Andrea Forte is a Wikipedia contributor and a Ph.D. candidate specializing in human-centered computing at Georgia Tech's College of Computing. Her current research focuses on written communities of discourse and social contexts for learning through writing. Andrea holds an MLIS from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (now School of Information) at University of Texas at Austin and a BA in foreign language and literature with a minor in philosophy from Western Michigan University.
In the traditional model of education, students are not involved in the production of knowledge. They read what others have written for them and they listen to what more knowledgeable teachers have to say. It has been observed by educational researchers that resources like textbooks often conceal from students the disciplinary practices, passion and effort that authors invest in producing texts. In earlier work, I learned through interview studies that many Wikipedians explicitly treat participation in Wikipedia as an opportunity to learn about the world through writing and discourse.
The powerful learning experiences that Wikipedians described in these studies generated new questions about how contributing to wiki projects can bring about similar experiences for students. How might the design of wiki tools encourage specific kinds of writing practices? What role does the design of collaborative technologies play in shaping our epistemological commitments?
I will briefly introduce learning theory that suggests young people are capable of contributing to the intellectual life of the world. In fact, I would like to suggest that we should expect no less from them. I challenge educators, Wikimedians, and researchers alike to think of wikis in education not as a staging ground for producing texts for the edification of students, but as a canvas on which students themselves can engage in the intellectual work of knowledge production.