CTL Blog

Wikipedia: Gaining Respect in the Classroom?

November 23, 2011 | 2 Minute Read

While it may be highly controversial to allow students to use Wikipedia as a source for research, a recent article in the Vancouver Sun notes that in several places (OK, all in Canada) professors are embracing Wikipedia as a tool for students to achieve learning outcomes and leave something behind: a contribution to a publicly available resource.

In other words, rather than just using Wikipedia as a resource, students are contributing to wikipedia articles - either by improving upon already existing articles or creating new ones. "This is a Top 10 site on the Internet. The types of things the students were doing in class had real-world impact, realworld effects."

So while many are against students citing Wikipedia as a reference in research, some are taking an opportunity to help students "become more critical researchers who better identify what is true online."

(Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Wikipedia+gaining+respect+places+higher+learning/5663207/story.html#ixzz1dsuPXsnz)

Martin Walker, a chemistry professor and Wikimedia editor from SUNY Potsdam practices this as well. He has his chemistry students collaboratively work on improving Wikipedia chemistry articles: first in the classroom with his guidance, then on the Wikipedia pages. He has noted in presentations that students can learn a great deal from finding proper citations to how to edit and write in a style suitable for an encyclopedia article. Walker has also pointed out a couple additional reasons why some may wish to start using Wikipedia more in courses:

  • Some are not aware that since 2006, Wikipedia has had a structure for article review and approval. There are now "editors" and "administrators" who have certain rights and abilities to approve edits, delete pages, protect pages from vandalism, and so on. There are also criteria for peer-review-oriented article elevation to "Good Article" and "Featured Article" status.

  • Sources: Wikipedia articles now require verified reliable sources. Even if you don't feel quite right about using a Wikipedia article itself, check the citation source links at the bottom of the page - and there you can link directly to articles from all kinds of reliable sources such as journal articles, major newspaper and magazine articles, books, etc.