Having A School Block Wikipedia Does Not Further The Cause Of Education

from the head-in-the-sand dept

We've heard time and time again that schools refuse to allow Wikipedia citations in papers. That's somewhat understandable. However, what's ridiculous is to go beyond that to the point that some teachers and even entire schools are now blocking Wikipedia entirely from school computers. It's hard to see how this furthers the cause of education. If anything, it does the exact opposite. If the concern is that Wikipedia may not be trustworthy, why not teach students how Wikipedia works, how to improve it and how to think critically before believing any particular source? What's amazing is that people complain about inaccurate info in Wikipedia as a reason it shouldn't be trusted -- but those same people don't seem to try to ban the use of the Encyclopedia Britannica when significant errors are found in it. And, when errors are found in Britannica (which some studies have shown occur just as frequently as in Wikipedia), they remain there. When errors are found in Wikipedia, they quickly get corrected. Again, though, it comes down to learning not to trust any single source as being authoritative -- and teaching kids to be skeptical of any source. Completely banning a source does students a complete disservice. Once they leave the school and encounter Wikipedia on their own, wouldn't it be better if they'd spent some time with a teacher assisting them to understand the pros and cons of Wikipedia so they know how to use it properly on their own?

Filed Under: schools, wikipedia


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  1. identicon
    network admin, 29 Apr 2010 @ 8:52pm

    F

    On the network I'm responsible for we don't block Wikipedia. Instead our proxy rewrites Wikipedia pages such that all the cruft is removed and the header is replaced with one that makes it very clear that Wikipedia content should never be trusted and never used as a citation. A Wikipedia citation gets an instant 'F' and the rewritten header provides a strong visual reminder of this with a giant handwritten red 'F'.

    "When errors are found in Wikipedia, they quickly get corrected." Why does this myth keep being perpetuated? Sure, it sometimes happens, but sometimes it doesn't. Not every subject is closely monitored by experts all of the time. Yes, I do know of longstanding errors on Wikipedia pages. No, I don't correct them. I don't have a Wikipedia account and I don't want one. I don't actually care that Wikipedia is inaccurate as long as our students know it's unreliable.

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