Don't Use Wikipedia

posted Jan 21, 2015, 7:08 AM by Doug Saunders   [ updated Jan 21, 2015, 7:16 AM ]
A Common Misconception

I often times hear teachers telling their students not to use Wikipedia. The main reasoning behind this statement would include the fact that Wikipedia is crowd-sourced, meaning any Joe Schmoe off the street has the means to edit entries on the site. This would call into question the accuracy of the information it provides. It has been noted that there have been several instances where a politician or public figure would log into Wikipedia in order to amend articles about themselves to erase unfavorable material. However, studies have been done that prove Wikipedia is close to the level of accuracy as Encyclopedia Britannica. Statistically, Wikipedia has been measured to have an overall accuracy rate of 97.5%. I would even argue it is more accurate than most reputable sources given the fact that updates can be made immediately as events unfold in near real time. We must also keep in mind that any vandalism is usually repaired extremely quickly. Let's say I edited George Washington's Wikipedia bio to read, "George Washington is alive and well! He is living out the remainder of his days at his Texas Mount Vernon estate at the ripe old age of 276 years old!" More likely than not, this entry would be fixed by an editor in a matter of minutes and most users will never see its effects. With that being said, it is still important that teachers have students cross reference facts and information no matter what the source. I would not recommend that students site Wikipedia as a source, but I believe Wikipedia is a great starting block for gathering information about a certain topic. With that in mind, teachers need to remind students that Wikipedia should not be the only resource that is used to draw complete information from, rather than discourage its use altogether. 

Wikipedia for Teaching Information Literacy Skills

Education world has a great classroom activity listed on their site. It notes teachers can: "have older students fact-check a Wikipedia page by comparing it to its cited sources as well as other sources. They should note any inaccuracies or areas that could be improved. Set up a Wikipedia login for the class, keeping in mind that when using an open-source site, you will need to take Internet safety precautions very seriously. Ask kids to edit the page to make corrections and enhancements, including appropriate citations. This can be a powerful activity for teaching information literacy lessons about citations, plagiarism, Internet safety and judging the quality/reliability of online content." - See more at: 

Wikiwand App for Google Chrome - Wikipedia Modernized

Above: Wikiwand Screen Shot

There is a great Chrome extension called Wikiwand that enhances the readability of Wikipedia. Once a user installs the extension in Google Chrome it will offer a more professional and dynamic layout whenever a user reads a Wikipedia article. Listed below are some of the key features and enhancements offered by the Wikiwand extension:

► New clean layout for optimal readability
► Great modern typography
► Convenient fixed table-of-contents
► Quick preview when hovering over links
► Multi-language search with thumbnails
► Beautiful, immersive cover photos
► Larger photos and better media gallery
► Easy article narration and audio playback
► Color, font and layout personalization
► Dozens of other improvements