Tuesday, June 10, 2014

5th graders help make the web less biased!

During 5th grade information literacy classes, students learned about The Geographically Uneven Coverage of Wikipedia. As the Oxford University researchers wrote, after examining "44 language versions" of Wikipedia, they found that, "slightly more than half of the global total of 3,336,473 articles are about places, events and people... occupying only about 2.5% of the world’s land area."

They also read and discussed, Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List, which described how "Wikipedia’s contributor base... was barely 13 percent women" and how "the gender disparity often shows up in terms of emphasis" with traditionally female topics getting far less attention.

I challenged students to explain why we should care and got some great answers. In their own words, a biased resource:

  • lets people down when they need information because it's incomplete
  • isn't good for the social environment (building respect between people from different groups)
  • is unfair - we should have respect for the importance of all topics regardless of gender and geography
  • is wrong because people's interests aren't limited by gender

The next step was that they had to come up with a topic that would help correct one or both biases - geographic and gender - for which there was no article or only a stub (something too short) in Simple English Wikipedia. This is the version of Wikipedia for younger readers and English language learners.

Next they researched their topic using high quality sources, wrote articles, and created proper citations. For our final class they got to read and comment on one another's work.

I hope you'll take the time to click on a few of the links below and appreciate all their hard work! They chose a great range of interesting subjects and have the satisfaction of knowing that they've helped to make Wikipedia a bit less biased.

Original articles by our 5th graders:
Charlie - Albert Pujols
Elina – Marjane Satrapi
Finn - Aztec mythology
Ishan – Wilma Rudolph
Katherine - Gracie Gold
Logan - Ruby Bridges
Lucy - Mikaela Shiffrin
Nate - Malagasy language
Quincy - Kazu Kibuishi
Sage – Alfredo Stroessner
Sofia – Sharon Creech
Stella - Misty May-Treanor
Thomas - Jean Fritz
Tyler – Iditarod

Articles our students added to:
Adam – Diego Maradona
Bram – David Ben-Gurion
Olivia - Eartha Kitt
Samantha - Barbara Ann Scott
Sena – Lionel Messi 
Sydney - Shel Silverstein

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