No laughing matter: my experience as a Wikipedia visiting scholar at ACPA screenshot of Jackie Koerner: Wikipedia Visiting Scholar at SFSU

Wednesday night I got home from a higher education convention I attend each year. ACPA is an international organization for higher education personnel. Beyond an annual convention each March, ACPA provides professional development opportunities and various publications.

Last year, I attended the ACPA convention as a PhD candidate and graduate assistant at Saint Louis University. I graduated with my PhD in August 2016.

This year, I attended convention as an independent researcher and visiting scholar with San Francisco State University’s Longmore Institute on Disability. On the daily, I do independent research, submit my articles to publications, and I edit Wikipedia. In editing Wikipedia, I use sources available to me through SFSU to improve content on Wikipedia. I focus on disability topics, whether it’s culture, history, or adjusting bias in existing content.

For the 2017 ACPA convention I was a program review coordinator on the organizing committee. I also presented an educational session about attitudinal bias in disability and career. I also gave a PechaKucha talk about mental health and graduate programs. I was stoked!

That was, until I had a crowd of hundreds of people laughing at me.

It all started Saturday morning at a council meeting for the leadership of the state chapters. I talked about the work I was doing with San Francisco State University’s Longmore Institute on Disability and Wikipedia. At first, I was a little skeptical of talking about what I was doing in my group of professional peers, considering the mixed bag of responses I have received when talking about Wikipedia in the Midwest. The thirty plus people in the room thought this was pretty cool. I was super excited by their responses! I thought, “Yes! They get it!”

Then on Tuesday, I was presenting in a session with two of my colleagues (and friends) about attitudinal bias about disabilities in career. I mentioned media representation of self-hate of people with disabilities as an overwhelming theme, especially in movies. I mentioned Million Dollar Baby as an example, and noted although I had not seen it, I had read about its problematic plot on Wikipedia. A man in a suit seated at the front table loudly yelled, “HA!” I started at his outburst, then I laid out the logic for him. I told him numerous scholars are on Wikipedia, and commented on how funny it was he was attending a session about attitudinal bias and scoffing at Wikipedia. He turned red and continued mumbling under his breath lamenting the “problems” of Wikipedia. In interest of time, I continued with my presentation intending to catch up with him after the session. He left before I could greet him and hand him my card. The guy, however, was lucky enough to sit behind me in a later session, where I was able to continue my clarification about Wikipedia. His only concession was that maybe it “has gotten better” and a shoulder shrug.

That night, I prepared myself to go on stage to deliver a talk to a crowd of hundreds of people about mental health and graduate education. The evening’s M.C. mentioned I edit Wikipedia in my introduction. The crowd laughed. It was like they were watching slapstick or some incredibly funny cat video.

It hurt. It really hurt. After I got off stage, I posted this thread on Twitter:

No one responded, but some other Wikipedians retweeted my posts.

Evidently we still have some work to do educating educators about education. Sadly, those educators in the room did not know that very likely they had people at their educational institutions using Wikipedia in their courses. When I say use, I mean assigning editing Wikipedia as the course assignments, watching emerging events unfold as civic learning, and learning to engage in the scholarly community by learning to debate and support their arguments (and more…). Oh, and it’s been shown educators teaching with Wikipedia have students who achieve the course learning goals. (See “Read more…” below)

So, I want to hear it: what are your thoughts about Wikipedia? Why do you feel this way? I want to hear from academics, educators, scholars, and from other Wikipedians!

Read more…

Wikipedia community suggested practices about students editing as assignments

Editing Wikipedia is becoming a class assignment

Teach with Wikipedia

How to use Wikipedia as a teaching tool

Case Studies: How professors are teaching with Wikipedia

Wikis and Wikipedia as a teaching tool: Five years later

I’m an academic and I use Wikipedia

Ok, friends, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. It’s time to move on. Everybody does it. I’ve seen colleagues do much worse. We all secretly do it, but are sure our colleagues will judge us for it.

I am an academic and I read and contribute to Wikipedia.

No one has unfriended me. I don’t have to wear a scarlet W around campus. I have kept my honors. Heck, I even am a visiting scholar because I contribute to Wikipedia.

Why am I saying this?

Because tonight I read a study about a study completed at two public Spanish universities (Aibar, E., Lladós-Masllorens, J., Meseguer-Artola, A., Minguillón, J., & Lerga, M. (2014). Wikipedia at university: what faculty think and do about it. The Electronic Library. 33(4). 668-683. doi: 10.1108/EL-12-2-2013-0217) – both relatively new and one of them was online only. The faculty used Wikipedia but only for subjects that were not in their primary field. Academics in STEM fields were more comfortable using Wikipedia for their scholarship and teaching. “So-called soft-science academics” were more skeptical.

Oh, my fellow social scientists, own up to it. You use Wikipedia. If you don’t, you should. What does this say about your bias? Go on. Go reflect on your actions and if your actions of judging Wikipedia/cloaking your true feelings are 1. valid and 2. really working toward the Truth we seek on the daily.

Did you know your students could learn in a collaborative environment where you don’t have to force inorganic collaboration? Pedagogical application is receiving mixed reviews in the literature. Why? Because many of those respondents are simply theorizing on how teaching with Wikipedia would be based on their assumptions about what Wikipedia is.

Wikipedia is “a new and powerful channel for the public communication of science.” Isn’t that what we want? Someone to read our work and to further scholarship? What are you waiting for? Give contributing to Wikipedia a chance, and what do you know, you might even let your hair down and teach with it next semester!

I’ll even volunteer to get you started.

Don’t be fooled by token diversity

Last night I had a chat and dinner with other area educators (thanks, Sherita Love of ExpandED Equity Collaborative for hosting). We talked about the opportunity gap and perpetuated bias. Such a valuable conversation and because of it I am growing. I thank and value everyone who attended last night and shared their challenges, experiences, and knowledge. I keep trying to think of possible solutions to some of these issues. I was thinking the whole drive home and I had a horrible night of sleep because my mind kept going. So, this morning, here is what I have come up with:

The opportunity gap and bias will remain unless people with deep appreciation of the issues perpetuating the gap and bias are continually invested in closing the gap and affecting bias.

Subterfuge may be the only way to get people, unaware of the true plight the gap creates, to participate in efforts of closing the gap. Many still think the gap is a novelty. It is very real. And it’s hurting us all. When, for instance, qualified student teachers request placement in districts with little to no ethnic or racial diversity, they are doing a disservice to their personal growth and their potential as part of the solution to the opportunity gap. Shouldn’t they want to grow to support all students?

Growth is uncomfortable. That’s what makes it a process. Many of the privileged cannot say they have had true life challenges due to the opportunity gap. Society, however, suffers at the continuation of the opportunity gap. The potential of every person affected by the opportunity gap is altered artificially by a system they did not start. None of us started it, but those of us who benefit from it, it’s certainly ours to join in ending.

There is no one solution to close the opportunity gap. This is a complex social problem. In order to truly appreciate the effect caution the gap and the effects of the gap on people and society, witnessing is key. Articles and books can share the essence of experience, and the effects are often fleeting, but the true impact of personally witnessing the system of oppression is lasting.

I am constantly reminded of my first experience as an adult witnessing the oppression of a child due to someone’s implicit bias. My role was to volunteer in the classroom. A little boy with a name that started with “N” was so brilliant. I just loved watching him and listening to him. Kids are just so fascinating to watch as they make their meaning of the world. To me, his giftedness was obvious, but to his teacher, his skin color precipitated his abilities. Why? She had not had her implicit bias challenged earlier in her life. Now “N” was receiving the effects of her ignorance.

At only 6, he was being told he was being told no matter his aptitude, he would never be good enough. What a stark contrast to the white children being pushed into every special program, activity, or school by their parents regardless of their aptitude.

No child should be left behind their potential, but also no child should have to shoulder greatness. The successful student should not be paraded like a show pony to prove the opportunity gap doesn’t exist. These are children and showcasing them for the sake of marketing is just gross. I frequently think about the pictures on many suburban school district websites, including every “diverse” child they can in the shot. This shows a fake picture of the population and suggests the student body is more diverse than it really is. This false image of diversity lulls adults into an incorrect belief that we are beyond inequality; that is elsewhere, but not here. Yes, here. Especially here.

People get slightly ruffled when I say “white” area, school, etc. I know they are “predominately white” but I just don’t see anything being included but the physical bodies of people of different ethnicities, races, or religions. Where are we talking about their specific needs much less addressing them? Where are we teaching all of the children about equality and multiculturalism? Where are we truly including everyone? Are we even open and inviting so people feel welcome in our community?

This year during Black History Month, I encourage you to not only consume the arts and history created by the African American community, and cherished people now passed, but really engage with it. Truly go deep into the meaning and examine the pieces. You will see much farther into the solution of the opportunity gap by appreciating not only the diversity, but striving to see multiculturalism.

Read more…

90 cities, one road and a whole lot of laws, We Live Here

Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America must do to give every student a chance

10 Reasons Why Building Multicultural Competence in College Matters

I’m a visiting scholar!


I am very excited to announce I was selected to be a visiting scholar with San Francisco State University. The goal of my position is to use the library resources available to me through SFSU to improve content on Wikipedia regarding disability. This includes art, culture, history, and so much more. The directors at the Longmore Institute already created a list of potential topics for me to examine.

Here’s the information about the role:

Historian and activist Paul K. Longmore founded the Institute on Disability at SFSU in 1996. When he passed away in 2010, the university created an endowment for the Institute and renamed it in his honor. It undertakes projects that work to challenge prevailing notions and stereotypes of disability by showcasing disabled people’s strength, ingenuity, and originality. Its public education and cultural events connect the Bay Area’s vibrant disability communities and the general public with faculty and students at SF State to fight disability stigma with disability culture.

Already I have so much to add! I am using my old pal, Scrivener, to collect the information before I make edits. I love Scrivener’s functions, which allow me to search my literature research notes, which will ultimately allow me to improve numerous articles with each source I find.

Oh! Did you know you can edit Wikipedia too? It not only helps build and improve the free, quality knowledge available on the Internet, it’s a great free time activity too – addictive, and habit-forming, but [generally] not harmful to your health. 🙂 Feel free to see what I’m up to on Wikipedia.

Graduation Celebration

A picture of all the lovely cards my friends and family gave me.

When my defense date was scheduled, Chris suggested having a graduation celebration at a local restaurant. I am not one to celebrate my accomplishments, but I thought, “I do miss my friends.” Being in a Ph.D. program is isolating. Finally now after five years, I get to rejoin society. 🙂 <smile>

Chris found this little family-owned restaurant near South City. It was so nice. The service was great. The food was great. They were so accommodating! If you’re in St. Louis, go eat there. It looks so unassuming from the outside, but it’s a wonderful place to eat or have a large party.

Thank you to everyone who was able to make it out that evening. Sorry some of you could not make it. We need to meet for a coffee date. It was wonderful to get to see all the new little someones in our group and enjoy a meal without worrying about how much time I was spending away from my research and writing.

I always am the worst at receiving gifts, because I never expect anything and feel guilt when receiving gifts. Maybe this stems from my shyness. I’m outgoing unless the attention is on me, the person. In spite of my shy awkwardness around gift receiving, some of my friends and family were so gracious to give me cards, a coffee mug, flowers, money gifts, Star Wars nerdery, and wine.

Because of my guilt I feel when receiving gifts (I know, weird, right?), I always want to make sure I’m very responsible in buying items with gift cards and money. I thought very hard over the past week-and-a-half about what would be good to buy with the money gifts.

First I thought books, but then I figured the local library has a great selection of books and eBooks, and my bookshelf space is already “inappropriately overstuffed.” (I’ll own that one.) So, no on books.

Previously, I purchased my graduation regalia with a money gift from my parents and the bank of moi. (This is lovingly known around the house as my Pokemon outfit. Mom is evolving.)

This gift I would buy needed to be something practical and really applicable for where this degree took me.

For the past five years, I have been using a hand-me-down desk chair from my parents.

A picture of the old faithful chair and poor Jack Skellington

This desk chair was purchased when my family bought a new home computer when I was 13 – it was 1995. Because the foam in the seat is now worn out and the bolts are now just under the fabric, I sit on a Jack Skellington pillow. Sorry, Jack.

Considering now I will be doing a lot of academic coaching, independent research, and writing, thus working from home, Chris suggested it was time for a new desk chair. I searched, and read, and debated. The Steelcase Gesture did have the best reviews everywhere I searched. But did I really want to drop that much on a chair? The last desk chair I purchased was in 2000 for $99. Bless that thing for lasting 11 years. And, arguably, this current chair has lived a healthy 21 years and it was more than $99 when my parents bought it. If this new chair lasts that long, it would only be 13 cents a day. Please understand, I am not used to spending money on myself.

After hearing my debates for the past week, and giving an unknown number of exasperated responses, Chris told me to “get over it.” Heeding my famous advice, last night I closed my eyes, and pushed the “Submit Order Now” button. My new desk chair will arrive Thursday. Appropriately, I ordered the chair in same blue as the velvet on my graduation regalia, signifying Education. It’ll help me take on the complexities of the state of education.

I am so fortunate to have such caring family and friends to help over the past few years, patiently ignore my absence, and help celebrate my accomplishments. Thank you.

If you want to come attend my hooding ceremony and watch me evolve into a Ph.D. graduate while in my Pokemon outfit, it’ll be the 18th of May, 2017.

Separate St. Louis education is not equal

By Tom Murphy VII (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Old book bindings at the Merton College library, by Tom Murphy VIILicensed under Creative Commons
The racial division of St. Louis is clearly illustrated by young families in St. Louis. Young families close to having kids leave their brick bungelows in the city for homes nestled in suburban school districts. The usual targets are Lindbergh, Parkway, or Rockwood, the bigger, well-funded of the area. Brentwood, Kirkwood, Ladue, and Webster Groves, smaller, but still well-funded, also make the list.

The house hunt for these families goes something like this: 3 bedroom, maybe 4, 2 bathroom, big backyard for junior, 2 car garage. Older, charming cottage? Oh, yes! But only after we complete the St. Louis County lead-abatement program.

For the families who stay, their children mostly attend private schools or better-funded charter or magnet schools over the neighborhood schools. There are the families who choose to have their kids attend the neighborhood schools. But that’s just it. They have a choice.

Choice is a privilege many people forget they have. Others are acutely aware that they don’t have that privilege.

The other families who have to stay, usually their kids have to attend their neighborhood schools. They have to. There is no choice. They don’t get that privilege.

Why is this a problem? Public schools rely on property taxes for funding. If you live in, say, Ladue, your property taxes are higher than those of Webster Groves, and those are higher than those of Fenton, and those, while lower, generate more income than those property taxes in St. Louis City.

Here are some examples. These are actual property tax figures from 2015. All the homes used were approximately the same size:

Fenton:                   $7572.27
St. Louis City:         $8159.71
Webster Groves:     $9329.12
Ladue:                     $15,961.37

Ladue arguably comes out on top. St. Louis City is near the bottom, but population, household income, etc. affect paid property taxes thus affect school funding.

St. Louis City is pretty small. People usually work there and go home to the suburbs. Our night life isn’t huge. Many properties are vacant, or the families have trouble paying for groceries, so why would they be able to paid their annual taxes? Only property tax funding that gets paid gets paid to the schools.

Read more about how school funding’s reliance on property taxes fails children from NPR and how your own school stacks up. Find out how Brittany Packnett is tackling the education problem here in St. Louis from all angles.

There are children in our community not receiving the education the St. Louis community can afford. We are failing them. We are failing our future.

On top of the lack of funding, the SLPS students are being poisoned with IQ-robbing lead in the drinking water. This is all happening while the children a 20-minute drive away are getting decadence added to their Fiji-water education: the water fountain returns as a metaphor for division in St. Louis.

We treat city and county as separate. They are very unequal. It’s no wonder why education inequality thrives here.

My question is, why wouldn’t the people who can afford to donate to education want to donate somewhere where the funds can make a huge difference? Wouldn’t they want to be that kind of a hero?

Education Coffee Chat

Yesterday I had a great chat with fellow educator, Sherita Love. I met Sherita at Venture Cafe a couple of weeks ago where she put together a panel of other talented educators. This panel spoke about the education inequalities and in the area and what they were doing to examine and affect the problem.

The panel only was able to chat shortly because the audience felt they needed a forum to speak. We need to have roundtables here in St. Louis to talk about education and the awesome programs working to impact education. Sherita is making sure more forums for conversations are open, but people interested in chatting about education need to attend. The best collaborations and ideas can come out of the most unexpected places.

At our coffee chat, Sherita and I talked about some of the needs in the St. Louis area. We talked about assumptions, college readiness (& awareness), education diversity, parent advocacy, transition planning, volunteering, etc. We also talked about cool stuff happening around the St. Louis area to affect education. One such cool thing is the organization Sherita co-founded with another great educator: GLAMM. This is just one of the many cool projects and programs happening around the area. See how you can get involved!

There will be plenty of upcoming conversations about education happening in St. Louis. I’ll post about them here, but would love to see you there! Education is everyone’s right and everyone’s responsibility. Think about how you can make a change in someone’s education. It may be small to you, but huge to them.

Black Lives Matter

Black lives matter. They do. And, to those of you immediately with your hackles raised, all of our lives do matter. But people already know white lives matter. No one is denying white people education, jobs, or the right to live. People need to understand all lives matter, so we need to focus on the lives currently at risk and not receiving equal treatment.

I am hurt by what I see on the news and read all over the Internet. I cry for my friends who have fears I can never fix. I decided that I need to quit having a pity party and do something about it. I am submitting a conference proposal to present to my fellow educators about Black Lives Matter. I hope to explain it in a context that people will understand. I hope to change some minds.

Black Lives Matter is not just about police brutality. It is much more complicated than that. There are racial disparities in all areas of life. From birth, black and brown children are treated differently. They are raised to be extra polite and kind and respectful. But why? Do their parents want to have well-behaved kids? Yes, but this isn’t a desire, it’s a survival skill. This is not just about interaction with police. Black students are more likely to be suspended and expelled – even at the preschool level.

Outside of this, there are education disparities which lead to more social problems. Schools have fewer resources. Not all parents can help with homework – maybe they are working or their education failed to prepare them. Perhaps children have to work in their teens to help provide for the family, or watch other family members while someone else works. When then do they get to do their homework? Or have a job to save for their future? What job will they get? Certainly not one at the same rate of pay or comfort as a white teen.

Do you see where this is going? It’s a cyclical social problem. Most are. To fix this, we need to break the cycle. How do we do that? By recognizing black lives matter. Don’t just tweet it, but actually get out there and do something about the racial inequalities in your town. Have a discussion. Challenge someone’s beliefs. Stand up for what is right.

Free Knowledge, Inquire Within

You use Wikipedia. But did you know it’s not just good for giving you fingertip access to factoids? The movement is much more than that. There are some pretty big goals.

Sometimes we take access to to quality, bias-free information for granted. Not everyone in the world has that luxury. But you can help make a change.

Get involved
Anyone can. You don’t have to be an expert or a jack-of-all-trades. You can start by cleaning up grammar on existing articles. Or take on bigger tasks.

If you haven’t watched the video above, do. It sounds so silly, but I get so excited when I think about how much information is given and received each day. What a gift! Donate today to give the gift of knowledge to everyone.

To find out more about all things wiki, come join me and others at the St. Louis Wiknic on July 10.

5 Essential Questions in Life

Today I watched Dean Ryan’s speech at Harvard Graduate School of Education’s commencement. He’s right. These five questions are essential.

Wait, what?
It is an effective way to ask for clarification. Pause and think about what you are doing. Are you doing it for the right reasons? “Importance of inquiry over advocacy.” So many of us are so excited to make an impact, we forget to stop and think about what the community/students/<insert stakeholders here> need and wants. Slow down and ask with an open mind.

I wonder…?
As we move from childhood into adulthood, we tend to lose our curiosity. We think we must have a definitive answer for everything the instant we are broached with a question. This question encourages curiosity and wonderment. Take a moment and admire the world you hope to change and wonder.

Couldn’t we at least…?
This is something we use to move forward, either when we are at an impasse or if we are not sure where to go. This question can be helpful in negotiations where there isn’t alignment. It is also helpful to get a heading when you don’t know your destination. A good start to fixing a problem, or a great start to an investigation.

How can I help?
A very curious thing that was told to me once by Sister Jay: “Service is not selfless.” What she meant was our actions are not all selfless. We get something out of doing service, perhaps good feelings or recognition of good deeds, and we need to recognize that. We need to be sure our desire to help does not get in the way of helping. Be sure the help is in the manner in which the community/students/<stakeholders> need or want. “Be aware of the Savior complex. Don’t let the real pitfalls extinguish one of the most humane acts. How we help matters as much as we do help.”

What truly matters?
At the end of the day, what matters to you? To society? For students? Dive deep and ask questions to find out what is at the heart of everything: beliefs, curriculum, habits, learning outcomes, practices, etc.

Finally, there is a bonus question:
And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so…?
When choosing to live every day, ask these questions often. You will find yourself both “cherished and respected.” Lead a life of passion, and you will inevitably answer this question with, “I did.”