I have used Wikipedia before but only to look up information quickly. I have not used this resource in any educational projects or any assessment for university as I have always been told the resources aren’t very reliable due to all the anonymous authors that can edit the information. I found that navigating my way around the site was pretty frustrating as I have not really used Wikipedia before. Consequently I did not really know what else it could offer. However upon researching Wikipedia I discovered some interesting features that coincide with Wikipedia to make it more advanced. Also to my surprise I found that Wikipedia can provide you with some relevant and reliable resources that could benefit students if used within the classroom.
What is Wikipedia? & Using Wikipedia in the Classroom
Wikipedia describes a wiki as a medium which can be edited by anyone that has access to it and provides an easy method from linking one page to another (Coleman, 2008). Wikipedia has some ‘sister projects’ that fulfil some of the roles Wikipedia doesn’t. There are seven projects that are parallel to Wikipedia plus a project called the ‘Commons’ where pictures and other freely useable media are stored (Broughton, 2008). The seven projects are:
As I looked at each of the sister projects that Wikipedia offered I found one in particular, ‘Wikinews’ which really caught my eye. I realise this would be another great resources to use in the classroom when teaching students about Natural Disasters (mentioned in other blogs). Students could browse through the news resources given to find more information about particular disasters that have occurred around the world. They could also use Commons which allows students to find pictures that can relate to the news articles they have just found. Using these sister programs in conjunction with Wikipedia can help students create a well researched project.
Wikipedia has become a well known research website but it does come with its unique issues. Students must be careful with what and how they use the information they gather from Wikipedia. Richardson (2008) states that students must be careful what Wikipedia sources to trust especially as there are many anonymous authors. An early consensus among educators was to tell students to use Wikipedia as a starting point for their work, not a sole resource (Richardson, 2008).
Using information from Wikipedia and other sources can create a well researched project if used in the appropriate way. To provide students with an authentic learning experience they could research their topic and add their new information to Wikipedia (as an author). This will allow students to critically think about their research if it gets modified. It also provides students with the opportunity to contribute what they learnt and know to a larger audience (Richardson, 2008).
Incorporating Wikipedia into the learning on Natural Disaster’s (as mentioned above) can be analysed by the Learning Design Framework (2003) as it is used as a resource to support students in the construction of a specific task. Teachers can use this source in many different learning areas but they must be aware that students will need some scaffolding in using Wikipedia effectively. As mentioned above Wikipedia is a starting point, not a sole resource and teachers must use it appropriately in a meaningful context to the students.
AUTC. (2003). Learning Design. Accessed 10th August, 2009, from http://www.learningdesigns.uow.edu.au/project/learn_design.htm
Broughton, J (2008) Wikipedia – the Missing Manual: O’Reilly Media; United States of America.
Coleman, D & Levine S (2008) Collaboration 2.0 – Technology the - Technology and Best Practices for Successful Collaboration in a Web 2.0 World: HappyAbout.info; California.
Richardson, W (2008) Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms: Corwin Press, California.