Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Wikipedia is Bad?!"

The other day a note came home from one of my kids teachers explaining a research project. In it they gave some guidelines for how the students should be conducting on-line research. The note was not in depth, a few short notes about using different search engines such as google or yahoo, not terribly helpful. I assume most of the teaching occurred in the classroom.

One particular statement on the note caught my attention. The statement said, "Wikipedia is bad, anyone can edit." I wrote a note back that said I believed that they did not quite understand the worth and significance of wikipedia as a tool and as a symbol of 21st century learning. I offered to provide them with information to support that statement and refute theirs and to come to their class and to talk to the students about the nature of wikipedia and 21st century learning.

I know of many teachers who routinely dismiss wikipedia as not to be trusted. This drives me crazy as I think so much can be learned from it as outlined in many books on 21st century learning. I decided to do some quick googling and to list the reasons wikipedia is extremely important and successful. Here I go.

  1. collaborative construction of truth

  2. as accurate and reliable as traditional sources (Nature magazine)

  3. more current

  4. people (adults) use wikipedia first

  5. 15 times the word length of Encyclopedia Brittanica

  6. most successful in world

  7. over 10 million articles in over 233 languages (2007)

  8. goal is the sum of all human knowledge

  9. editable

  10. changing, improving

  11. collaborative vs. proprietary

  12. warnings given when article is in dispute or not referenced properly

  13. not editable if vandalised frequently

  14. perused by thousands for accuracy and mechanics

  15. second most visited site after google

  16. represents a new way of learning and business

  17. many contibute to one article instead of a few

There are possible flaws as there are in traditional sources of information.

Potential Problems

  1. errors

  2. vandalism

  3. lies

  4. writing is not always good or consistent

  5. writing too complex for younger readers

I would love to teach my son's class the pros and cons of using wikipedia. Are you in your classroom?

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