Wikipedia Editing to Improve Information/Media Literacy

Becoming an active WIkipedia editor presents numerous opportunities to improve research and writing skills, understanding of copyright and copyediting, enhance information and media literacies, among other collaboration, research, and technical skills.

For my LIBR 210 course I am required to present on instruction and information literacy trends and I chose to present on the trend of educators assigning students to write new Wikipedia  articles, add citations, and/or edit/translate existing Wikipedia articles.

As I have been doing research for this presentation I am overwhelmed in the exciting way by the amount of research and insights I am finding.

To begin with, the Wikipedia training module for educators is a starting point abundant with resources and ideas for an educator to use freely within their courses. The sample syllabi  found within this training module is full of various ideas for assignments, evaluation strategies, and reflections on the achievements students gain via this method of instruction.

Learning objectives listed in previously implemented course syllabi were “media and information literacy”, “writing skills development”, “critical thinking and research skills”, “collaboration”, “Wiki technical and communication skills”.

Some specific quotes from educators that have assigned Wikipedia writing/edits/citations to students that positively impacted and further motivated me towards this instructional methodology are as follows:

From a professor that assigned her students the task of translating English articles into Spanish Wikipedia articles.

“The best part of the project was seeing Wikipedia as motivational, with real communication and with assignments that have consequences outside the classroom.”

An environmental studies professor who assigned students to visit a location, photograph it and improve Wikipedia articles with the photographs reflected on the outcomes by saying

 “I am very glad that they realize the value of publishing their written work on Wikipedia — their schoolwork did not end up in the teacher’s drawer. Last but not least, the complete availability of the article on the Internet and its critical assessment by independent Wikipedians made the students learn to work with sources — a skill that will be useful for them during further studies.”

From a professor who assigned a 1,200- 2,000 word and 20 citation Wikipedia edit for a final course project 

” it empowered them, it transformed their research skills, it was rewarding
for them to do something that was for the greater good, and
most importantly, it made their writing better and kept them
academically honest.”

Along with these tutorials and testimonials I have discovered scholarly publications discussing this trend of using Wikipedia as an instructional tool by enabling students to become editors.  In particular the article What Open Access Research can do for Wikipedia written by WIllinsky impacted me with statements asserting that the credibility of Wikipedia articles increases when full text open access publications are cited in the article. Willinsky’s research notes that in many articles open access publications were available to be cited but had not yet been cited. This leaves vast opportunities for improvement of Wikipedia articles for editors who would spend the time finding and adding open access full text publications to article citations, for the purpose of better representing current states of knowledge within Wikipedia.

The quotes I showcased here really resound with me particularly with regard to being assigned writing tasks that will be contributed to the world, rather than left in an ignored file on my desktop or a professors computer file. I suppose my attraction to LIBR246 course and LIBR287 Hyperlinked Library had to do with the way that written insights posted on blog posts are similarly shared with a wider audience rather than shared only with professors. There seems to be a significant difference in writing quality produced between blog posts and Wikipedia articles though due to the article guidelines active Wikipedia editors enforce. I know I have to backtrack a lot with blogging to edit out stream of consciousness thinking because blogging seems so free from the types of guidelines enforced in an atmosphere like Wikipedia. I appreciate both blogs and Wikipedia, and I would appreciate a SLIS course where students were given the push to improve the writing, research, and literacy skills by being brave and actively editing Wikipedia, and in particular striving to find open access citations whenever possible. Outside of SLIS specifically, I am sure it is also obvious to see how many other educational environments this methodology has the potential to apply to. 

Relevant Research 

Reilly, Colleen. “Teaching Wikipedia as a mirrored technology” First Monday [Online], Volume 16 Number 1 (18 December 2010)

Sormunen, E. & Lehti&oum;, L. (2011). “Authoring Wikipedia articles as an information literacy assignment – copy-pasting or expressing new understanding in one’s own words?” Information Research16(4) paper 503. [Available at]

Willinsky, John. “What open access research can do for Wikipedia” First Monday [Online], Volume 12 Number 3 (5 March 2007)


2 thoughts on “Wikipedia Editing to Improve Information/Media Literacy

  1. Carleen

    Thanks for all those links! We have a few professor’s on our campus who are implementing projects with Wikipedia too, I think it’s awesome. The only issue they’re coming across is that a lot of students seem to have a hard time with the actually editing part, the type of code that Wikipedia uses is so unique to everything else on the web.


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