When students write Wikipedia articles about law

Millions of users traffic Wikipedia every month, looking for information on a wide variety of topics. Many of those users then take that information into account when making political and behavioral decisions. That’s why Wiki Education is committed to improving Wikipedia’s coverage of topics relevant to an informed citizenry. Our Future of Facts initiative encourages participants in our programs to improve articles in subject areas like public policy, political science, history, environmental science, sociology, and law.

John Kleefeld’s students at University of Saskatchewan improved and created Wikipedia articles about law topics. By incorporating a Wikipedia assignment into his course, Kleefeld encouraged students to analyze “legal judgments from multiple perspectives—e.g., literary, historical, sociological, political, or jurisprudential”. Teaching with Wikipedia not only engages students in an enriching, new project, but also improves a resource that millions use.

Students worked on a number of articles including the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, a list of court cases involving the association, and judicial review in Canada.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association formed in 1962 to protect and extend civil liberties and human rights. It is a non-partisan charitable society that uses a variety of means to achieve its mission, such as litigation, lobbying, events, and publications. Its lawyers and pro bono counsel work on all levels of Canadian courts and has participated in a number of court cases. Thanks to the student who improved this article, you can find a list of these court cases in a new article that didn’t exist on Wikipedia before this student created it.

Wikipedia’s article about judicial review in Canada also didn’t exist before a student in Kleefeld’s class wrote it. The article describes the intricacies of the judicial review process in Canada, a process which allows individuals to challenge governmental actions and decisions as a protection against abuse of power. The article outlines the basic principles of the concept and key legislation that determines jurisdiction in the application of review. The article also outlines the controversy and differences in opinion surrounding this part of Canadian law.

Students are uniquely positioned to improve Wikipedia as a course assignment. Through their institution, they have access to peer-reviewed research which is normally restricted to the public behind paywalls. Contributing this information to the most accessed online encyclopedia in the world provides Wikipedia’s readers with knowledge to which they may not have otherwise had access. Students become knowledge producers, instead of merely consumers, and they walk away from the assignment with greater skills to identify trustworthy information in their every day lives.

To learn about how you and your students can get involved, visit teach.wikiedu.org or reach out to contact@wikiedu.org.

Header image: File:BCCLA at Vancouver Pride Festival.jpg, Guilhem Vellut, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


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