Readings for April 10

“The Wikiblitz: A Wikipedia Editing Assignment in a First Year Undergraduate Class” (Spring 2012 version) by Shawn Graham

I agree with Graham’s point about using Wikipedia as a teaching tool, because in other classes here at UMW, I have contributed to class wikis which have encouraged class discussions both online and in the classroom.   Graham also discusses “doing” history is an “unnatural act”.  He claims, the students explored the idea that we never observe the past directly; we must build models to fit what we “know” into a system of explanation. In digital work, these models are explicitly written in computer code. Understanding how the code forces a particular worldview on the user is a key portion of becoming a ‘digital historian'” (http://writinghistory.trincoll.edu/crowdsourcing/graham-2012-spring/).  We have already discussed the legitimacy of digital history and the problems with the information not being the original historical source. However, that is a major reason that Wikipedia is not always a credible (academic) source.

“Strange Facts in the History Classroom: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Wiki(pedia)” by Christopher Miller

Miller discusses the problems that the academic world faced with the unreliability of Wikipedia as a source.  He said that he decided to go a different route with Wikipedia which I find very interesting. He had assigned his students a Wikipedia article each week and they had to analyze it.  They found that these articles were not well-written and had inaccuracies.   Miller remarks, “However, many students also concluded that they had nagging doubts about trusting the content of a Wikipedia article. Interestingly, the reason for their doubt was their sense that they lacked enough knowledge to be able to challenge or verify the information themselves. After a semester of discussion, the result was a sincere, self-conscious awareness of the limitations on certainty in human (and historical) knowledge” (http://www.historians.org/Perspectives/issues/2007/0705/0705vie1.cfm).  Our class went through a similar assignment when we had to pick two topics and look up the discussion history which showed the record of edits on the page.  I think that it is a useful tool for people to share information online, however, it should not ever be used as a scholarly source.  If anything, take the information from Wikipedia and find it in a reputable source, if it is correct in the first place.

 

 

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