Last spring, three things happened, all at around the same time:
- I participated in the Global Women Wikipedia Write-In
- I had several conversations about Wikipedia with students in my current composition course
- I dealt with a plagiarism case involving Wikipedia
As a result, I started thinking about what an entire course focusing on Wikipedia itself might look like; and the more I thought about it, the more I thought that I would like to teach just such a class. I imagined it as spending time looking at the history of Wikipedia's development and its evolving standards. I would want the course to involve consideration of the open-access movement, the topic of information literacy, and the nature of digital resources. I think that Wikipedia and its strengths and weaknesses make it an incredibly complex topic -- more complex than many people give it credit for. I also think that it could be an incredibly useful topic for studying writing -- but only if students have a steady, long-term encounter with it that allows them to develop the familiarity that they would need to critically engage with it as a subject.
I also wanted it to be a writing course -- where the students would write one major essay analyzing the coverage (or lack thereof) of a particular topic; and where they would write another essay that presented a possible Wikipedia entry -- or a substantial revision to an existing essay. Examining the genre and style of Wikipedia articles presents a good opportunity for reflecting on the impulses behind academic writing. Though Wikipedia-style writing and academic argument are substantially different styles, I think that studying both is useful. It would allow us as a class to explore some of the impulses behind academic scholarship that are often left tacit, and thus become stumbling blocks for undergraduate learners.
All this is to say that I've written up the syllabus for this prospective class, and am posting here because I think it might be of interest to some of you; and because I'd welcome your comments and feedback on it. It's over at GoogleDocs, set to public view. While I'm not scheduled to teach this course yet, my hope is that I'll get the chance to at some point in the not too distant future.
ETA: Hilary very kindly encouraged me to post this to the All Things Wikipedia group, so, I'm doing just that!