August 10, 2014

Teaching with Wikipedia Watchlists

United States Capitol Building, The National Mall, Washington, DC / Jeffrey Zeldman / CC BY 2.0

Michael Gallagher (, an assistant professor in Seoul, Korea, was inspired by the tweetbot that tweets changes to Wikipedia that come from the IP range of the U.S. Congress. Gallagher’s plan is to ask his students to use Wikipedia’s watchlists to follow a topic… and then to write blog posts based on their observations concerning the authenticity, reliability, and transparency of edits that are made.

So I decided to experiment. I created my own watchlist in Wikipedia. I have placed fractals, Segways, ancient Egypt, Yazidis, and educational technology on my watchlist.

When checking my watchlist I found that I could click on diff to see in context the changes that had occurred… or I could click hist to see a list of all the revisions. It was interesting to see small changes that improved the writing style and larger changes that indicated new or additional knowledge.

Viewing the revisions is a lesson itself. The editors of the topics on my watchlist made changes relating to content, writing style, grammar, and authenticity. Discussion of suggested changes ranged from gentle recommendations and expressions of thanks to passionate sharing of differing opinions.

Watching articles in Wikipedia evolve is an interesting way to learn more about research, collaboration, and the topics being watched. I see many uses for this technique. If you are interested in trying this idea, you may want to read Gallagher’s article ( He describes how to set up your own watchlists and how to organize this project for the classroom.

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