Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wikipedia Use in Educational Settings

Some paraphrased common threads from the assignments this week: 
  • In high school, the use of Wikipedia to look up information or do research papers was frowned upon.
  • We were taught to stay away from Wikipedia because it was an unreliable source.
  • In a school setting, there are many worries about the site.
  • Teachers and professors never allow students to use Wikipedia as a credible source.
For next week, you'll read an article by Rosenzweig which addresses the ways students interact with the site. He writes, 
Wikipedia's ease of use and its tendency to show up at the top of Google rankings in turn reinforce students' propensity to latch on to the first source they encounter rather than to weigh multiple sources of information. Teachers have little more to fear from students' starting with Wikipedia than from their starting with most other basic reference sources. They have a lot to fear if students stop there (p. 26).
Is there any place for Wikipedia in student research? Under what conditions or for what purposes might it be useful in educational settings?

15 comments:

  1. I agree with the comment by Rosenzweig. I think students tend to click on the first thing that comes up on google because it's the first thing that catches their eye. I am guilty of this too. Although we are taught not to use Wikipedia as a source, I think Wikipedia could be a good place to get basic information that could help jump start other research. A student could maybe find an detail about the topic they are researching that they didn't know about on wikipedia, and then continue to research that specific fact through other sources. I think wikipedia has good intentions and if the student continues to research and double check what they found on wikipedia, it could be a helpful tool that could help students dive deeper into a topic they are researching.

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  2. I also agree with Rosenzweig and with Ilana. One of the reasons that students rely on Wikipedia is because it does have so much information in one spot. Many students also don't know how to conduct thorough research that goes beyond basic internet sources or a book at the library. By learning how to locate valuable sources, students can begin to see Wikipedia as a starting point for very broad information and then work from there.

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  3. I find this article particularly interesting and reasonable. In high school, we were never encouraged to use Wikipedia, and in fact, quite often you were scolded for the use of it. One of the first days in one of my classes this semester, we discussed how to conduct research, and for the first time, I heard a professor advocate the use of Wikipedia. Of course, only as a starting point. I couldn't agree more with this philosophy. Wikipedia should never be considered a credible source, but it should also never be shied away from completely as it is in almost all academic settings. I think the major draw to Wikipedia is that it's simple to navigate. It pops up at the top of your search, you click on it, and immediately there is an organized summary of the main points of whatever it is you're searching. It's easy and it's familiar to us. Wikipedia can be an extremely effective tool in helping students understand basic concepts, helping them in further research of credible sources.

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    1. I agree with Jess when she says that Wikipedia is a great starting point. The hardest part of a research paper is getting started, and Wikipedia helps ease you into the work. It allows you to get an overview of your topic, provides links to more information on that topic and gives you ideas of related material throughout the article with hyper-linked text to other Wikipedia content. As for Rosenzweig's comments, I completely agree. Later in his article he compares Wikipedia to other, more trusted, online encyclopedias such as Encarta. He found that they were very similar in accuracy and depth and in some cases Wikipedia even offered more. Wikipedia is like any other resource, it is very helpful when used correctly.

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  4. I completely agree with Jess' comment on Wikipedia. I have had people tell me all of my school career that Wikipedia is not a reliable source, so I've never done any research on the site before. In this class is the first time that I've heard Wikipedia being recommended. The activity we did last week proved what i thought was right wrong, that Wikipedia does have useful information. The site is not bogus like most of my high school teachers thought. When researching, I actually found it to be my most reliable source from my prior background to the topic. I would like to go back to some of my high school teachers and have them do an activity like we did and see if they think any differently about the use of Wikipedia.

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  5. I also wrote about Wikipedia being frowned upon in high school or any school setting. Upon reading this article, I do see the reason teachers fear ending with Wikipedia because of the way the site summarizes and shortens the topic. However, I do believe Wikipedia is a good starting point if one is just looking for a few basic points or an idea to get the ball rolling. For this reason, I believe Wikipedia does have a place in student research - it serves as a good source of quick information on virtually every topic. But on the same note, there is a time and place for Wikipedia to be used, as well as a time and place where one should not use it. Wikipedia is good for a purely summarizing source used to find other informational sources. Wikipedia is bad if it becomes a source that students use to entirely base their research on. There simply is not enough information included on Wikipedia to base an entire research project off of. When used as a guiding site instead of an informational site, Wikipedia can be extremely helpful.

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  6. Everyone who has posted thus far has made great points. I strongly believe that Wikipedia has a very large place in student research. As was previously stated, it is a starting point. I believe Rosenzweig refers to Wikipedia as "scratching the surface" of any particular subject. I would also call it a launching point. I would advise anyone using Wikipedia for scholarly research, or even just personal browsing, to first peruse the article, but then look at the citations. These are one of the most important parts of Wikipedia. I think the most critical part of using Wikipedia as a research tool is to be open and objective. Don't trust anyone. Including Wikipedia. Cross reference all the information you come across with multiple sources.

    I remember in my IB History class in high school we were given strict instructions to "NOT use Wikipedia at all". My teacher, along with students who agreed, would point out the fact that anyone and everyone can edit Wikipedia articles with whatever they want. I didn't agree with them then, nor do I now. The ability for everyone to edit it what makes Wikipedia great. Although there will be people whose aim is to mislead with false information, as our readings have stated, "the good articles will always far outweigh the bad". And when your misleading posts get deleted faster than you can create them, you soon will surrender to the idea that the truth will always prevail.

    So I say use Wikipedia all you want! But when using it never "trust blindly", always cross check things with other references. This is the same method as with anything involved with research.

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  7. Along with most of the other commenters, Wikipedia was not allowed for research in my high school. Needless to say, everyone used it anyways, but cited different sources. Students knew that teachers would not check each individual source for every students research paper. Since the students were using Wikipedia regardless of the rules against it, I believe that Wikipedia should be allowed in research for schoolwork. All throughout high school I wondered why Wikipedia was not a reliable source when so many people use it for information. Now that I am studying Wikipedia, I am even more convinced that it is reliable. From the readings this week, I learned about the numerous humans and bots that are constantly checking up on the Wikipedia documents checking for accuracy and neutrality. Something that stuck with my from one of the readings was the experiment where Alexander Halavais added 13 errors to 13 different articles and they were all corrected within a matter of hours. Wikipedia does have its place in the educational setting, but I do think that it should be supported with other resources. No single site should be the only source used to gather information from. I will forever wait for the day when Wikipedia can be used as a resource for research papers. I do believe that day will eventually come.

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  8. I am with the majority of people in that I have never been allowed to use Wikipedia as a credible source for a paper, project, or essentially anything academic. With that said, I use Wikipedia as my primary source for information for just about everything, including academic work. I'm confident this is shared by many of my classmates as well. With the Wikipedia paper assignment fresh in my mind, it is difficult to know where to stand in terms of the usage of the site in academia. There is no doubt that Wikipedia is a source of vast knowledge that is extremely user friendly, but there is also plenty of room for mistakes to be made by people who may or may not be experts in any given field. On the other hand, many other websites out there, even so called credible ones, have the opportunity to be flawed as well. However, the fact that Wikipedia can essentially be edited by anyone makes me skeptical to using it for a very formal academic work. With that said, I think Wikipedia should be perfectly acceptable for any type of project that is less formal, such as the written responses required for this class. I think that Wikipedia should be acceptable in formal works as long as you mention that you verified the information as credible elsewhere. I trust Wikipedia to be accurate, but I think it is just the principle of the work and situation that should require some sort of verification in formal works; at least until Wikipedia is somehow deemed more reputable.

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  9. I also have never been allowed to use wikipedia for a source on any kind of academic project, whether in high school or college. However, Wikipedia has become a constant source for me, both when randomly googling or fact-checking on my iPhone and when I sit down to conduct actual academic research. Although my research rarely ends with Wikipedia, it almost always starts there. In addition to the information on the page itself, every Wikipedia article contains links to sources, many of which are credible (i.e. scholarly) articles that can be a great jumping off point for my research. In that sense, Wikipedia both presents me with the ideas and connects me to ways to back them up. That being said, I understand why Wikipedia is not popular as a source in academia. In that sense, I don't think Wikipedia itself should be an ok source for a bibliography, etc. What is actually extremely helpful, however, is using Wikipedia as a starting point to consolidate one's thoughts, and teachers should encourage their students to do so as a way of connecting them to the more credible information that WIkipedia has already found.

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  10. I have not been able to use Wikipedia for assignments in college or high school either. When teachers DID allow us to use it, everyone always got real excited because it was a special opportunity and all of the information we wanted was in one place. I use Wikipedia constantly on a daily basis. If I type a keyword into Google, I usually always click Wikipedia first to find my answer. Although some parts of Wikipedia are unreliable, I feel like it is much more reliable than people think. When we did our assignment to check the credibility, Wikipedia proved to trustworthy. I feel like it should be used by students for research because it is a great place where everything is in one spot. Teachers should teach the proper way to check the credibility of Wikipedia and how to use it instead of just simply telling students not to use it at all.

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  11. Sierra Buehlman BarbeauFebruary 21, 2012 at 8:47 AM

    We were never allowed to use Wikipedia in high school, but I think that a better approach to teach us about Wikipedia's possible unreliability would be to tell us to use four sources with one as Wikipedia or something. That way, we could fact check while we were researching, and if something on wikipedia seemed unreliable, we'd have three other sources to check. We usually had to use three different sources anyways, so it wouldn't hurt to add in wikipedia as long as we were cautious. Plus, this way students could learn to edit wikipedia as they did their research.

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  12. I definitely agree with Sierra in saying that teachers should educate us on the sources that Wikipedia uses instead of constantly harking on the unreliability of the site. I was never allowed to use Wikipedia in high school but was in middle school. I definitely still checked my other sources with Wikipedia and still use Wikipedia, not so much for educational, research purposes but for quick checks of facts. I also agree that it would be helpful for students to use Wikipedia and then edit it because if we were using other, more credible sources, we could add more to Wikipedia. I think there should be less negative attitude towards Wikipedia for educational purposes but we should be given the tools needed to filter out the truth from lies.

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  13. I agree with most of the commenters. I was never encouraged to use Wikipedia in high school because it wasn't considered reliable. However, from exercises in this class, and checking Wikipedia pages with other site's information, I've realized it is a lot more reliable than people think. People who post on Wikipedia do it because they love sharing information and seeing their work be a part of something bigger. If something false is posted on it, it is usually edited within a matter of hours. Also, Wikipedia does a great job of connecting you with links at the bottom of the page to other sources of information. Granted, I don't believe Wikipedia should be the main base to a research paper, but I do agree that it is a great starting point, and can give a lot of good background information on a topic you don't know much about.

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  14. I am actually very thrilled that we did the Wikipedia exercise and read multiple articles on Wikipedia. Throughout grade school and high school I was specifically told to stay away from Wikipedia findings no matter what the topic was. Reading these articles answered a lot of my questions on whether or not Wikipedia is reliable. As Alleigh stated above, I don't believe that Wikipedia should the focal point of research but I do believe it is a great start and linkage to other scholarly websites.

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