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On Thursday of last week, I contributed to a Wikipedia page for the first time. I eagerly checked in over the following days to see whether my additions would remain or be torn apart by the community, and for better or worse, it seemed I managed to fly under the radar. However, upon visiting the “Talk” discussion regarding my page, I found an interesting note. In a yellow box, the text alerted me that “This article is currently or was the subject of an educational assignment.” I followed this to discover Wikipedia: Student Assignment.

The page is dedicated entirely to the practice of editing Wikipedia pages for classroom assignment; in other words, it was exactly what I had just done. The page opens with the suggestion that students can actually do more harm than good for the site, which lead me to read on and understand how and why students would be less able to edit properly than regular Wikipedia contributors, whoever those people are. The page is broken down into advice for students, instructors, editors, and ambassadors, each with a strict reminder of the policy guidelines and style of Wikipedia. This made me nervous about my own work and whether I met the standards of an overwhelming community. Furthermore, the article took a clear stance on the structure of assigned classwork, and how it should be respectful of Wikipedia’s goals and aims (ie. do not set arbitrary word requirements when Wikipedia prizes brevity).

The question I would like to pose this week is why doesn’t our class have a course page for this Wikipedia assignment? The student assignment article has reasonable evidence in support of a course page that will allow Professor Chun and TAs to ensure that our Wiki-contributions are done with proper respect toward Wikipedia guidelines. At the least, I feel students who are given this assignment would benefit from reading the Student Assignment page so that they understand the risks they run from improper editing or using their real name, for example. Maybe we do not have a course page so that our activity could feel more free throughout the site, but by now we know better than to simply accept freedom.