Education, Public History, Undergraduate Education, Wikipedia

Wikipedia as a Course Textbook

I recently categorized all my past posts and discovered that I do not talk about museums  much during the school year. That is simply due to the fact that I don’t get out to museums or historical sites during the school year.  However, I am planning on going to the OAH this spring and will no doubt stop by the historical sites and museum in Atlanta. I am also going to THATcamp in Orlando, which will provide some thought provoking material on digital humanities, and hopefully put me in the position to see what historical sites/museums Orlando has to offer.

Today, however, I am talking about Wikipedia, Education, and Public History in the classroom… again.

Earlier this weekend I was looking general historical knowledge stuff up on Wikipedia and I thought to myself, “why don’t we just have the students read this?” I imagine the first response to this would be “Ahh yea, but what if the information is wrong?”

That is even better. Let me explain….

This type of class needs to be done in person, no on-line classes, no correspondence courses!

This is a photo of my childhood dog, and the only image I have that seemed academic.
This is a photo of my childhood dog, and the only image I have that seemed academic.I also enjoy photos of animals with human hats on, and like to share this one in particular.

Here we go:

This class would be a 101/lower-level/freshman, (name what you do) history class

1) Like a traditional class this one will have one day of lecture where students come to hear the professor tell them stories about the past that they read from books and articles. This is where students will get the most accurate information. They will then attend break-out sessions/recitations/discussion classes which take place twice a week. (2 discussion/1 lecture, instead of 2 lecture/ 1 discussion)

2) The students will not be assigned a textbook. They are expensive, constantly change, and often feature pages of crap no one ever uses. (WASTEFUL!) In place of the traditional history textbook, the students will assigned Wikipedia entries.


11/4,  Read

So on 11/4 students come to class having read the Spiritualism entry and are now armed with the narrative.

3) The students will be assigned primary documents and peer-reviewed articles to discuss in the class’s discussion sections. Most universities have access to peer-reviewed journals which would make these free too.

4) Putting together the primary docs and journal articles the class will discuss the topic, the articles and what wikipedia has to say, or does not say.  The students will then be responsible for submitting to the wikipedia page and the professor, corrections or thoughtful/necessary additions to the entry, complete with citations. (Not every day, but maybe 4 or 5 a semester)

That is pretty simple, not to0 radical at all.

My intentions with this class is to bring down the cost of educational materials, while stressing the necessity of face-to-face class discussions, implementation of on-line resources, and encouraging students to interact in public history spheres(wikipedia).

I believe this will force students to be active participants in their education by engaging them in critical thinking, in person and on-line. They will constantly be asked to evaluate the arguments in primary documents, secondary documents, and wikipedia (which is a secondary, but not academic.) It will teach students to be aware of what they read, to train them to think critically even while reading things on the on-line. Critical thinking is not just for class, its for life.

Secondly, the twice a week discussion courses will encourage and teach the students to discuss their critical understandings and thoughts, and create a closer relationship between the students and their teachers which will foster accountability, respect and higher levels of cognition and understanding. (Key here: Active engagement)





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