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 (2 of 7) – It is pretty up to date
If you went to your school library and looked at the date your last set of encyclopedias were purchased – would they be in the last decade? What about the last five years? One year? Yesterday?
Across the world investment in books in libraries is on the decrease. Although this might be wrong, it is an unfortunate reality. When I taught at Musselburgh Grammar School I once challenged students to find the out-of-date articles in traditional print encyclopedias.
Moving on, there is no doubt about it that Wikipedia is more up to date in terms of real time events than traditional encyclopedias. One of my favorite days ever in the classroom was back in 2005 when when Pluto was declassified as a planet (I can’t quite believe that was almost ten years ago). Wikipedia was (and always has been) up-dated almost straight away.
Obviously, this is an example that sticks with me. But, when you think about other global events in recent times such as Ebola, The October 2014 crash of Virgin Atlantic or Tim Cook (from Apple) becoming the first openly gay CEO on the Fortune 500 list.
While traditional encyclopedias and sources have to wait for a re-print (or a re-purchase) Wikipedia relies on the power of the crowd to keep it as accurate and as neutral as possible. There is of course difference between up-to-date and accuracy.
So, are your paper based Encyclopedias really as up to date and accurate as Wikipedia? What about the accuracy of your staff, support staff and parent knowledge?
Key Message: Educators should encourage students to look at when Wikipedia articles were last up-dated. You can see this by clicking on the ‘view history’ tab in the top right hand corner of each Wikipedia Page.