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If you don't think Wikipedia is a worthy resource, make it better

A number of the teachers in my district are already using wikis and blogs to post assignments and class information. However, as we all began using a wiki to collaborate on some sweeping curriculum changes, a significant number made a link between our wiki and Wikipedia.
christopher-dawson.jpg

A number of the teachers in my district are already using wikis and blogs to post assignments and class information. However, as we all began using a wiki to collaborate on some sweeping curriculum changes, a significant number made a link between our wiki and Wikipedia. OK, so most of them made the link because I used Wikipedia as an example when I explained what a wiki was to the various working groups. However, perhaps not surprisingly, the link was almost universally negative.

I've complained before about teachers' prejudice against Wikipedia. Obviously, it shouldn't be a student's only source of information, any more than traditional encyclopedias should have been our only source of information when we wrote research papers in school. Wikipedia is, though, in the vast majority of cases, a great starting point for research, just as Brittanica is.

The beauty (and curse) of Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it. Anyone with the motivation or knowledge can add or improve entries (or, of course, post crap). Unfortunately, so many people simply want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, assuming that because not all entries are of Brittanica quality that it can't be a useful source of information.

So here is my challenge to teachers: Have your students make it better. It isn't hard to make a Wikipedia account and become a contributor. Have your students find an entry that is suspect, research it thoroughly using primary sources, and make it better. Send me links to the articles your students improve and I'll make a post out of them. If a tiny fraction of the high school students with Internet and library access on the planet picked an article to more thoroughly research and improve, it wouldn't take long to make Wikipedia even more outstanding, would it?

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