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Statistics Education and Wikipedia

The summer before my freshman year of college I discovered Wikipedia. I had known about and used it for some time before (I thought the list of events, births, deaths, etc. for each day was both novel and fascinating), but I really discovered it through finally editing and contributing. Photographs, copy editing, mundane tasks. I performed them all and then some. What I did not do, however, was contribute meaningful content in the form of articles (new articles or expansions of existing ones). Once college began, the flurry of editing I had done stopped. A typo here, a broken link there, but I was no longer considered myself an editor of Wikipedia.

What I did still do was use Wikipedia (as so many millions of others do). For everything from linguistics to parts of the automobile, Wikipedia remained in my life. Of course, one should not cite Wikipedia, but it was a fantastic place to get a quick, broad overview of a topic and to find more search terms to use. When I tried this same technique with concepts in my new field (Statistics Education for those of you just tuning in), Wikipedia began to turn up empty. When it didn't turn up empty, the articles related to statistics and education (usually separate) were rarely adequate. I decided to do something about it.

Now, I haven't done much yet (in the grand scheme of things), but I am actively contributing to Wikipedia again. Some stuff has changed since 2006, but not all that much. I've even met a fine chap who goes by the name of Statistisfactions that is also pursuing Statistics Education and has similar interests to me! Oh, Wikipedia. (He also runs a pretty neat blog that I had discovered independently of his Wikipedia user page, so that is worth checking out.)

Right now, there isn't much to show for 'it all,' but there is plenty of time. I view editing Wikipedia as engaging in the Scholarship of Service (from Boyer's Domains of Scholarship, a model that my department adopted some years back). Wikipedia's power to inform the public and possibly shape discussions is tremendous, and I don't want to sit by idly while others write the story of Statistics Education. (Of course, avoiding conflicts of interest, self-promotion, and other related issues that arise from writing about one's own field is on my mind. I don't think it is that big of an issue for the time being.)

A few final notes on a long overdue post: I'm trying to be productive while procrastinating this year, and I think I can do a lot worse than watching TED talks, editing Wikipedia, and doing this blog. Also, hello to the 130 visitors this website had on Valentine's Day from Palo Alto. Anyone care to share why I was so popular then? (I only had 151 visitors total that day, and that is an order of magnitude more than I usually have.)

 

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