Saturday, February 18, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Kelee Pacion, Mann Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Educators must train future scientists to locate and synthesize information sources and evaluate the rigor of the information production process. This is especially true in biology, where recent curriculum reform spearheaded by scientific societies, including AAAS, embraced student-centered course design that is embedded with real-life examples to enhance critical thinking skills. Teaching students to edit biology articles on Wikipedia supports these objectives as it cultivates skepticism and improves evidence-based writing. The objectives of this study were to understand how undergraduate students consume information and identify whether teaching students to contribute to Wikipedia improves their competency in information literacy. Methods: Students enrolled in a Wikipedia editing course at Cornell University. Learning objectives with corresponding exercises to enhance student comprehension of scientific literacy were developed by the authors. Data on the enrolled students' contributions to Wikipedia were collected in the course and data about student consumption of various information resources were collected in an introductory biology class. Chi-squared tests were applied to the data using the statistical software R. Results: Up to 85% of the students surveyed used information from Wikipedia at least once weekly, with female students using it less frequently. Students incorporated information gathered from Wikipedia significantly more frequently in verbal communication (100%), than in scientific papers (41.67%), social media (33.33%) or in other communication forms. Despite their reliance, 50% of the students reported never evaluating the credibility of the literature cited in Wikipedia articles. After completing the Wikipedia course, significantly more (87%) students reported evaluating their sources, and 90% of the students agreed that the course improved their critical thinking skills. A total of 45.5% of the students’ articles were peer-reviewed twice by other Wikipedia editors, and many articles were reviewed more frequently (36.4%). Conclusions: Encouraging the next generation of scholars to edit Wikipedia has benefits beyond improving article quality. Students become more knowledgeable about the information creation and production process, switch from consumer to contributor, and grow empowered when their articles are read and peer-reviewed globally. Wikipedia is shown to be a useful tool to train the next generation of skeptical, but informed scientists. Instructors can include Wikipedia editing as part of their curriculum or teach it as a stand-alone course. With global editorship of Wikipedia at a 90% male to 9% female ratio, incorporating Wikipedia editing into a curriculum can also contribute to narrowing this gender gap.