Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

What Common Sense Media didn’t tell parents about WikiPedia but should have

I discovered the collection of technology-related video tips for parents on the Common Sense Media website recently, and was glad to see so many important issues addressed via short messages. I was disappointed, however, to NOT see several recommendations in the video about WikiPedia narrated by Liz Perle (Editor in Chief of Common Sense Media.)

Liz warned parents that Wikipedia contains user-created content anyone can edit, but she did NOT encourage the following:

1. Encourage your kids (and/or students) to use the “external links” at the bottom of WikiPedia articles to locate other sources which may be more authoritative and recognized and are related to a topic of inquiry.

2. Encourage your kids and students to not only use WikiPedia as consumers (reading and utilizing the content) but also to CREATE content as prosumers. Liz conveys the idea that the only contributions a young person could make or would want to make to WikiPedia are vandalistic edits. This is ridiculous! Certainly there are a fair number of folks who find it fun and amusing to deface WikiPedia, but there are MUCH larger numbers of people making meaningful contributions to the project every day.

By the time students graduate from high school, it is my contention they should have accumulated a documented body of edited WikiPedia pages (viewable on their user contributions page – this is mine) which can be included as a link on their online, digital portfolio. What topics are students interested in and passionate about? Can young people make meaningful and helpful contributions to the project which seeks to bring the world universal access to the sum of human knowledge? Certainly. User contribution pages can provide documentation and “proof” (as individual track records) of prosumer activities on WikiPedia.

3. Encourage kids and students to appropriately quote and cite sources in WikiPedia as well as other sources, both online and offline. In her video, Liz makes it sound like anyone who copies text from WikiPedia is committing an act worse than one of the seven deadly sins. This is ridiculous. As both an educational blogger as well as an aspiring academic researcher, I use full quotations from digital as well as analog sources constantly. When I do, I also attempt to properly document and cite my sources.

4. Use WikiPedia to follow breaking news events when and after they happen. The page for the 2005 London bombings is one of the most often cited examples for this. Timeline and rumors pages add to the value and depth of research and conversations which can be catalyzed by these WikiPedia resources. Monday’s historic TC3 meteoroid impact on earth is a more recent example. Utilize the WikiPedia current events portal to follow breaking and ongoing news events along with thousands of others worldwide.

5. Use WikiPedia to explore, research, and discuss controversial issues. Media literacy is one of the most important skills for us to practice as 21st century learners. WikiPedia’s “List of controversial issues” and “Guidelines for controversial articles” are good pages to utilize. See my November 2007 post “Ideas for student research and digital stories in 2008: Controversial topics” for more ideas along these lines.

The WikiPedia article for “Citing WikiPedia” is a great resource to use when discussing and exploring how WikiPedia can and should be cited for different writing purposes and contexts.

The English WikiPedia articles “Comparison of reference management software” and “Citation creator” are good resources to also use to show the utility and and power of WikiPedia and also learn about available software and web options for citation assistance.

Hey, my addition of Son of Citation Machine by David Warlick from August 2008 is still the most recent edit of the “Citation creator” page! I’m happy to have made that contribution. Your students can and will feel proud of their constructive contributions to WikiPedia as well. Encourage them to build their personal WikiPedia contribution record as responsible prosumers and digital citizens of the 21st century.

Despite these omissions, I think this collection of parent video tips from Common Sense Media is a good resource to use and commend to others. I additionally wish, however, that the videos were shared in an embeddable format. I’m convinced (as I’d hazard Alan Levine, author of “50 Ways to Tell The Dominoe Story” is) that embeddable videos and video sharing sites are the most powerful options for message sharing in today’s media landscape.

If we want our ideas to be relevant, increasingly it’s fair to say we need to make them embeddable. While there are lots of choices for video sharing tools that support embedding, I’ve seen few for documents. Scribd is one tool which DOES permit embedded document sharing. (Nod to Bud the Teacher for this.)

Common Sense Media appears to be using Amazon S3 (part of Amazon’s Web Services) to share their flash-based videos, but they appear to be using a proprietary, licensed flash-player built by ISL Consulting rather than a video sharing service like, YouTube, Vimeo, or DotSub. Perhaps someday they’ll change this and permit embedding. If they did, I’d embed some of their videos here on my blog for you to access and view more easily. For now, however, you’ll have to visit their website to find them. I’m sure this is a desired user behavior created by their site designers, but it’s not the one I prefer as a video consumer.

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4 responses to “What Common Sense Media didn’t tell parents about WikiPedia but should have”

  1. liz perle Avatar

    I loved your points! (this is liz by the way.) Especially the one about encouraging kids to put in things. I will be doing many of these quick hit videos (obviously they can’t be exhaustive since I want them to be under 90 seconds) and I will definitely include your points in one about creating a wiki! thanks so much. Liz Perle

  2. Chris Bell Avatar
    Chris Bell

    Wonderful follow up to a great resource provided by Commmon Sense Media. I’ve made to link to both of these resources in our staff intranet as well as on our parent wiki.

  3. Sage Avatar

    Many of Common Sense Media’s videos can also be located on their YouTube channel and these versions of those same videos are embeddable.

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