Wikipedia - friend, not foe

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Wikipedia: friend, not foe
Authors: Darren Crovitz, W. Scott Smoot [edit item]
Citation: English Journal 98 (3): 91-97. 2009 January.
Publication type: Journal article
Peer-reviewed: Yes
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Link(s): Paper link
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Wikipedia: friend, not foe is a publication by Darren Crovitz, W. Scott Smoot.


[edit] Abstract

As online research has become an increasingly standard activity for middle school and high school students, Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org) has simultaneously emerged as the bane of many teachers who include research-focused assignments in their courses. An online encyclopedia that allows anyone to edit its entries, Wikipedia has educators fed up with students using the site as a primary resource and citing its content in their essays. For some the site seems to represent the worst of how the Internet has dumbed down the research process, with its easily accessible but unsubstantiated (if not downright false) information on almost any topic, a student's citation of which amounts to a mockery of legitimate inquiry. After all, how can a site that allows anyone" to add change or remove information be credible? Seen in a different light Wikipedia provides a unique opportunity to get students involved in ongoing conversations about writing for a real audience meeting genre expectations establishing credibility revising for clarity and purpose and entering public discussions about the nature of truth, accuracy, and neutrality.

[edit] Research questions

"Are there ways, however, that teachers can address the Wikipedia phenomenon that don’t include banning students from using the site? Seen in a different light, Wikipedia provides a unique opportunity to get students involved in ongoing conversations about writing for a real audience, meeting genre expectations, establishing credibility, revising for clarity and purpose, and entering public discussions about the nature of truth, accuracy, and neutrality."

Research details

Topics: Student contribution [edit item]
Domains: Education [edit item]
Theory type: Design and action [edit item]
Wikipedia coverage: Main topic [edit item]
Theories: "Undetermined" [edit item]
Research design: Content analysis [edit item]
Data source: Wikipedia pages [edit item]
Collected data time dimension: Cross-sectional [edit item]
Unit of analysis: Article [edit item]
Wikipedia data extraction: Live Wikipedia [edit item]
Wikipedia page type: Article, Article:talk, Collaboration and coordination [edit item]
Wikipedia language: English [edit item]

[edit] Conclusion

"What makes Wikipedia seem so dangerous to some teachers—its inherent malleability—is also what makes the site a dynamic and authentic demonstration of the research process itself. Granted, if students use Wikipedia as just another reference source (or their only source), then they will get no more from it (and possibly less) than a traditional encyclopedia in the school’s library. But if they can learn about how entries on the site change and how each change is debated in arguments open to anyone’s inspection, then Wikipedia can demonstrate to students the process, importance, and excitement of real scholarship. Here is an authentic demonstration that knowledge isn’t settled, that there are always more questions to ask and always differing perspectives on the answers. Students can see that opinions and facts aren’t always easily differentiated and that uncontested facts can be used to support opposing conclusions. And they can learn that no piece of knowledge can be understood separate from its connections to other topics in a multifaceted web that, on Wikipedia, is accessible at the click of a mouse. As is probably obvious, we’ve used Wikipedia as a primary source in various ways throughout the evolution of this article. In what may strike some as a gross violation of conventional research procedures, we’ve cited a number of Wikipedia’s pages directly in our discussion of the sites policies, criticisms, and strengths. These reference pages in turn helped guide us to other useful sources, often through the documented information in their “Notes” sections. How do we know the information on any of these pages was and is now accurate? In short, we assumed the responsibility of active readers by following the same process of textual evaluation we describe above, examining the information for its sourcing and considering its validity so as not to harm our credibility or do our readers a disservice. Any teacher interested in exploring Wikipedia as a potential base for assignments—rather than summarily rejecting the site as a slough of misinformation—must likewise become familiar with the site’s guidelines, structure, strengths, and drawbacks. We invite readers to investigate the Wikipedia pages referenced in this article as a means of reaching their own conclusions about the site’s potential in their classrooms."

[edit] Comments

""Any teacher interested in exploring Wikipedia as a potential base for assignments—rather than summarily rejecting the site as a slough of misinformation—must likewise become familiar with the site’s guidelines, structure, strengths, and drawbacks." P. 96-97"


Further notes[edit]

Other URL: http://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/facpubs/121/