Have you tried the new Wikipedia Visual Editor?

One of the things that keeps some people from making a quick edit to Wikipedia is unfamiliarity with the HTML markup code. It isn’t hard, especially if you do some of their great tutorials, but you can also use their new visual editor.  I got this email from Helaine Blumenthal who explains it all:

Throughout the month of August, the Wikimedia Foundation (the nonprofit that runs Wikipedia’s software) began to automatically enable a Visual EditorIMG_7652 for new accounts. Wikipedia accounts created during the month of August may or may not have the Visual Editor enabled; all accounts created after September 3 should have it enabled.

The Visual Editor enables students to edit articles like they would in a word processing software, rather than requiring wikicode. In tests we did last spring, students who enabled the Visual Editor found it extremely useful; therefore, we recommend that all students enable it before trying to edit Wikipedia.

Because you created your course page before September 3, some of your students may have the Visual Editor enabled and some may not. We suggest you forward this email to your students and encourage them to check if they have Visual Editor turned on; if they do not, we encourage them to turn it on.

Here’s how to tell if you have it enabled:
1. Log in to Wikipedia.
2. Look at the tabs on the right side of the editing interface. If you have “Read,” “Edit source,” “Edit,” and “View History” tabs, you have the Visual Editor enabled. You do not need to do anything else.
3. If your tabs say “Read,” “Edit,” and “View history”, you do not have the Visual Editor enabled, and we recommend that you turn it on.

To turn the Visual Editor on:
1. Log in to Wikipedia.
2. In the upper left part of your screen, after your username, click “Preferences”.
3. Click the tab that says “Beta features”.
4. Check the box that says “Visual editing.”
5. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Save.”

Wikipedia is doing a lot to make teaching with Wikipedia easier and more educational. I find it really powerful for teaching. My students’ first big assignment, adding 1200 words to a page on a bee, or starting a new page was just due. Can’t wait to see how they did!

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About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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