History teacher using Wikipedia to motivate his students

In my previous post, I wrote about the experience of a literature teacher in which he put a great effort into discouraging his students from using the Internet as a source of information. One of the targets of his experiment was Wikipedia.

Today I found an article about a teacher with a completely different atitude that shows a much better understanding of the new realities of education. “Wikipédia comme outil de motivation scolaire” (Wikipedia as a tool of academic motivation), written by Patrick Rodrigue for the Abitibi Express, presents the case of Martin Baron, teacher in the History department of Cégep de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

As part of the Sociocultural history of the indigenous people and history of the Americas class, students were asked to publish on Wikipedia their research.

The idea for the project came in early 2011, when he asked his students to write about the Algonquins. Their first reflex was to go on Wikipedia, but they didn’t find much information. The idea of seeing their research published online gave the students and extra motivation and as the school semester was advancing, the excitement was increasing.

His requirements were high, the French had to be impeccable, the research had to bring a real contribution and not just a rehash of what was already done.

Each student has contributed with information from his area of interest and the final result is the Algonquin article.

To find out more about this project I suggest you read Une contribution à Wikipédia comme projet de session ! (A Wikipedia contribution as a school project), written by Martin Baron and Marie-Josée Tondreau. I find especially interesting this part:

Une répercussion non prévue
Lors de la publication des travaux, les étudiants ont réalisé spontanément la richesse et les écueils associés à Wikipédia. L’action de publier un article sur un site collaboratif d’information, devant un groupe, était un moment de grande fébrilité. Petite anecdote : des étudiants ont contacté les membres de leur famille au moment de la mise en ligne. Les étudiants ont également constaté à quel point les informations peuvent être critiquées si les références d’un article ne sont pas inscrites. Sans l’avoir anticipé, ce projet a permis de développer l’esprit critique des étudiants face aux informations sur Internet.

This I would try to translate as:

An unforeseen aftereffect
During the publishing of their work, students suddenly realized the richness and the pitfalls of Wikipedia. To publish an article on a collaborative information website, in front of a group, represented a time of great excitement. A small anecdote: the students have contacted their family members at the launch. The students have also realized to what degree information can be criticized if the references of an article are not listed. Without having anticipated it, this project developed the critical thinking of the students concerning information on the Internet.

I find the method used by Martin Baron really enriching for the students, they’ve learned how to do search for relevant and original information, how to reference, how to edit and publish their findings. They’ve got an inside look into the functioning of Wikipedia and now by contributing, they’ve learned how to evaluate information posted online.

Well done M. Baron! Keep up the good work!

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