Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why teachers should embrace Wikipedia

Teachers should stop banning students from using Wikipedia for class work and instead use the site as a tool to teach students how to effectively use Internet resources, according to education-technology blogger Christopher Dawson. Dawson argues that students -- and adults -- already are using Wikipedia, so teachers should show students how to verify what they learn there. Dawson also writes that Wikipedia can be used as a source for class assignments, just as traditional encyclopedias. ZDNet/ZDNet Education blog


  1. I disagree with this. Anyone can upload to wikipedia and the information is not verified before it is posted. For example, I could write that the sky used to be green but since the ozone has started to disappear and as the atmosphere changes it has turned blue and that it will continue slowly fading to purple and eventually, over thousands of years, pink. Throw in some fake sources and someone who doesn't double check their information and that information ends up in someone's mind and eventually in a research paper. Or even worse, someone actually believes it. I don't think wikipedia is a good source for students to use for research and I wouldn't accept in my classroom.

  2. In 2005, CNET News reported that a study conducted by Nature magazine concluded that Wikipedia is as good a source of accurate information as Encyclopedia Britannica. For its study, Nature chose articles from both sites in a wide range of topics and sent them to what it called "relevant" field experts for peer review. The experts then compared the competing articles--one from each site on a given topic--side by side, but were not told which article came from which site. Nature got back 42 usable reviews from its field of experts.

    In the end, the journal found just eight serious errors, such as general misunderstandings of vital concepts, in the articles. Of those, four came from each site. They did, however, discover a series of factual errors, omissions or misleading statements. All told, Wikipedia had 162 such problems, while Britannica had 123. That averages out to 2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia. Encyclopedia Britannica disputed the study, of course.

    Read more:

    As Wikipedia notes, "Because Wikipedia is open to anonymous and collaborative editing, assessments of its reliability usually include examinations of how quickly false or misleading information is removed. An early study conducted by IBM researchers in 2003—two years following Wikipedia's establishment—found that "vandalism is usually repaired extremely quickly — so quickly that most users will never see its effects" and concluded that Wikipedia had "surprisingly effective self-healing capabilities".

    For further discussion of Wikipedia's reliability:

    Check out the information under the Academia heading.

    All in all, the assertion was that Wikipedia is being used. What we need to do is not forbid its use. What we need to do is teach our students to evaluate the content and not rely solely on Wikipedia as their information source. Like print encyclopedias, Wikipedia is a secondary source. We need to teach our students to use secondary sources to gain an overall understanding but that primary sources are best. I always tell my students to go to Wikipedia's references for further information.

  3. This statement is a wouderful way for teacher to teach in class and use it to their students advantage. In away wikipeida can be useful when someone needs help finding information about a certain subject or understandig, even though the information is not considered crediable it gives some one who is doing research a general idea of what they need to look for. I still would not use wikipedia for any document that has to be verified.


Thanks for your comments.