Friday, November 09, 2007

Ah, Wikipedia

Inside Higher Ed has a recent piece on using Wikipedia in the classroom. They say:

If there’s one place where scholars should be able to question assumptions about the use of technology in the classroom (and outside of it), it’s the annual Educause conference, which wrapped up on Friday in Seattle. At a morning session featuring a professor and a specialist in learning technology from the University of Washington at Bothell, presenters showed how Wikipedia — often viewed warily by educators who worry that students too readily accept unverifiable information they find online — can be marshaled as a central component of a course’s syllabus rather than viewed as a resource to be banned or reluctantly tolerated.
I would agree. Here at Oregon State - at least in my writing classes - I teach students what Wikipedia is and how to use it sensibly and ethically. Students are going to Wikipedia anyway - I consult it regularly myself. Banning it doesn't make sense. And as the article points out:

shared, public online documents have characteristics in common with parts of the academic review process. “The shift to thinking about placing the term paper as a Wikipedia encyclopedia entry allows for another level of peer review,” Groom said. Such entries have references and citations; allow for a process of repeated, continual editing; and encourage collaborations between authors.
Students need to learn about audience, who is reading the work and what reactions they will have. Too often students claim that their audience is "everyone" which means "no one". They don't always take peer review as seriously as we hope. If they imagined that their term paper were a Wikipedia entry, they could suddenly wonder who would edit out errors and comment on their tone. Interesting concept! Also, as we ask students to think about writing to the world, engaging with a real, and broad, audience, Wikipedia is a good way to start the discussion.



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