Wiki-a-thon at Pitzer College

By Jade Ulrich, Pitzer College, Los Angeles, CA

On Thursday morning, September 19, Professor Alexandra Juhasz’s Feminist Dialogues on Technology class held its first Wiki-a-thon. As the Teaching Assistant for the class, I coordinated the event. Coming together at 9am, the class of ten organized themselves across the room. For three hours, we diligently worked on a diverse array of Wikipedia pages.

One student, who was working on professional female athlete’s pages, remarked that she was surprised how much of the information on some of the pages was inaccurate. She promptly got started on correcting these errors. The students quickly learned how to add citations to pages, and how to reference their sources. In only a few hours, students made dozens of corrections, drafted pages for women without Wikipedia pages in their sandboxes, and, most importantly, people were enthusiastic about the Wikipedia editing process.

Partway through the Wiki-a-thon, students began collaborating amongst a bounty of Trader Joe’s snacks. People started pairing or teaming up, as they were working on similar projects. One student recommended an archive of women’s history to a small group that was searching for sources, and many helped each other out with the technical questions that arose from editing Wikipedia. This organic collaboration and teamwork reminded me a lot of FemTechNet’s purpose.

FemTechNet’s feminist pedagogy supports connected learning that effectively links different areas of knowledge and ways of learning. I observed this Wiki party in a different way as a TA than when I participated as a student new to the project last spring, I was happy to see connected learning principles come to life. The atmosphere of the room was open and curious, while at the same time, rigorous and focused.

When noon rolled around, students were reluctant to leave, apologizing that they had to get to their next class. A few students stayed well into their lunch period, excitedly planning how they would move forward with their Wiki work. Thanks to this Wiki-a-thon, a young, fierce Seattle-based female rapper will soon have a Wikipedia page that showcases her career and work. Thanks to the work of one of our students, the Miss Saigon page will have a more balanced representation of the political controversy that is quickly gaining notice. In a relatively short amount of time, ten students got serious work done.

The students will continue their Wikipedia work for a couple more months, choosing to focus their efforts in areas that specifically interest them personally. When it comes time for each student to submit a reflection on their work (these will be posted on the FTN Commons, by the way), I have no doubt that their contributions will be hugely inspiring.

In a recent grant application that I wrote on behalf of FemTechNet, I noted: “FemTechNet involves students as leaders, offering them the unique opportunity to help shape the direction this project takes (they are given the option to serve on designated planning boards, alongside faculty), be creative in their coursework (by way of open-ended projects), as well as incorporate their work into widely utilized resources (i.e. Wikipedia).” I can proudly say that FemTechNet continues to stand by these inclusive and welcoming values, as a student TA who witnesses young undergrad students integrating their scholarship into huge repositories of knowledge such as Wikipedia.