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Wikipedia may be a good starting point for information and a directional focus, but if those "yes" votes for citing it require that "students have verified the claims through other sources," isn't it better just to use those other sources? Wikipedia also would be a good way to teach students about primary and secondary sources.
While I agree that encyclopedias in general should be used only as a starting point for research done at the secondary school level, I consider Wikipedia top rate for this purpose. Wikipedia has been blocked from student use on our school network, a decision based on the type of negative reports in your article. It was suggested students instead use other online encyclopedias that are more reliable, such as MSN's Encarta. I went to this site and looked at several of the newer articles. None of the articles were authored or cited their sources. Alongside almost every Encarta article, listed as the first link in the "live search" suggestions for further information, was Wikipedia.
As a 20-year museum educator who must cite sources when creating science exhibits and programs I can tell you that none of our educators would be allowed to cite Wikipedia, nor would any serious science student in an academic setting.
The best use for Wiki is as a starting place to trace back to more reliable links. Wiki itself should not be cited.
Part of the problem with Wikipedia is the multiple, anonymous authors that collaboratively work to present the evolving product. Much of scholarly research is characterized by possessive individualism, and we all have to pay to read their work. Wikipedia is free.
From "Can History Be Open Source? by Roy Rosenzweig in the Journal of American History.
A historical work without owners and with multiple, anonymous authors is thus almost unimaginable in our professional culture. Yet, quite remarkably, that describes the online encyclopedia known as Wikipedia, which contains 3 million articles (1 million of them in English). History is probably the category encompassing the largest number of articles. Wikipedia is entirely free. And that freedom includes not just the ability of anyone to read it (a freedom denied by the scholarly journals in, say, JSTOR, which requires an expensive institutional subscription) but also—more remarkably—their freedom to use it. You can take Wikipedia's entry on Franklin D. Roosevelt and put it on your own Web site, you can hand out copies to your students, and you can publish it in a book—all with only one restriction: You may not impose any more restrictions on subsequent readers and users than have been imposed on you. And it has no authors in any conventional sense. Tens of thousands of people—who have not gotten even the glory of affixing their names to it—have written it collaboratively. The Roosevelt entry, for example, emerged over four years as five hundred authors made about one thousand edits. This extraordinary freedom and cooperation make Wikipedia the most important application of the principles of the free and open-source software movement to the world of cultural, rather than software, production.3
School is the absolute BEST place to use a tool like Wikipedia - what better place to teach collective mindset, collaboration, fact-checking, information literacy, media literacy, etc. Any school that DOESN'T use Wikipedia might as well be teaching only with a slate and chalk.
I tell students it's ok to use Wikipedia with some caution as long as they check to see that the information they are using from it has itself been cited. In addition, as noted above, that they also verify the information they are using from another source as well.
Better yet, have them create their own content. Look up Pitot House at Wikipedia. After taking a field trip to Pitot House, N. Watt's third grade students authored the original entry at Wikipedia. Now that's using 21st Century skills!
In elementary school it is hard to teach the concept of authority. Often students don't have the context in which to put information in order to make a judgement about its reliability. Wikipedia is another "talk show" in our lives where we listen to people speak as though they have information and authority, and yet their opinions may be based on faulty, misleading, or no information at all. We need media literacy now more than ever, and that means we have a responsibility to teach students to look at information with a critical eye. By all means, use Wikipedia to teach media literacy, and go with the "trust then verify" model if you have highly motivated students who can and actually will verify.
I almost fully agree, Kimberly - except for "Other than in elementary school": kids should be told from scratch that just copying from any encyclopedia is silly and above all, boring.
Yes, Wikipedia gives students a place to start when researching a topic. Once a student reads the info on Wikipedia, however, they should be required and encouraged to research further themselves and verify the info for authenticity and reliability.
Hence, students will be dealing with two real-life applicable lessons at the same time - researching on the web and verifying what they're reading as true or false.
This is something that everyone should be aware of and know how to do when researching! M