ACS Symposium: Integrating Wikipedia [Reflections]


Last month, me and Jamila Lyn–a Morehouse College English Instructor–organized and led a faculty development symposium that was funded by the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS).  We were pleased to welcome slightly more than a dozen on-site instructors and over twenty remote (via Webinar) participants.  This event was instrumental in shaping my understanding of how faculty development ought to be organized to enrich faculty expectations of how to teach with technology, as well as their ability to teach writing across disciplines.  I’m excited to share our participants’ survey responses, and a final report here in December.  I will also be providing an update of how faculty decided to follow-up on what they learned from the symposium.

Surprisingly, the event encouraged me to step away from teaching with Wikipedia this semester for the purposes of thinking more about coordinating my student’s work with specific portals and projects that will systematically shape the kind of research they are doing.  Although Wiki.Edu’s great software is capable of improving many aspects of course management–especially the invention of assignment types, resources, and sequencing–it is a guideline that assumes students are capable of quickly adapting to the media as a confident, competent user.

Throughout the past decade of teaching college writing, it seems that most first-year students have spent their entire institutional writing experience providing the ‘main idea’ in a standardized test question, or never using the word “I.”  Although that kind of perspective may be conducive to Wikipedia’s ideal expression of neutrality, I am uncomfortable teaching first-year college student writers to compose in this space without a much stronger sense of agency as a researcher and writer.  Therefore, I am looking forward to integrating Wikipedia in my Writing Digital Media class next semester, as both a site of research and composition.  These advanced writers will be invested in understanding the architecture of Wikipedia and leveraging its archival intent and capacity.

We also had a major transition in librarians available to my department, and I am seeking their involvement in our use of Wikipedia. Partnering with the library, the Comprehensive Writing Program (CWP), the Women’s Resource Center, the Githii Waddell Honors Program, as well as Spelman’s Teaching Resource and Research Center (TRRC), should increase our visibility on campus and within the Atlanta University Center (AUC).  I am going to require my students to organize an Editathon and learn more about efforts like Art + Feminism to become part of a global effort to diversify the media.  I will also draw on Howard University’s engagement with Wikipedia during black history month to expand coverage about notable black individuals and race relations history in the U.S.

I plan to reach out to my symposium attendees and co-PI to compose research about our experiences integrating Wikipedia at an HBCU.  The new publication Wiki Studies, as well as the journals Kairos, Enculturation, and Computers and Composition will be ideal sites to discuss our pedagogical effort.  On the other hand, we may seek to communicate more with researchers whose work recovers the intellectual and cultural histories of Diasporic individuals and communities.  CLA Journal is expanding its focus to include more work on composition, writing, and digital media.  Furthermore, we will continue to look for interdisciplinary, open-source venues to connect with broad audiences of researchers and teachers interested in how information production, management, and distribution affects the sociology of knowledge and its economies.



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