Digital Revolution Pre-Draft: Wikipedia, Evaluating Internet Sources, and Use of Sources

Lesson Plan on Wikipedia, Evaluating Internet Sources, and Use of Sources

Primary lesson objective: Danah Boyd’s essay (and Wikipedia) blurs the once clearer boundaries between authority, research methods, evidence, and methodology. Rather than simply dismissing or critiquing either, looking closely at how Boyd constructs her essay and how a Wikipedia entry on Danah Boyd is written, revised, and organized, students will better understand the range of source materials on the Internet and see how, in the case of Wikipedia, sources get used and cited. The Wikipedia entry on Boyd serves as a good example because she has been such a contentious figure and it will give students further background and context for the 3rd project.

This lesson plan will require students to give short presentations on one of the sources used in Danah Boyd’s Wikipedia entry. This will be done after they have done preliminary work.

Total estimated time: 4-5 minutes per student (in-class presentation) and 10 minute writing exercise after presentations.

Additional outcomes: Boyd has such a distinct authorial voice and shifts in tone. Wikipedia entries are supposed to comply with certain formats, but frequently, entries are flagged or require revision. Further, the range of sources used on longer Wikipedia entries may represent a variety of perspectives, voices, and styles upon closer investigation. This assignment will allow students to think further about voice, style, tone, position, and point-of-view; academic versus non-academic forms of writing; disciplinary boundaries, authority, and methodology; single versus collective authorship; and also practice very initial research methods by learning to differentiate and discriminate between things found on the Internet.

Assignment sequence underway: This assignment comes mid-point in the 3rd project. Students will have read Danah Boyd’s essay, her Wikipedia entry, and at least one source on Danah Boyd’s entry. Students may not have yet read Boyd’s response essay or some of the many comments she received, but they should do so prior to the paper.

Work completed prior to class:  Students are to choose one of the sources used on Danah Boyd’s Wikipedia entry and to write a blog response about it on the class blog. No repeats are allowed, so first responders get first choice. Prior to short in-class presentations, students are to write a blog response (at home) of 200-250 words in which they should answer some of the following questions: What kind of source is it? What is the author’s point of view or perspective/? What do you personally think of the source? Did it affect or change your view of Danah Boyd’s essay – how or why? How is it used in the Wikipedia entry? Is it a “good” or “relevant” source? What is the possible audience for the source? Any summary of the source should be kept to 1 or 2 lines.

This in-class assignment will be an opportunity for students to give very short presentations and practice articulating while also showing or demonstrating. Boyd’s essay generates strong opinions, so ideally there will be time for each presenter to field a question and engage in brief discussion that moves beyond personal views to include or address several other perspectives, including Boyd, classmates, author(s) of the source material, and the Wikipedia entry.

Step1: Students will individually present on the source that they blogged about. Anyone can read the blog entries students wrote, of course, so presentations should be less of a re-reading of a blog post and should instead be for practice discussing what they already know in relation to larger issues while also facilitating possible discussion. Presentations should show and clearly identify the source material and take us (the class) to places online – the source material and where it is used on the Wikipedia entry. If it is a website or a video, students should show something specific and very brief. Students should address several possible issues: How does the source speak to issues surrounding Boyd or a particular issue that she raises? Is the source (or Boyd) still relevant – yes or no – and in what specific ways? Have you reevaluated your initial response? (4-5 minutes per student)

Step 2: After presentations, students should write a minimum 200-word response. The 3rd project is asking students to write a specific defense or critique of Boyd related to one (possibly two) specific issues in the form, content, or construction of her essay. Students should discuss: How have the presentations, discussion, or writing a blog entry helped to identify specific issues that might be written about? How might you reread Boyd and what might you look for specifically in preparation for writing your essay? How can you think about or address the issue of context (2007 versus 2010 or how MySpace and Facebook operated then compared to now) in your essay while still leaving room for specific defense or criticism of Boyd in particular ways? Can you make a tentative thesis or claim about Boyd (one which may change radically as you read further and begin writing)? What are the benefits or problems with individual and collective authorship (Wikipedia or Boyd’s peer-editing of her dissertation)? (10 minutes)

Download: Pre-Draft Assignment/Activity – Wikipedia, Evaluating Internet Sources, and Use of Sources

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