Andrew Church makes a good case for teachers permitting and even encouraging students to use WikiPedia during their research projects for school. I would extend his encouragement even further, and assert that teachers should encourage students to also AUTHOR WikiPedia articles. Teachers need to author and contribute to articles themselves as well. There are multiple reasons for this:
- Many misconceptions about WikiPedia abound. Lots of people still think all the articles are authored by uncredentialed, ignorant “folks off the street” and the content there has little real value compared to a “traditionally” authored and edited encyclopedia. One of the best ways to address this misconception is to provide opportunities for people to explore articles about which they DO have expertise. Generally I have found that people are impressed at the breadth, depth, and accuracy of the articles they find on WikiPedia. To take this learning curve to the next level, however, I think it is appropriate to invite people to CONTRIBUTE and help AUTHOR WikiPedia articles. Getting people to explore the HISTORY and DISCUSSION tabs of WikiPedia articles helps open their minds to the extensive discussions which have and CONTINUE to take place about the validity of information included in different articles.
- We are living in an information landscape increasingly characterized by user-created content. Because of the number of eyeballs reviewing WikiPedia content, it is a very active and scrutinized space for learners of any age to watch and also PARTICIPATE in the sharing of ideas and information. To understand the value and utility of user-created content, I think people need to experience it in personal ways. Contributing to WikiPedia articles of interest about which a person has some expertise, and then “watching” that page to see the continuing evolution of that article, is a great way to personally experience user-created content.
- We all have expertise. The expertise of students may not line up perfectly with the formal school curriculum, but students DO have expertise about curriculum-related topics. Having students review WikiPedia articles about characters in books they have read, movies they have seen, or other topics they have studied in class can involve a great deal of analysis and evaluation. What is missing from the character page of a favorite book character on WikiPedia? Students CAN identify ideas and information which should be added. How exciting for them to be able to make REAL contributions to the global information resource that IS WikiPedia. That type of experience is likely to be both meaningful and memorable not only for the students who make the contributions, but also those who learn about (and even view/see, since that is visible in the HISTORY tab of the page in question) the contribution(s) made by their peers.
Can students be “Internet trolls” on WikiPedia as well as other sites permitting commenting and user-created contributions? Of course. Students need to understand the value of creating their “permanent online record” in digital spaces, however, as Steve Dembo and others frequently remind us. As students “work the web” and both create as well as consume content, they can craft for themselves a digital record of their CONSTRUCTIVE contributions to resources like WikiPedia. Have you considered that students could, as part of their online digital portfolio, link to their own “contributions” page on WikiPedia? If the edits and contributions they have made to different WikiPedia articles are kept/persist in the article, those digital contributions could meaningfully reflect on both the content area expertise as well as digital communication skills which that person possesses.
I helped some of the library-media specialists in our state department of education create and edit a new WikiPedia entry back in October for Encyclo-Media, which is our state’s annual library conference. That process of creating an article and “proving” its validity to the WikiPedia editors was an illuminating process for us all. I hope to share more workshops in the months ahead about using WikiPedia not only to access and CONSUME content, but also SHARE and CONTRIBUTE ideas. These are valuable learning activities for educators as well as students: For “learners” of all ages.
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On this day..
- Building Virtual Bridges Through Sharing and Transparency - 2013
- Al Jazeera, Arab Spring, & Opposing Extremism in Our Midst in the USA - 2012
- Mobile Video Editing with ReelDirector on an iPhone4 #edapp - 2010
- Tech Support for Parents - 2010
- No alternative to the RTTT / Duncan Education Reform Plan Offered by Fallin - 2010
- Reasons I love Blip.tv and Screenr - 2009
- Forgo the big stick, carry a small computer instead - 2008
- Exploring Amazon S3 Backup Options with Jungle Disk and Bandwagon - 2008
- Digital Witness from Pearl Harbor - 2007
- Gmail SMTP workaround - 2006