Submissions:2019/Hearing Other Voices: Using Wikipedia in an ESL Writing Class

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This submission has been accepted for WikiConference North America 2019.


Hearing Other Voices: Using Wikipedia in an ESL Writing Class


Inclusion and Diversity

Type of session:



Wikipedia editors largely come from North America and Europe (Wikipedia Editors Study 2011). Given the limited geographical and cultural background of its editors, it is inevitable that many topics and cultures are underrepresented on Wikipedia. Wikipedia gets more than 500 million pageviews per day (Singer et al. 2017). Having editors from different cultures and hearing more diverse voices on Wikipedia is therefore of growing importance. I teach in the Writing Program at Boston University, where my students come from several countries: China, Korea, India, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, to name a few. In one of my upper-level ESL writing classes (WR120 ESL), the class works on a Wikipedia editing assignment that requires students to find a topic related to their country or culture that has not been well represented or is missing on English Wikipedia. Students edit stubs or create new articles as part of the class. I have found that the assignment both motivates and empowers my students. Using the Wikipedia Dashboard and scaffolding the assignment through the stages of proposal, draft, peer review, and presentations, ensures that students are challenged and supported through every stage of the writing and editing process. Not only do students improve their academic writing and research skills and learn about attribution and fair use, but they also take part in editing an online encyclopedia that is one of the most visited sites on the internet. The pages edited or created by my students in Spring 2019, for example, have 214K page views, as of writing this. This presentation will discuss how using Wikipedia in the classroom, especially in the ESL writing classroom, leads to improving the diversity of topics on Wikipedia, and also how students benefit from seeing their cultures represented on a visible, public forum. I will demonstrate how Wikipedia can be successfully incorporated into the classroom, not only as a pedagogical tool, but also as a way to hear from other, less represented voices. By choosing to teach with Wikipedia in my ESL writing class, I use the cultural diversity of my classes to improve student learning as well as to contribute to the diversity of topics and conversations on Wikipedia.

Academic Peer Review option:


Author name:

Malavika Shetty

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:


Affiliated organization(s):

Boston University

Estimated time:

15-20 minutes

Preferred room size:

No preference

Special requests:

Laptop hook up, HDMI cable, Projector

Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:


If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)