Submissions:2018/Cultivating New Student Editors in the Linguistics Classroom

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This submission has been accepted for WikiConference North America 2018.

Cultivating New Student Editors in the Linguistics Classroom
Theme (optional)
Editor Recruitment & Retention / Inclusion & Diversity / Wikipedia in Higher Education
Academic Peer Review option
Type of submission
Laurel Smith Stvan
E-mail address
Wikimedia username
Affiliation(s) (optional)
University of Texas at Arlington
A role that Wikipedia increasingly plays in higher education is addressed by presenting the results of several rounds of Wikipedia editing assignments in university Linguistics classrooms. Unlike editathons--which are valuable events, but ones where group members are either already interested in learning Wikipedia editing or already knowledgeable about their subject--students in the classroom are often learning both of these at the same time. Linguistics as a discipline is unevenly represented in Wikipedia (Halavais 2008), with topics such as under documented and minority languages and female linguists having particularly low coverage, as is seen for women’s biographical pages in general (Reagle & Rhue 2011, Moravec 2018). So a need exists to encourage editors to bring their subject knowledge to new or preliminary pages on a variety of linguistic topics. Likewise, since Wikipedia editors are still more often male (Wagner et al. 2016, Cabrera et al 2018), while students in linguistics are more often female (LSA Annual Report 2018), then bringing familiarity with Wikipedia editing skills to this student body provides a way to train and increase the number of female editors. I discuss my experience teaching three courses that have incorporated Wikipedia editing assignments for linguists: within a single student’s honors project, within a large class of seniors, and within a small graduate seminar. Articles selected for improvement were start and stub pages that were relevant topics to each class and were assessed as being of mid-level importance, including both linguistic concepts and biographical pages. Besides building up a familiarity with content readings on the topics of the pages that they improved, students developed research and writing skills with Wikipedia that they will take to offline projects in other classes: determining what the most valued sources on entry-level topics are, and who the key names in the field are; thinking about hierarchy and taxonomy within a discipline, e.g., which new pages could more usefully be sub paragraphs of existing pages; identifying and evaluating primary vs. secondary sources; tracing copyright holders of images; leaving an evidence trail of citations; and explaining their reasons for editing someone else’s work. With each iteration, I’ve learned to plan in time for the range of skills that students are developing. They grapple with finding and responding on talk pages, editing on their phones, and saving formatting, while also acquiring linguistic concepts and learning to present language data. The field ends up with richer online coverage, Wikipedia gets a more diverse set of editors, and the students acquire better skills in explaining a topic to a larger audience.
Length of presentation
30 minutes
Special requests
Preferred room size
Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?
Some of this was touched on as part of a panel discussion at the UT Arlington Library's Open Access Week in October 2017.
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  1. Mozucat (talk) 20:12, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
  2. Matthewvetter (talk) 15:08, 14 August 2018 (UTC)
  3. Samantha (Wiki Education) (talk) 17:04, 15 August 2018 (UTC)
  4. Kreyolnyc (talk) 15:55, 22 August 2018 (UTC)
  5. Jami (Wiki Ed) (talk) 21:49, 27 August 2018 (UTC)