Friday, September 25, 2009

Wikiality-- the reality of Wikipedia

Love it or hate it, block it or allow it, Wikipedia isn't going away. Many schools have blocked it because its reliability and validity are in question. Many students rely on it as their first (and perhaps only?) source of information.

I have used Wikipedia many times to find information and links that I have used in several presentations. But as an adult, I know the importance of questioning my sources of information. Many of our students are gullible and would accept any information as fact without bothering to check its accuracy.

Today I came across an excellent lesson plan about Wikipedia on the FactCheckEd website. There are student handouts, suggested activities, background information, and correlations to national standards-- AND this video from the Colbert Report entitled Wikiality:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Wikiality
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Protests


I think this is an important lesson and an important topic we need to address with our students.

11 comments:

clippara said...

The lesson plan was a great idea. Students should be aware of the loopholes in Wikipedia. As a student, I have had teachers tell me not to use Wikipedia as a source. However, I admit I will sometimes use it and quickly double check with other sources to make sure certain facts that I may seem suspicious of are legitimate. I agree, students need to learn to not be so gullible; to think for themselves and question the things that do not seem right to them.

Jim Dornberg said...

Thanks for your opinion. We're not doing students any favors by blocking Wikipedia. We need to show them why it's important to question ALL sources of information. I've been working on a presentation that shows even major media outlets such as CBS News and the New York Times have made HUGE mistakes in the past, yet we've been led to believe these are "reliable" or "trustworthy" sources of information. Not so any more. Even Pulitzer Prize winners and celebrated authors have been exposed as stretching the truth or outright lying.

GarretGVSU said...

Wikipedia is a great source for quick information. We can all pretty much agree that it cannot be used as a scholarly journal. However as educators, we should not frown on students looking for a start or basic information on their subject. Regardless, going back to the disscussion of a paperless classroom, wiki certainly doesn't help with this. Students are always tempted to start their research by quickly printing the wiki pages. This may be a good thing or a bad thing, your thoughts?

Eric Bray said...

Personally, I feel like I trust the consensus of thousands of people much more than I trust what one person says in a book. I understand why wikipedia cannot be used by itself in academia, but I feel like if I were to teach my students about the pitfalls of wikipedia, I would allow them to use it on the condition that they can find other information supporting the claims stated on wikipedia. I think that I would allow the use of wikipedia in middle school, high school and maybe in some instances in undergrad work provided they can back up their claims.

Leonard205 said...

I would say that wiki is a good fast source, but the fact that students can also change the information just makes the information unreliable??? I know that if I want a defintion of some sort then I would use wiki. However, when it comes to writing papers..there is no way that it would be the first place that I would come to for information.

ferrisd205 said...

I don't think wikipedia is as bad as it seems. Yes, anyone could go in and change the text, but that doesn't mean everything on the site is wrong. It is a very reliable site to get quick information. After you get your information, you better find something else to back it up however. Wikipedia is a bad source to use, but it can help you find better sources.

Anonymous said...

I will admit that even as a college student Wikipedia is one of the first places I go when searching for information online, but I think part of the reason for that is because it is often the first source that pops up when I type something into Google. Students probably don't know any other way to search for something online without the use of Google or Yahoo search and I think that may be part of the problem. Some of my teachers have requested that I not use Wikipedia and there is definitely a plethora of other information out there, Wiki is just the easiest to find. That being said, I think it's important to make sure students know exactly what Wikipedia is and that the information should be double checked. Also, thanks for the video. I will save the link and perhaps someday use that in my classroom as an entertaining way to make sure students know that while Wikipedia is quick and easy, it has its downfalls.

dunnucaa said...

I am a senior in collge this year, and I often have to write many papers a semester. I use wikipedia for almost every paper, but I don't cite it as a source, instead I go down to the bottom of whatever page I happen to be looking at and look at the sources that the authors used, they tend to be verified and legitimate sources that I can use for my papers, so in a way I use wikipedia but not as a direct source. As far as schools blocking it because of its unreliability, I agree that there are some inaccurate facts on the cite, but schools just need to teach the students to not just only use wikipedia, its a great launchpad to other cites, and many new sources, so I feel that schools should use that lesson plan it looks very simple and can have some very dramatic implications as to how students will research topics in their futures.

Darlene O'Donnell said...

I enjoyed the entertaining video. I always mention to the students that wikipedia can be changed by anyone so the information may not be accurate. That is the first place they go to. I prefer that they don't use it for research papers in my class.

a.mowat said...

Great idea! I've taught 12th grade research and wouldn't let my students use Wikipedia as a source, but I was struggling to clearly explain why. I myself use it for quick information. I tried to explain that it's ok to use if you needed to know the capital of Bolivia or something like that, but not for an academically based research paper. This could help to explain it in the future.

Carol Knoblauch said...

I feel what the common experience with wikipedia is that it is not a reliable source because anyone can post their opinions. That is true but you dig a little deeper and find the sources that the opinions were derived from and many of those sources are reliable.