Home > Uncategorized > Serendipity in the Wikisphere

Serendipity in the Wikisphere

It’s an extraordinary feeling when the arc of current events bends to meet the literature or activities going on in classes.  Last week’s announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature may have provided the ultimate such experience!  In 2008, students at the University of British Columbia who took SPAN312 engaged in a Wikipedia project: they created or upgraded Wikipedia articles about the Latin American authors they were studying, including Mario Vargas Llosa.  They took a brief, rarely viewed article and brought it up to Wikipedia’s “Featured Article” status.  Here’s an essay by the professor, Jon Beasley-Murray, that describes the whole experience:  “Was introducing Wikipedia to the classroom an act of madness leading only to mayhem if not murder?”   I’d love to hear the reaction of those students to the announcement of the Nobel prize!

It happened that the Prize announcement also gave a boost to a project under way in my American Lit classes.  On the day of the Nobel announcement, I was wrapping up a wiki project with a group of American Lit students.  It was their first class wiki, and while there was some good content, I needed to help them get the overview and see how to unify all the pages of it.  The Vargas Llosa article in Wikipedia gave us a perfect example of some technical points, plus a really inspirational example of students creating some content that is making a real difference in the world.  I keep beating the drum about wikis and their value in education, and here was a fantastic example dropping right in our laps!  For anyone who wants to see the almost-final product of my classes’ efforts, here it is.

So where are the enterprising reporters who must want interview the UBC professor and some of the students?  A Google News search doesn’t turn up anything, so I’ve decided to try contacting him myself. 

 

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