This is another one of my posts from the School of Education discussion forum. I would be interested to read what other people think about this topic…
I think that the issue of Wikipedia is a non-issue. Why? Because you can not stop students from going there and why would you try to. Rather, you must actively employ teaching strategies that ensure that they analyse and critique ANY source of information. Seemingly factual information can come from any source and usually will always contain bias. Therefore to me, if students have been asked questions that require them to think outside of the square and are engaging with the topic in an authentic context then Wikipedia is an excellent place to start as a ‘trigger’ for finding information. What is interesting also, is that if students do progress their understanding further, they may infact be the people who are able to go back and edit or add to the Wikipedia page on their topic.
I question why finding information needs to be difficult or time-consuming in order to make the learning happen. ie. I use wikipedia all the time as a starting place if I want to find information on a new topic - particularly if I know very little about that topic. It is instantly gratifying providing me with enough information to gather key words which I will then use in my searches to find more detailed information. Depending on the topic, perhaps at times a Wikipedia definition is all that is needed.
I know Wikipedia is a particularly contentious topic. But I think that we need to pick our battles with this one, when do we need students to find information quickly and when do we need them to get really, really indepth? Does there need to be different levels when searching for information depending on the desired outcome and what we want our students to do with this information? What do you think???
Image from Flickr - Will Lion