Sunday, January 8, 2012

Wikipedia - Teachers need to reconsider

I am taking some vacation time to attend the annual conference of Learning Without Frontiers, as this is of great personal and professional interest to me. I am fascinated by the idea of global learning and exploring new ways of learning that use technology to connect. The conference is at the end of January in London, so I am excited on so many levels about the opportunity - professionally, having the ability to meet, see and listen to experts in the field and hopefully network, and personally, having the chance to go to the UK, a place I have never been.

To prepare and get familiar with the speakers and event, I have been checking out many of the previous recordings of presentations and talks, which are fascinating. I just watched Jimmy Wales, the cofounder of Wikipedia, and was totally convinced of the value of using Wikipedia with students, which changes a long held belief of mine that wikipedia information is suspect.

As a teacher, I distinctly remember being told every year by our technology director to NOT allow students to use Wikipedia as a source of information for their research, because of it's open-source nature. Since anyone can edit, the information was deemed unreliable for students to use. This idea was so embedded in the culture of the K-12 education that I was in for over 17 years, that it is still something I have a hard time getting past. Despite the fact that I use Wikipedia often to get information, in the back of my mind I always doubt it's veracity.

After listening to Jimmy Wales talk, I find myself reconsidering my beliefs about Wikipedia and in fact, find myself wanting to investigate more about Wikipedia and it's uses. Perhaps edit myself and become part of this community. I think schools and districts should reconsider their
take on the use of Wikipedia by students and actually promote students become 'editors' themselves, as it forces learning - in order to contribute valuable information to Wikipedia, it is necessary to research - a tool all students need.

I recommend you all watch the talk by Jimmy Wales, which you can access directly from YouTube or look at Jimmy Wales and other amazing talks directly from the Learning Without Frontiers website, www.learningwithoutfrontiers.com

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