Wikipedia in Schools

I was on my daily (actually, more like hourly) visit to slashdot and was amazed when I came across a story mentioning a school I had attended. The story was on the use of Wikipedia as a means for students to submit their research papers. This is one of those things that seems so obvious. Yet, this is the first time I have heard of it. What happens to normal term papers? They get graded, returned to the student and thrown in the recycle bin. If only more educators would embrace open sharing of knowledge and ideas, these type of ideas would be mainstream. There is a real hatred in academia of wikipedia, especially as a source. It always stuck me as odd. The whole premise of what wikipedia is and why it has become a staple in internet society seems to be much of what educators preach. Yet, they seem to scowl at the mention of wikipedia.

A lot of the comments left on Slashdot had some great ideas for educators.

  • Have students update wikipedia articles with citations and corrections
  • Have students submit articles for peer review by thousands instead of just classmates
  • Have students expand on stubs or missing information in articles

The interesting piece of this all is that academia is already required to publish much of their students work in journals. However, journals do not offer the freedoms that wikipedia does. Wikipedia separates rich from poor, haves from have nots. It allows anybody with internet access a portal for finding solid, general information about a subject. It cites references for further research.

My personal belief is that the distaste for wikipedia in academia is not because the information is not factual or inaccurate. It is because students (and people in general) have a hard time deciphering fact from fiction. It takes a certain amount of effort to actually look at something and decide whether the information can be taken for fact or should be looked into further. This is just the same for journals though.

Teachers should spend more time teaching common sense… If that is possible.