary to incorporate Wikipedia into the academic curriculum, and this will further provide students with the unique opportunity to develop digital literacy.”[1] There are many areas in life, where students have more knowledge than the teacher.  Teaching students the literacy of Wikipedia, (How it works, the rules involved, how to properly code an article, how to do appropriate research that can be cited, etc) could be a really valuable skill for students to have.  Teaching Wikipedia in itself is going to soon become a lesson unit, or perhaps even a course of its own at the secondary level.  Secondary age students certainly have the knowledge and the resources to be valuable contributors. “Digital literacy education will connect learning with real life, encourage students to effectively find and critically evaluate information while using digital technologies, increase students’ ability to create and communicate their ideas and help them to be wise consumers in the digital age.”[2]


[1] Shen, Xiao-Liang, Christy M. K. Cheung, and Matthew K. O. Lee. 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.

[2]  Ibid

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