Historical Reminiscents EP 18: Using Wikipedia As A Teaching Tool

Hands holding a Wikipedia globe. Right side reads "Episode 18: Using Wikipedia as a Teaching Tool"

New podcast episode! In this week’s episode I chat about the potential ways Wikipedia can be used in the classroom and other educational settings.  I discuss what skills can be learned from editing Wikipedia and I dive into what support is available to instructors wishing to create Wikipedia focused assignments.

Do you have experience using Wikipedia in a public history, GLAM, or classroom setting? I would love to hear about it, leave a comment or send me a message on Twitter.

Mentioned in this episode:
How to Use Wikipedia as a Teaching Tool (PDF)
Wiki Education Dashboard
Outreach Dashboard

Download or listen now.

The Slow Evolution of Digital Literature

Like many others I received an e-reader as a Christmas gift.  Despite loving technology I have clung to my love of paper books and in all honesty if my partner hadn’t bought me a Kobo Touch I would probably still be buying (and not knowing where to store) an abundance of traditional books.  However, since I now have the digital toy I’ve resolved to read at least every other book on the Kobo. 

Some of my initial thought about the e-reader:

  • The ability to highlight, bookmark passages, and take digital notes is a huge asset for academic reading.
    • This advantage is the same one that prompts my use of Zotero to keep track of citations and  reading notes on my laptop.
  • The dictionary feature is my new best friend.
  • The ability to digitally share reading lists, quotations, etc 

These are all great reasons to use an E-reader or tablet, however digital texts haven’t really advanced traditional reading in any profound way.  Ebooks are essentially digital copies of paper books.  Given the push for digital interaction, I find it a bit surprising that more innovation hasn’t occurred in the development of multimedia and expanded digital texts.

The one example I have come across that pushes the boundaries of e-publishing is Paul La Farge’s Luminous Airplanes work.  La Farge describes his work as “immersive text”, something akin to a new phase of hyperlink books which allows the reader to explore a text in unique and exploratory ways.  A recent Spark interview highlights the ideas behind La Farge’s work.

Additionally, Apple just announced the introduction of iBooks 2 app which boasts an interactive textbook format.  It will be interesting to see if Apple’s idea catches on and how it actually works as an interactive medium.

What types of innovation in digital literature would you like to see?

Citing in Popular Publishing

Recently, while at a friend’s house I picked up a local history book that was sitting on their coffee table. The book focused on the history of Espanola Ontario that was written by a local history enthusiast. In the introduction of the book, the author stated that he had not made an effort to record any sources; however if readers were curious they could contact him and he might be able to point them to where his information came from. Instantly, the academic historian in me cringed and I began to lament the state of local history writing.

However, upon later reflection I began to think about the larger question of citations in popular publishing, local history works, and public history writing. Footnotes or endnotes are standard practice in academic writing. But, they are rarely used in more popular publishing. In my mind good public history writing should find a way to cite information without being intrusive.

Digitally published information can include hyperlinks as a means of providing supplemental and source information without the formality of a footnote. Print publishing is faced with a slightly more arduous task of integrating sources into the flow of writing. Despite the many intrusive methods of citing information, good writers can seamlessly note where material derived from within the context of their writing. I think it is crucial that academic historians who desire to be accessible to a popular audience consider how to maintain historical credibility while appealing to the reading sensibilities of the public at large.

Public history works which immediately come to mind as having successfully integrated source material and popular writing include: Beautiful Barrie: The and its people, No Place to Run: The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War (includes a well organized section of endnotes), and the majority of the articles printed in Canada’s History Magazine.

What works do you consider successful balances of academic and popular history writing?