GLAM/Case studies/The Children's Museum of Indianapolis/Student article creation

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MAPs students improving articles.

The Wikipedian-in-Residence developed a public program with middle and high school students in the already established Museum Apprentice Program at The Children's Museum. The students worked in teams to research notable objects in the museum’s collection, learned how to edit in Wikipedia, and contributed their research to new articles. This project resulted in five new articles and an abundance of evaluative material to be used in future research on Wikipedia as a 21st century research tool in museum programming.

The MAPs program combined the Wikipedian-in-Residence’s background in integrating Wikipedia in classroom settings with the need for the museum to share their research content without overburdening the staff with digitization efforts. The group was made up of 33 highly motivated middle and high school students that had been chosen through an application-based process to participate in a year-long program with the museum that includes volunteer opportunities and exhibit-related community service projects. They were divided into five teams of 6-7 students of mixed ages, with each team researching one iconic object in the collection.


Notable Object Selection & Research[edit]

The Wikipedian-in-Residence worked with the director of web, as well as collections and public programs staff, to establish the five objects to be researched, ensuring that they met Wikipedia’s notability guidelines and had sufficient published sources for research. Staff from all areas of the museum, including public programs, collections, and school services, assisted in gathering background information and published research for the MAP students. As part of the research process, the teams of students visited the exhibits for their objects and took notes on their display. They also met with experts throughout the museum to understand what big points to include in the article and to clarify questions that had arisen in their research.

Team Collaboration[edit]

Within each team the students chose from a list of roles that focused on different aspects of the project. Each team included a Wikipedia leader, a Wikipedia assistant, a Progress Reporter, a Bibliography Leader, a Research Leader and a Research Assistant. Roles were clearly defined, establishing order in their research methods throughout the weeks. The Wikipedian-in-Residence created a detailed guide that combined Wikipedia policies and tutorials with steps tailored to their specific project. The guide was broken up into four sections to correspond with the four meetings that work was completed, working from learning the basics of Wikipedia policies, to editing in a Sandbox, to moving their articles live. Only the Wikipedia Leader and Wikipedia Assistant were expected to understand the Wikipedia editing process, although they shared the steps and information with the entire team as they learned it. These two members of each team created their own personal Wikipedia accounts, worked their way through the guides and tutorials, and ultimately created articles and added the research content that the rest of the team had written and organized. They utilized the RefTools function to include their sources easily, without having to understand detailed Wikipedia reference code.


Personal Meaning Mapping charts were used as a form of pre- and post-project evaluation. On the first day of the project students were asked to create a thought web that illustrated “what they knew about Wikipedia.” Staff then used a different color pen to make notes on their Meaning Map, sitting individually with students and asking them to clarify their points. These were then set aside until the final day of the project, where students used a third color pen to add to their Meaning Map, with the prompt “What do you now know about Wikipedia?” Staff clarified their points with a fourth pen color. Preliminary results of the evaluation can be seen here. Many students expressed points about the reliability of Wikipedia, their surprise in the intricacies of adding content, and the role of Wikipedia in the classroom and in society. Students also wrote reflective blog posts about the process of the project, many neglecting the lack of time that they had to spend on it. The most surprising result of the project was the students’ prolonged dedication and their understanding of the importance of their work. The students believed that they were making a difference by compiling the research and contributing to Wikipedia.


Nearly every student seemed to have been impacted by the project and came out with a renewed understanding of what it means to “use” Wikipedia. This is on top of the fact that they produced five new articles in Wikipedia that allowed a much wider, virtual audience to learn about the museum’s objects. In fact, one article, the Reuben Wells locomotive, became a Did You Know and received 5.5 thousand page views.