Love it or hate it Wikipedia is a big part of our lives and its certainly a big part of our online browsing experience. Whether we admit to it or not many people consult Wikipedia on a regular basis to answer their questions. A large part of this is due to the fact that Google loves Wikipedia more than any other site on the Internet. In fact it gets presented as the top search result to more search queries than anything else, even Google itself.
Anyway, one of the challenges for educators using Wikipedia is trying to get students to use it appropriately and really to understand what it is and what it can do.
This series of posts should give you a few ideas.
7 things you didn’t know about Wikipedia (3 of 7) – It has ‘tabs’
When you land on a Wikipedia Page for you land on the ‘Article’ page (or tab). The ‘Read’ tab (page) is also highlighted.
Most people think that this is Wikipedia. But that is because most people think that Wikipedia is a project about consumption. Its real purpose (which has become lost over the years) is that of creation. If fact, it is arguably, the worlds most ambitious, collaborative and successful digital creation project of all time. It is unlikely that something on its scale will ever be replicated again.
For those that need a reminder the word ‘wiki’ comes from the Hawaiian word meaning ‘quick’. In terms of the Internet a Wiki is a quick to edit web page and it is important to remember that anyone can edit Wikipedia.
The ability for anyone to be able to edit Wikipedia and to share their knowledge within its pages is one of the core philosophies of Wikipedia. It’s other core philosophy (like any encyclopaedia) is to remain as neutral as possible and represent a balanced view.
This leads me on nicely to the other Wikipedia tabs. The ‘View history’ Tab shows how many times, when and by who (as long as they are logged in) a page has been edited.
Remember the general rule is the more edits a page has the more accurate it is likely to be. If there were only one editor then the article would be pretty bias from only one point of view… wouldn’t it?
The ‘Talk’ tabs make fascinating articles in themselves and contain the discussion and arguments of a group of editors trying to agree on the text that should go into the main article. It is these discussions that help Wikipedia remain transparent and neutral.
Then there is the ‘edit’ tab - your chance to contribute to the largest encyclopaedia in the world (an empowering concept in itself). You might think that you have nothing to say or contribute. But the reality is Wikipedia is great at supporting niche and local articles that many traditional encyclopaedias just don’t have time to research or print. Anyone who edits a page or contributes to its development is part of the Wikipedia Community (and becomes a Wikipedian).
As an educator it is also worth considering using Wikipedia as a tool to develop Higher Order Thinking and Booms Taxonomy.
For example, you could use the ‘Read’ tab to help students remember and then with support understand key concepts and facts. You could use the ‘Talk’ tab to help students analyse to information. The ‘View History’ tab is a good tool to evaluate. Finally, ‘Edit’ tab supports the creation of content.
Key Message: Educators should encourage students to use the ‘tabs’ on Wikipedia pages as a way of helping students critically evaluate them as a source. The tabs can also be used to support and the various stages of Blooms Taxonomy from remembering through to creating.