Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Case for Wikipedia

As I was skimming through Google Reader for classroom blogs recently, I noticed one with this assignment.
Geography Power Point:
Please feel free to use any source except Wikipedia for this project. Wikipedia is not the most reliable source and for this reason the middle and high school are not allowed to use this in their research.
Of course being a 21st century educator, this immediately caught my eye for two reasons. Power Point? Not the most creative tool but I halfway understand the rationale. I always recommend allowing the students to choose their own way of creating presentations. Why restrict the presentation to Power Point when there are a multitude of options available?The Wikipedia reference really made me wonder if 21st century education is really understood here? Are other encyclopedias banned too?My stance on Wikipedia is it's a great first resource for a student or teacher with very little information on a topic. Wikipedia shouldn't be used as the only resource but it is helpful for first searches. Of course teaching our students to find information is only part of our mission. Teaching them to validate, leverage and problem solve with the information is of more importance. If nothing else, they can utilize the info from Wikipedia and attempt to validate the info with other sources.
According to Wikipedia:
" it is the ideal place to start research and get a global picture of a topic, however, it is not an authoritative source. In fact, we recommend that students check the facts they find in Wikipedia against other sources. Additionally, it is generally good research practice to cite an original source when writing a paper, or completing an exam. It's usually not advisable, particularly at the university level, to cite an encyclopedia."
Wikipedia is more than a decade old. Currently Wikipedia is focusing more on quality than growth as most contributors are lovers of knowledge who have a real desire to improve the quality of the entry.The main issue for me is students face an abundance of information already and our main emphasis should be to guide them through this sea and teach them critical thinking skills such as evaluation and analysis.Banning and filtering didn't work years ago with You Tube, blogs or other 21st century tools, banning Wikipedia is missing the point. Of course that's my opinion and it's debatable but it is the 21st century and has been for over a decade and that point is indisputable.
Check out this info graphic on Wikipedia

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Mr. Gerry Kosater

There are two paths you can choose but there's always time to change the one you choose