Some Teachers Embracing Wikipedia, While Others Blame It

from the time-to-join-this-century dept

We’ve seen this before, of course. There are teachers and professors out there who blame Wikipedia for mistakes students make, and even those who demand that the entire Wikipedia be blocked in schools. However, there are those who are a lot more reasonable about it, recognizing that Wikipedia is just one source among many, and there’s value in embracing Wikipedia: teaching kids what it is and how to use it reliably. That seems likely to be a lot more effective and useful for training kids how to critically judge the reliability of information out in the real world. Blocking, banning or blaming Wikipedia seems only designed to put one’s head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. That’s not preparing anyone for the real world.

Techdirt reader cram writes in to point out two contrasting articles that show this dichotomy of thought in action. First is a report out of Scotland last week blaming Wikipedia for kids getting failing grades. This, of course, seems ridiculous. What it really means is that teachers have failed to actually teach kids how to use Wikipedia properly. It’s not the fault of Wikipedia — which is merely an information source. It’s a failure of teachers to teach kids how to properly use it. That’s why it’s nice to see the corresponding article, where students in Australia are now going to have a course available on how to use Wikipedia. That seems a lot smarter than just blaming Wikipedia.

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Comments on “Some Teachers Embracing Wikipedia, While Others Blame It”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Many companies do some sort of research on Wikipedia that is used to create business and corporate strategy. Northrop Grumman, JP Morgan Chase, Verizon, and Oracle are a few that come to mind.

I don’t understand why kids can’t, unless they don’t want them to learn.. (cough, cough) No Child Left Behind (Cough) But after all, Karl Marx was a master at societal change, with most propaganda being pushed in primary school years.

Why limit information to only those with a need to know..?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I don’t understand why kids can’t, unless they don’t want them to learn.. “

The problem is that young kids are usually not taught that information found in certain places can be unreliable. Wikipedia, and the internet as a whole, allows them access to a huge amount of information, more than their parents could ever dream of accessing at school. However, some of that information is biased, some misleading and some outright false.

The fix is very simple – at an appropriate age (i.e. when online research may become a factor in their work), introduce lessons on how to research, how to evaluate a source and how to separate facts from fiction. These are valuable skills in later life when dealing with everything from salesmen to politicians, so it’s a good thing that Wikipedia might force this to be encouraged. Unless the schools just ban the thing, in which case they’re idiots.

some old guy says:

It's very sad

Several of the people who happen to hang out in the forum for a game I help develop are contantly complaining about their research homework. Everytime they have to write a report, they are constantly lamenting how their teachers tell them “anything from wikipedia is an instant fail”. Several of those kids were brainwashed by their teachers into thinking wikipedia was the cesspool of the net, full of nothing but dirty rotten made up lies.

Obviously, theres an influence at work here. I hardly believe the teachers are coming up with this shit on their own, they are really too busy with homework to be that devious. No, I think its far more likely that someone else is planting these ideas in their heads. So who would likely be responsible for brainwashing teachers into thinking that the internet is making kids stupid. Who stands to benefit? Nobody I know of, except textbook publishers, who also happen to publish encyclopedias as well.

Someone is pushing an agenda on these teachers, and it is seriously impeding the learning capabilities of these kids. Does shop class limit you to a hammer? No, you use power tools. Should a research paper limit you to paper books? No, you should be able to use search engines and even OMG “online knowledge sources”!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's very sad

This isn’t about not citing Wikipedia, it’s about (or should be about) not citing *any* encyclopedia. Encyclopedia’s are only helpful for providing a context for research. Genuine research should be based on primary sources as much as possible. I don’t want to see citations from Wikipedia or Britannica because it’s a huge flapping red flag that the student did very little genuine research and is relying completely on the interpretation of others … which is dangerous and exactly what critical thinkers should *not* do.

So, starting with Wikipedia? Great! Stopping there? Fail.

Jason (profile) says:

On being a student...

I’m a college student in my sophomore year at college. For the last three english classes all the instructors clearly stated not to use Wikipedia. I’m currently taking a British Literature class and every lecture he leaves specific terms for us and encourages us to use Wikipedia. What is even better is that he heads the English department for my school.

I asked him why he allowed us to use Wikipedia as a source. And he clearly said that all the terms that he gives us he has already checked out on Wikipedia. If there is a problem with it than he corrects it.

I think if more instructors took a proactive view of Wikipedia instead of a reactive position. If more teachers were involved with Wikipedia wouldn’t that make it a better source?

M Slade says:

Re: Wondering's post

You’re naive or oversimplifying. No one source is reliable, unless it’s yourself. Reading it in a book, in an encyclopedia, on Wikipedia, in a newspaper, or seeing it on television… none of that is guaranteed truth and I shudder to think that anyone believes it is.

Research is all about your trust network. If you see it yourself, you trust it. If your parents tell it to you, you probably trust it. If your teachers tell it to you… maybe. And so on.

Anyhow, my point is this: Wikipedia is just one of many sources. Cross-referencing is the best way to confirm the accuracy of your information. Pointing out that you have to double-check Wikipedia information as a reason not to use it makes no sense — you should be double checking your research whether Wikipedia or otherwise.

Long-winded rant aside, to respond to the point you put forth: a good and valid reason to use Wikipedia is that it’s easily and conveniently accessible to anyone with internet access. Hyperlinks make it particularly easy to search a topic comprehensively without having to find and dig up 100 different books. Don’t get me wrong, Wikipedia is not The Solution any more than any other book is – but for those who are the littlest bit web savvy, Wikipedia is an excellent source of information.

Anonymous Coward says:

What the hell?

A course teaching how to use wikipedia? YOU FUCKING READ IT.

It’s that simple. Jesus. Read it to get basic idea, double check with a source that your teacher allows (which will invariably say exactly the same thing, but in much more complex language) to make sure that it’s not completely wrong. Bam. Course done. Class dismissed.

Caleb (profile) says:

I get so annoyed at teachers...

I have often criticized teachers who send their students online for information wherever I can. Teachers should first make sure that the information they ask students to find online is online, and in a readily accessible format. It could be argued that a web site is similar to a textbook. Obviously, teachers do not make students look through multiple textbooks, so why should it be different with sites? I feel that any information a teacher sends a student online to look for should be in Wikipedia – or the teacher should add it. After all, I think Wikipedia could be considered some sort of a standard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I get so annoyed at teachers...

I think Wikipedia could be considered some sort of a standard

It’s a standard for online encyclopedias, yes. What else would you like it to be a standard for? Truth (big T)? We call collections of words meant to be a standard of Truth something else: scripture. And that hasn’t really been helpful for us …

Abdul says:

Students need guidance!!

I think most students don’t know how wikipedia is operated and as such has been taken it as “Gospel trith”. I beleive that if students are properly enlighten about the “truthiness’ in wikipedia, they will very much use it cautiously and wisely: The Truthiness About Wikipedia (

Savyo says:

Of more interest is the question: Is Wikipedia worth searching? Is the information there valid?
In my experience, Wikipedia is a place where misogynistic cyberbullies go to harass independent artists and riot grrrls. Case in point: Jeanne Marie Spicuzza, a leading artist and tarot card reader, had her article yanked from Wikipedia for no apparent reason. And when her sister Mary Spicuzza, a print journalist, wrote an article about it, she was forced to resign for “violating journalistic ethics.” You can read about it here:

BTW, you can also read what happened according to the creep who sexually harassed Jeanne Marie on Wikipedia starting here::'_noticeboard/IncidentArchive372#Attempted_Outing_of_Wikipedia_Editor_User:Griot_by_Tawdry_Tabloid_Journalist

Remember: Information is only as good as its source. Garbage in; garbage out…

From the SF Weekly web site (user link) says:

Problem with Savyo

I edited this story and I can assure you that Mary did not get fired for this story or any other. Mary decided to leave the paper to take a job with a local documentary filmmaker. She gave her notice before the Wikipedia story was published. She disclosed to me early in the reporting process her sister’s fights with Griot and her sister’s role is mentioned high up in our story. Bottom line: We stand by the story.

Comment by Will Harper, Managing Editor, SF Weekly on Feb 26th, 2008, 13:55 pm

Diligent contributor says:

My reason: I have no idea what you are talking about. ABUSIVE sockpuppetry? I use this account and only this account. If there are other users from this IP, they are roommates and/or their friends or girlfriends from LMU that have their own accounts. This block is not only unjustified, it’s harrassment. Thanks! “Arbitration”? No thanks. I’m not going to waste time with playground games and petty politics. Well done, kids. You’ve lost another diligent contributor. No wonder Wikipedia is going downhill

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