Random Thoughts

Wikireader or Wikicreator

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Yesterday in my presentation I talked about how educators and schools view Wikipedia. Where some schools have blocked the site and other schools have not blocked the site. How some teachers are allowing students to use it as a research site, while others are not.

This is still in debate, but I think we’re missing the bigger picture of what Wikipedia or Wikibooks allows us to do. We need to quit looking at Wikipedia as the end result and instead look at it as part of the learning process. Why not go to Wikipedia and use it as a learning device. Use it in our classrooms as part of the learning experience.

We talk about how our textbooks can not keep up with the changing nature of information, that information changes at to rapid of a pace. That non digital text is out of date by the time it’s in print. The image to the left is of an Astronomy book that is currently for sale here at the conference. This is the newest textbook produced by this company (Full Disclosure: I did ask permission to take this photo).

Why are we so afraid of Wikipedia. Why aren’t we using Wikipedia to study, for example Pluto. You could have your students read the text and read the Wikipedia article and then compare and contrast. I’m not saying everything in the textbook is bad, there might be information covered in the textbook that is not covered on the wiki page. If that is so, your class then is able to contribute their findings to that wiki page.

The problem is we view Wikipedia as a research site, rather than a site waiting to be edited. If you view Wikipedia and Wikibooks as a place to write the text rather than read the text, we change the Wikipedia from a place you go to gather information, to a place you go to write about, evaluate, and add information. That is a mindset that is very powerful. Engaging students in the writing of a Wikibook, or a wiki article could be used year after year as information changes. Your lessons might change, your content might change, but the learning goal could remain the same.

We need to change our mindset, students want to create and contribute, they are already doing it in spaces like myspace and youtube, why not allow them to create and contribute to the largest single web site, or to create the next textbook. Empower students in the learning process and at the same time teach them how to analyze this information. Let’s face it…whether Wikipedia is blocked or not in your school, it’s still the number one or two link when you search from home…and that’s reality!

[tags]earcos07, wikipedia, wikibooks[/tags]

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. I agree completely! I love your point about it not being a site for research, but a site waiting to be edited.

    I was having a very similar conversation with teachers yesterday in the lobby. Teachers continue to focus on the “anyone can post information” side of things and ignore the “it’s what kids (and us) are using” side.

    I posted on this very thought a few weeks back when the Economist posted an article Wikipedia.

    At the macro level Wikipedia is a phenomenal source for accuracy. At the micro level (per article), you can’t be sure, but that forces the conversation with students about why that is…about info-accuracy…and about validating your information from other sources.

    You are so right…from home, we all use wikipedia. It comes up first most of the time in Google and it’s a great source. So why can’t it also be the first stop for research? Most posts even provide external links.

    I have been listening to Ian Jukes all weekend (I’m a little Juked-out, now) confirm that what kids need to know isn’t content, but rather the skills to be successful in a world we can’t imagine. Yet we still see teachers resistant to beginning those conversations with kids.

    On a side note, because I’ve Juked so much, I have not made it to one of your sessions yet. I have kid duty today, but perhaps will meet you tonight at the reception.

  2. Pingback: Thinking Allowed. » Blog Archive » Wikipedia is a learning tool

  3. As an English teacher, I encourage my students to use sources other than wikipedia for research, yet it’s a source that I use every day as a tool for my professional and personal “information gathering.” My students use it, I use it, so why the big fuss? In all our class blogs, I use wikipedia as a link in the sidebar.

    When the Pluto news came out, I, like Dennis, posted on the subject of Pluto and wikis, with links to the thought-provoking NY Times article about Pluto and wikipedia.

    The greater questions might be: why are educators so resistant to a demoncratic form of a informational portal? Could it be related to the “old skool” concept of information being “static” rather than “evolving”?

  4. Jeff,
    I fall along the same lines with my opinion. My school has a faculty of 12 and many of them are just coming online when it comes to web 2.0 tools.
    While the learning curve is steep at times, it is also helpful because they approach each tool with an open mind. I point them to wikipedia and then point out it’s possible flaws. We discuss that using the site with students requires serious and important discussions about learning as a filtering process. This is true of any resource – your mention of Pluto proves that nicely.
    I would change this sentence, “If you view Wikipedia and Wikibooks as a place to write the text rather than read the text…” to “If you view Wikipedia and Wikibooks as a place to read AND write the text rather than simply read the text…”
    Wikipedia is reliable as a source. Like all other sources, it is not 100% reliable.
    Thanks for making me think.

  5. I think my comment just bounced back, so I’ll try and abbreviated version.
    I agree with your post. Many members of our small faculty are unaware of the majority of Web 2.0 tools and how they can be used in the classroom.
    When showing Wikipedia to a colleague for the first time, the inevitable discussion of “So how does this get put together?” meets with some disbelief. After a while, though, they are seeing how it can be used as a tool and admitting that no tool is perfect.
    If teachers are telling their students not to use Wikipedia because it is fallible, I worry they are also sending even an implied message that there are resources out there that are infallible.
    I would edit this sentence of your post, “If you view Wikipedia and Wikibooks as a place to write the text rather than read the text…” to “If you view Wikipedia and Wikibooks as a place to read AND write the text rather than simply read the text…”
    It is a source, so long as we are educating students on how to filter all content.

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