This school year, dozens of professors from across the country gave students an unexpected assignment: Write Wikipedia entries about public policy issues.
The Wikimedia Foundation, which supports the Web site, organized the project in an effort to bulk up the decade-old online encyclopedia’s coverage of topics ranging from the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 to Sudanese refugees in Egypt. Such issues have been treated on the site in much less depth than TV shows, celebrity biographies and other elements of pop culture.
Granted, on topics which have political implications Wikipedia is dominated by left-leaning people who slant their coverage. In spite of that Wikipedia has a lot of useful knowledge. Turning otherwise wasted student labor writing papers into more enduring intellectual products is a step forward.
This idea of harnessing students to create intellectual products of enduring value seems like it could be applied to projects outside of Wikipedia's domain. Students could get practice doing work more like the real world and create useful work products rather than assignments that immediately get thrown out.
Most obvious: computer science students could on real world problems that are usually neglected. For example, computer science students could develop regression test suites for Linux device drivers and other Linux services or for gcc glibc library functions. Ditto for other open source projects. Students could develop test suites for scripting languages such as Ruby, Perl, Python, PHP. They could also develop test suites for security in browsers, important server apps, and desktop apps.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2011 May 31 10:44 PM Education Online|