Brandywine students contribute to international wiki

This semester, an Earth 100 (GN) Environmental Earth course taught by Laura Guertin, professor of earth sciences, at Penn State Brandywine will be the first undergraduate university course to generate pages on the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Wiki, one for each of her 30 students.

“I think this project is a great opportunity for students to learn more about a particular earth science topic in which they are interested, as well as showcase their work beyond just handing in something to me,” Guertin said.  “There is a world out there looking for reliable geoscience content on the Web, and the work of my students is contributing to this valuable resource and making it happen.”

This January, Guertin was approached by SEG, who knew her background was in marine geology and geophysics and that she was a blogger for the American Geophysical Union (AGU) on geoscience education and educational technology. Guertin said they were looking for ways to support faculty work and have faculty incorporate the SEG Wiki into their courses.

Over the summer, Guertin worked with two undergraduate students, Judy Smith and Stamatina Mattie Mylonas, who created several geology and geophysics 101 wiki pages.

According to Guertin, she found the SEG Wiki project to be a great fit for her EARTH 100 course after working with Smith and Mylonas over the summer.

At the beginning of the semester, SEG Wiki editor Andrew Geary and SEG digital publications manager Isaac Farley held a videoconference, via, with Guertin’s students to share the background and history of SEG and the SEG Wiki, and informed them that their wiki work will actually be used and read by others.

According to Guertin, it was very important that her students were able to virtually meet and talk with the organization that will benefit from the wiki pages they create.

Guertin said she expects more than 30 new pages to be created on the SEG Wiki’s Geology 101 page by Thanksgiving, as her two summer student researchers are still creating wiki pages. Topics for the pages will range from permafrost to pollution.

“The end result will be enhancing the SEG Wiki with quality geoscience content, but more importantly, it is the learning process the students are going through - how to find quality sources, how to author a wiki article on a science topic for a general audience, and knowing that what they are doing is important, appreciated, and will make a difference for students, instructors, and professionals across the globe.” Guertin said.

In the project’s first several weeks, Guertin said she is having her students use Zotero, a digital research tool. Guertin teamed up with research and instructional librarian Nina Clements, who she had worked with in previous courses, to teach the students how to properly evaluate online sources in several key areas: credibility, relevance, authority, and purpose.

Afterward, students began to use Zotero to write annotations of the articles they had gathered to help them generate an annotated bibliography, which will aid them in writing the content for their wiki pages, Guertin said. Students will also be given a tutorial on wiki commands needed to create and edit a wiki page.

Students in Guertin’s course have been excited to work on the SEG Wiki.

Drew Sadik, an IST major, is one student who has been enjoying the opportunity to create content for the SEG Wiki.

“I will have written a ridiculous number of research papers by the time I finish my education here at Penn State; just the opportunity to use my research to create content that is new and unique is exciting,” Sadik said. “The fact that the content I create through my research will be accessible through the SEG Wiki by kids, teachers, and other users of the site for years to come puts a new meaning to the work I'm doing.”

When asked if he had any concerns about creating a wiki page, Sadik said he did not as he has coded programs and websites. He said he is very grateful that SEG and Guertin trust him and the other students in the course to create reliable content that will be used to educate others.

Liberal arts and sciences major Melanie Kempf said Guertin has been very helpful with every aspect of the project.

“I feel very privileged, and ecstatic to create content for the SEG Wiki,” Kempf said. “It is something very new and interesting to learn about.”

George Kotsiras, a communications major, has used Zotero in the past and said the project has been running smoothly for him.

“I feel honored to be able to partake in such a helpful learning experience,” Kotsiras said. “I am enjoying the idea of giving back and contributing to the science community and providing information that others can learn from and use whenever it is needed. “

Guertin said she plans to continue this project in Earth 100 in the spring semester.

“I couldn't be more proud of their success and the greater impact they are having beyond my classroom - in essence, their contribution to digital engaged scholarship,” Guertin said about her students.