[B] Week 3 Discussion:

Take a look at Murder, Madness, Mayhem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Murder_Madness_and_Mayhem as well as the associated essay (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Jbmurray/Madness) written by the instructor who facilitated it. 

What piece from the instructor’s essay was most interesting or most helpful to you and why?

Respond by Wednesday, 8/3

Reply to another person’s post by Friday, 8/5

11 thoughts on “[B] Week 3 Discussion:

  1. Cody D. Stitzel (she/her/hers)

    When beginning to read this instructor’s essay, I started thinking about the first time I heard about incorporating a similar Wikipedia assignment into a course, and the unsettled feeling I had. I honestly dismissed the idea, considering it a nonproductive learning task, otherwise known as busy work. However, since that time and through engaging in this seminar, I have come to realize, as the author of this article said, “an essay or an exam is an instance of busywork: usually written in haste; for one particular reader, the professor; and thereafter discarded.” Further, and tying this to last week’s discussion post, asking students to engage in real-world projects that are publicly visible adds a level of responsibility that might otherwise be absent in essay assignments. I would ideally like to take the continual editing process that is written about in this article and adapt it to work for student papers – for example, focus on getting a paper draft submitted within the first month of the course so that there is ample time for editing, and thus, learning the importance of revision for good writing. In reading this article, I additionally learned much more about Wikipedia than I had previously known – something I’ll continue to think about professionally as instructor, researcher, and clinician alike!

    The following are four quotes by the author that resonated with me and my reaction to them.

    “…only by actively contributing to the encyclopedia that students would learn about its weaknesses, as well as its strengths.”
    I envision a similar process when crafting MCQs, both in recognizing the weaknesses/strengths of their understanding, and in the potential weaknesses/strengths of the content being learned.

    “The assignment grade, in other words, would be determined by collective, public, peer review.”
    A potentially fairer grading practice, however, I wonder how these peer reviews and edits would vary depending on the discipline and content being reviewed? For example, what do public, peer reviews look like regarding ambiguous psychological concepts or social injustice issues compared to more factually or historically based content (not that the two are dichotomous, per se)? I could see a pitfall being interference by extremist who are uninterested in presenting accurate information or have various bigoted agendas.

    “But one could argue that for most of the occupations that most of these students will be entering after they finish their time in academia, argumentation is not in fact so important as it is in the academy itself. Information gathering, presentation, meticulousness, teamwork, and the ability to negotiate with the public sphere are (I hesitate perhaps to admit) much more useful to them.”
    I can relate this to how I think about online exams. Sure, some students are likely to do quick internet searches of each question and obtain the correct answer within seconds. However, given the ease and accessibility of technology, it is the worst thing that these students are at least able to find the correct information considering the ability to do so will often be available in the real-world? I sometimes wonder if I am more disappointed that most students do not do this and only take roughly half the time they are given to complete the exams!

    “…the fact that students fail sufficiently to evaluate their sources….They would add information that was unsourced, poorly referenced (and too frequently even plagiarized), or cited from what were often enough merely other webpages and online encyclopedia….Even with plagiarism, there was no longer the need to make a song and dance about it, because at no time were they handing in what purported to be a final product.”
    I agree that plagiarism should be handled differently at the undergrad level, as it requires so much dedication as a teacher of a non-literary subject to teach adequate writing and researching skills from scratch, taking away from the topic subject. Thus, if the time required cannot be devoted to teaching students during the semester, I feel as though this is a failing of myself, the college, or education system at large, rather than the students.

    1. Michael Schoch (he/him/his) Post author

      Hi Cody,

      I found myself nodding in agreement to your points about the last two quotes you noted. Even as a writing teacher, I have come to terms with the fact that argumentation and persuasion, though very important, are not always the main skills I’m teaching. Often times the overarching skill students are learning is how to work together and think critically to FIND the info they need to write or take an exam. And I agree that this seems much more reflective of what adult, working life is like.

      I also wish plagiarism was taught and handled differently. I think too often we assume that research, critical reading, evaluating sources, and even writing itself are all “basic” academic skills that college students should be able to master after a quick review in class. I have been very guilty of this myself. But I have been encouraged by how many of the OERs I’ve seen online require students to evaluate and analyze and write about sources, even if the final product of the assignment isn’t a traditional essay. This also seems more reflective of “real” non-academic working life.

  2. Julie Kiss (She/Her/Hers)

    I thought that the professor’s goal of having students contribute to the collective body of knowledge available to the public was both an admirable and ambitious goal. I had no Idea that “fewer than 0.1% of Wikipedia’s articles are featured articles”. A class objective that both uplifts the discussion of latin american literature in this way while also introducing students to the shortfalls of the platform is a clever way to incorporate media literacy into the final project for the course.

    I personally have struggled to get students to look over the comments I dedicate a significant amount of time to provide them with. This assignment’s requirement that the work is assessed by the students in multiple times is a terrific way to get students into the practice of self-refelction and looking at their work more critically. Although the idea of allowing the analytics to determine the grades of my students is a bit unsettling, the premise is intriguing and places greater agency on students to take ownership of their work.

    My greatest concern about implementing a similar assignment for my students would be that for a topic such as gender identity, the information on wikipedia is likely highly monitored and heavily saturated. Students experimenting with contributing to the global dialogue on the site would certainly be at greater risk of having their work deleted by the admins, a risk that was mentioned earlier. While this could provide a lesson in the communal dialogue surrounding this topic, the fluidity of the subject matter makes me reticent to implement a similar assignment to a Biology of Gender and Sexuality class.

    1. Michael Schoch (he/him/his) Post author

      Hi Julie,

      I really appreciated your point: “My greatest concern about implementing a similar assignment for my students would be that for a topic such as gender identity, the information on wikipedia is likely highly monitored and heavily saturated. Students experimenting with contributing to the global dialogue on the site would certainly be at greater risk of having their work deleted by the admins…”

      This seems like a good point for us all to keep in mind–that our disciplines shape how we adapt assignments to our classes. I think you’re right that it could be very difficult to edit or create a prominent page and have it stick–but it could be possible to have students edit smaller, more niche pages within that topic. Or students could read and analyze a prominent wiki page and then write about it in another platform, like Pressbooks, or on a class site. Thanks for bringing this up!

    2. Cody D. Stitzel (she/her/hers)

      Hi Julie,
      I like your description of “admirable and ambitious,” as I too thought the same, as well as learned some new information from the blog both interesting and surprising. Incorporating more media literacy into my teaching is something I have been thinking about for a while (although in the form of learning how to critically analyze a true crime documentary or movie). I do agree that it would likely be extra-difficult for this type of assignment to succeed within a biology of gender course, however, on the other hand, the high monitoring and saturation of posts might also be able to work to your advantage(?). Lastly, I too would be concerned about grades of the assignment being solely determined by the outcome of the project when it is only partially in the students’ control, so I would try to modify that and perhaps make sort of rubric for research quality, creativity, grammar, breath, depth, etc. I think this is something that I would perhaps try out within a closed-class environment (with other modifications) before taking it online!
      Best, Cody

  3. Howard Mandelbaum

    I thought the article was very interesting however, one statement by JB Murray that Wikipedia is looked down on by academia without any explanation is untrue. Part of the problem is that there are errors in the “facts” by Wikipedia’s articles. The fact that Wikipedia Murray had articles created that enhanced Wikipedia’s attention to South America shows their avoidance of various areas. Also, Murray later in his article points out the lack of fact checking and plagiarism that occurs on Wikipedia.;
    I liked that his course was not centered on just doing the Wikipedia articles but very inclusive with readings and a midterm. That said I would be hard pressed in my own discipline (mathematics) to have students use this model although review of some Wikipedia articles could be very useful. The idea of having non-math majors or even math majors creating new mathematical models is fantastical. As to the idea that argumentation and persuasion are not that important, I would say I have to disagree. Creating new mathematical constructs are actively debated and argued over (Goldbach’s conjecture comes readily to mind). For those not interested in number theory I won’t ask you to go to Wikipedia, my brief explanation is that every even counting number greater than 2 is equal to the sum of two prime numbers.
    While some ideas can be proven a conjecture is just that and it may take centuries if ever to prove such an idea. In practical terms this conjecture is trivial but theoretically it could have profound implications.

    1. Marlene

      Hi, Howard –

      I read with interest your point: “having non-math majors or even math majors creating new mathematical models is fantastical”. I’m wondering if you meant that this as a positive, innovative idea or an idea to proceed with utmost caution, due to the likelihood of inaccuracies. While I am all for the students’ public input in OER, I am still concerned not so much about potential inaccuracies, but about readers disregarding the work-in-progress status by college students and taking the work as fact. It brings to mind a memoir I’d written of my dad’s Holocaust survival, and I could not verify some of the wartime info he had dictated. At those points in the memoir, and keeping true to the rigors of ethnographic research, I had written a simple disclaimer reminding the reader that this is the experience of one teenage boy hiding in the woods in wartime, and his recollection of it seven decades later, and is written as such. The disclaimer gave me the comfort to proceed forward and not edit out what I could not verify. I wonder if this might be a good model for students’ public works – a one-sentence FYI letting the reader know the nature/level of the project.

  4. Howard Mandelbaum

    I thought that Cody Stitzel’s comments on the article were very interesting. The idea that an exam or essay are busy work in my view depends on the exam and essay although her point is unfortunately quite often true. As to finding answers by doing a google search I do not have an issue with that. In my programming classes students are welcome to use all and any resources available because once they have a job in the field solving the problem will be the goal. This is based not on academics but on 35 years as a programmer/analyst, trainer, and tech. manager.

  5. Marlene Goldstein (She/Her)

    I thought Murray’s essay was a very interesting read, and recognizing the worth of incorporating OER as part of the business of education is a welcome step forward for all of us. Inasmuch as I am all for this forward march, I was still surprised at Murray’s ability to easily embrace the notion of having the students’ grade for the project determined by outside forces. This is something I have been reluctant to do in my classes so far. I think I am cowed by the fact that at John Jay, a good amount of students are preparing for a law or political career, and some may fancy themselves as “armchair lawyers”, after having taken perhaps a core course in law or political science. Perhaps I am projecting, but if I did a school project, put a lot of work into it, and were given an inadequate grade by strangers that neither I nor the instructor knows, and I were a fractional point away from a certain needed GPA number….hmmmm…. would I be so willing to accept the grade? And I am by nature rather timid and non-confrontational; how much more challenging would a future-lawyer student be? This is even more challenging when the subject matter is a contemporary heated one, like Julia’s subject on genders and biology.
    All that being said, I still want to push forward and see all the positives, and I certainly learned much about wikipedia. In terms of students looking up things through wiki and google and heaven only knows what else, I have no issue with that and this available technology should not negate the value of the traditional written exams, particularly the M/C and T/F questions. I purposely give my students a second go at the midterm and final exams. When they access the exam, I encourage them to quickly copy and paste the exam somewhere, then complete the exam. After they submit they can see their final grade but not which answers they got right/wrong. They can try for a higher grade by repeating the test once. later on, after they search through the textbook for the answers to the questions they were unsure of. The searching itself really enhances their learning and retention of the material, their grade is higher, everyone is happy and its a win-win.

    1. Julie Kiss (She/Her/Hers)

      Hey Marlene,

      I had not considered how students might respond negatively to being informed that strangers will determine the final grade they receive on an assignment. However, I do believe this is less of an issue than you believe. In the past I have allowed students to grade each others work using a rubric, any students who disagree with the grade they receive are welcome to bring it to my attention and have me grade their assignment in a more traditional manner.

      For me the main takeaways from Murray’s assignment were:
      – How do we get students to take greater ownership over their work
      – Can we get students to review and improve upon previous assignments
      – Is it possible to in the process create shared resources that can be built upon in the future
      – Is there a way to do this without increasing the work load on ourselves

      While the assignment was not perfect it does show how we can use online resources to attempt to address these objectives.


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