Making History, Empowering Students with Wikipedia

By Elizabeth De Wolfe, via WikiEd

Dr. Elizabeth De Wolfe is a Professor of History at the University of New England. Her “Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies” course assigned students to expand women-focused content on Wikipedia.

Reading about the masculine skew of Wikipedia really struck a chord with me. My students, I realized, could connect classroom knowledge to real-world action by writing women-centered Wikipedia entries….

Make no mistake: researching and writing a Wikipedia entry was as rigorous as the typical term paper. Students wrote formal topic proposals and submitted bibliographies. They conducted research with scholarly and authoritative sources. Students wrote multiple drafts and received feedback from peers and their professor….

What I had not realized was the tremendous personal impact this project would have on my students’ sense of self. In addition to discovering for themselves the gendered nature of information, students came to understand — and use — their voices to enact change….

While I have, on occasion, seen students transformed by individual research projects, the collective sense of power and passion in this classroom was like nothing I’ve experienced before. Students came to see the world and themselves in a new way, were moved to share their knowledge publicly, grew to be confident in themselves, and felt empowered to use their voices to raise awareness and affect change.