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October 12, 2009


John Sutton

Lazy academics and teachers dismiss Wikipedia at their peril. It's been shown over and over that the site is generally just as accurate as printed encyclopedias, but better because, as you rightly pointed out, it acknowledges where it is possibly inaccurate and invites the community to correct it. As a repository of cultural knowledge it's peerless and when the history of the web is written it will be at the forefront as one of its most important developments.


I totally agree with you. Last Friday, during our extra CfE day we were tasked with agreeing on a course for for our new S1’s. We are to be given a double period to teach S1 ICT from next session, an increase from the single period of time we have always had. My initial reaction was that we should be moving away from timetabling ICT at all, a point for another debate I suppose.

When we (IT Faculty) sat down to discuss this we got excited and carried away thinking of the possibilities that a double period with S1 opens up. I was reassured when we were coming up with lots of practical, project based work, mixed in with ‘hard skills’ and that the department were excited about using all kinds of technology in the mix.

To focus on the original point of this reply, one of the things we were looking to encourage is the use of Wikipedia in the classroom, showing pupils how useful it can be when used properly, showing simple things like checking the validity of the source, using the citations, not copying and pasting directly from it, referencing it correctly when taking information from it and changing it when necessary.
We are going to start with a short, simple exercise, like adding a (false) sentence into the SHS page, such as ‘well done to class ___ for winning class of the week’. Pupils have to be taught how to use sites like Wikipedia, but after that the possibilities are endless – look out for a bursting SHS Wikipedia site next session and boo to those who think this is going away.


Ian U

It's all fairly obvious stuff for anyone in school even vaguely prepared to think about the issues - the only potential peril would be from the school and a bunch of students/pupils getting into a game of Editing Tennis...

However, this can all be summed up in The Best Title For A Facebook Group I've Ever Seen:

Abolish Abstinence-Only Wikipedia Education:


My half-ass, hands-off approach to homework could be considered negligent if it weren't for Wikipedia :) We've even found a few inaccuracies but haven't plucked up the courage to edit anything as I've heard tale the established Wikipedia community can be quite brutal with young upstarts.

As I wander my own path through tertiary education with the Open University I find that the ability to evaluate, filter, validate and reference online material is taken as a given. These are not just skills for school or skills for education any more, they are essential skills for a life steeped in information - says she who still can't convince her parents to stop reading the Daily Mail. Nyah. Some you win. Some you lose.


Thanks everyone for re-enforcing my thinking and your right Mrs W, 'These are not just skills for school or skills for education any more, they are essential skills for a life steeped in information'.

James Clay

I use to be very anti-wikipedia until I realised I was using it on an almost daily basis...

We recorded an interesting podcast about this subject back in March.



As a Wikipedian, I agree with you, and I think I should point out a Wikipedia page that more teachers need to see:


That page is all about teachers who have decided to challenge their students with an exercise in improving one or more Wikipedia articles. It includes instructions, help (from volunteer Wikipedians familiar with the site), and even resources like sample assignments. It also catalogues a number of past and present projects, so you can see what's already been done.

It seems like a great way to show students the sorts of things you've outlined in this article, as well as giving them an opportunity to learn and apply research skills. It also has the virtue of being public: students create something that others will benefit from, rather than a term paper that will get trashed after it is graded.

Forgive me for spamming that program's benefits, but I think it's really on-topic for this post. :)


@James - its funny how we change our minds about things! I'll check out your podcast...

@Nihiltres - More than happy for you to post this. I had not come across the linka nd I think it is something that my readers will be interested in. Thansk again.

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