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A friend, who's roaming the planet, updated her status on FB mentioning how good it was to have time to research all those things she'd always wondered about... using Wikipedia.

Almost immediately, another friend, who's a teacher, felt the need to warn her that all that knowledge she was gleefully absorbing was probably not trustworthy, because... you know... it's wikipedia... and stuff... ya know?


Ok, in a run-on sentence: Wikipedia is an open-source information hub, which means the information is supplied by voluntary collaboration, which means it can be edited by anyone, at anytime, which makes most academic institutions uncomfortable about using it as a credible source.

Got it? That means educators (myself included) tell students they aren't allowed to cite wikipedia as a reference in their assignments.

However, we must deal with reality: Wikipedia is usually one of the first references to appear in a web search about almost anything (unless some SEO strategist has worked hard to get their website in above it). Wikipedia is comprehensive, concise, and full of links to related information.

In other words, it's very appealing to students, and no matter what you say, they will use it, at least as a starting point. Therefore, instead of fighting it, why not start project-based lessons that use it?

There are different projects for teachers in schools or universities, and educators who teach English , literature , writing, journalism or biology.

You might even want to create your own.

But, whatever you decide to do, or not do... don't knock it before you try it.

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Comment by Mark Moran on June 19, 2010 at 12:55pm
If students have an informed view of what Wikipedia is and is not, and its limitations, they can use Wikipedia for a general overview of a subject, to find links that may warrant further review, and to find keywords to search. But as Wikipedia itself says, students should not cite Wikipedia, or entirely rely on it. You can't cite something if you don't know who wrote it, why they wrote it, and what their credentials are; a screen name doesn't suffice. We've created a Web Guide to Understanding Wikipedia and a cautionary Ten Reasons You Can't Cite Wikipedia, which lay bare the limitations of Wikipedia.
Comment by Thomas Whitby on June 16, 2010 at 8:33am
The misunderstandings of Wikipedia are based on False assumptions and educational snobbery. Wikipedia has been established to be as reliable as the Encyclopedia Britannica. Some people have yet to understand that. There is a need for educators to stay relevant and it will not happen holding on to old concepts and assumptions. Some teachers need to get out more and create a Professional Learning Network.


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