Wikipedia on Campus
Whether it’s ignorance, fear, or inertia, there seems to be a real resistance to Wikipedia in most educational settings. I’ve seen it in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary classrooms. The fact that anyone can edit Wikipedia somehow makes it a target for derision. Wikipedia becomes a secret shame; teachers tell students the information is unreliable and students learn to deny using it, meanwhile both groups are consulting the site regularly, and for good reason.
The truth is, taken as a whole, Wikipedia is very reliable. The editing community has developed a set of core standards that insists on verifiability, reliable sourcing, and neutral points of view - all very valuable standards for any student to learn. While it’s true that anyone can edit an article with misinformation, the power of the Wikipedia community means errors get corrected very quickly – so quickly in fact that most users never see the misinformation.
So why am I ranting about this today? It’s actually because I’m starting to feel encouraged and seeing signs that the tide may be turning. Schools are realising that instead of fighting Wikipedia, they could be using their resources to make it even better. I want to draw your attention to two recent Wikipedia initiatives that I feel your school should be involved with.
The first is Wikimedia’s Public Policy Initiative. As part of the initiative, professors at public policy programs in select U.S. universities are asking their students to improve articles as part of the curriculum. Wikimedia provides professors support in the form of lesson plans and coordination with the Wikipedia community to provide Wikipedia Ambassadors, who serve as mentors for the first-time Wikipedians.
The second is Wikipedia Student Clubs. Wikipedia describes the clubs this way: “If you believe in the free sharing of knowledge to the entire global community, then creating a Wikipedia student club on your college campus is a great way to grow the community of Wikipedia editors. A student club will provide a community for students to learn how to edit Wikipedia, teach each other how to edit, and actively participate in the process of peer-review.”
Both of these programs are small-scale right now. Nine schools are participating in the Public Policy Initiative , and there are only two student clubs right now (University of Michigan and James Madison University), but I’m hoping both of these ideas catch on like wildfire.
What do you think? Would a Wikipedia club work at your school? How would you feel about professors integrating Wikipedia into the curriculum?
tl;dr @michaelhills Twitter version: Forward thinking professors and students accepting #Wikipedia, working to improve articles instead of denying their value or validity.