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Hopefully libraries do not have 30 year old encyclopedias sitting on the shelf. However, there are reliable databases such as Proquest, Ebsco, etc., that provide up to date valid information as well as many subject oriented databases like ABC Clio and Facts on File. Many encyclopedias are online, Grolier, etc. The fact that most students Google for information and find the Wikipedia article first on the list makes it easy to grab information from this source. Maybe this tells us that Googling for academic research isn't the best way to go. Does your doctor, lawyer, accountant Google for information when they have a problem and consult Wikipedia?
I can't say that I "hate it," as someone above asserted. Let me add that I am a freshman writing teacher and college administrator of over 20 years. Wikipedia simply is and it will be a part of our students' lives regardless of our attitudes.
What comes to my mind about Wikipedia specifically and Web 2.0 in general is the growing sense of shared ownership that the web seems to support--perhaps, encourage.
The more I watch what is happening, I am increasingly convinced that we are returning to a tribal culture where there is no individual ownership; everything is collectively owned.
I would further support this growing conviction by reminding us that we are in a post-industrial age and the "ownership" emerged from the 18th and 19th century models of industrialization and private ownership of intellectual property.
Have we grown past that part in our culture?
As a middle school librarian, I think all middle school students should be introduced to Wikipedia. The first paragraph usually tells them all they need to know. High school students should also use Wikipedia, but they need to be taught to continue their reference search. All students need to be familiar with all web based reference tools.
The problem of using Wikipedia reared its head in a grade 2 class that I taught. A mother was horrified that I would use such a thing with her child, despite the fact that we were studying how to find information on a page. During the lesson the students were performing a scavenger hunt on the planets, and that all of the pages we used were locked. I had also talked about students using Google and the millions of (sometimes inappropriate) hits that they get.
I agree with other comments, the students should use Wikipedia as a starting point for research, and should be taught to find multiple sources and cite everything they find.
I have two thoughts regarding this post. One is that Wikipedia, if used in an exploratory way, is a tremendous resource for finding targeted information on a topic. Though reliability of a particular article may be in question, most articles that are written well have links and verifiable resource information that would allow anyone to investigate the quality of the resource. I would argue that any "published" work needs to be scrutinized in the same way, rather than passively accepting what is written. Anyone who does research on a regular basis knows that this is a part of a rigorous line of inquiry.
Second, I don't know of any printed encyclopedia or journal that would have any information about a person's father/mother (you name the relative) that wasn't famous. Isn't this amazing that a student would find information about relatives? And further, if the birthdate was incorrect...what other resource would allow you to CORRECT the content. I think that if you view Wikipedia as a static, athoritative resource, you're bound to be disappointed. But if you consider the potential to have self-verifying and dynamic resource...the doors for learning potential open up tremendously. Wouldn't a more appropriate response to the student be, "So why don't you change that and explain in the comments why the original post was incorrect?" Suddenly, the student is more invested in the process and might learn something about the necessity of verification of resources...and an awareness of ethical issues like correcting erroneous reports for the benefit of the greater community.
I tell my students: use Wikipedia to get background information, but use the books and academic journals to get the information you need to prove your thesis. As teachers if we are teaching students to write well written research papers, then we also need to expose them to a variety of academic sources. Wikipedia won't get them through college; I hate the thought of students seeing academic journals for the first time in college.
Students should be taught to verify ALL information they find, regardless of whether it is print or electronic, a well known or lesser known publisher.
Students are going to read the Wikipedia entry either eay, so they SHOULD be taught to cite it.
Yes students should be able to use it, and like any other source they should make sure that the information is reliable. To the most part it is providing students with up to date information which as time is better that 30 yr old encyclopedias sitting on the shelf.
I am sending this page not for you to respond to a poll, but to remind you all that Wikipedia is NOT a reliable site for research. The students have been REPEATEDLY told this throughout the year.
The only thing I would ever use wikipedia for in the classroom would be to illustrate the purpose of deserning between reliable and unreliable sources for research. Wikipedia is the example of a bad source to use, in my opinion.
Coincidentaly, just yesterday, a student of mine showed me that the wikipedia site had informaton about his father and that his birthdate incorrect! I replied, "that's why I tell you all not to use wikipedia as a source".