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Ban Wikipedia in schools?

The online encyclopedia is being banned from schools because teachers find the unverified facts on the site too easy for students to use.

The online encyclopedia is being banned from schools because teachers find the unverified facts on the site too easy for students to use.

Often, information on the online editable encyclopedia is found to be inaccurate and misguiding, leading to several schools promulgating a total ban on using the site as a reference point.

An excerpt from Inquirer:

When the Seattle Times asked a Wackypedia spokesperson what she thought of the ban, she agreed with it wholeheartedly.

Sandra Ordonez, communications manager for Wikimedia Foundation, said that the company does not recommend using the Web site as a primary research source either.

The reaction seems a bit extreme considering that all sources of information, be it books or Web sites, are able to contain some inaccurate data. But the advantage with online sites is the ease with which corrections can be made.

While it's too much to expect all students to verify the content of sites, perhaps an initiative on the teachers front could add more truth to the facts.

Do you side with the ban on Wikipedia from schools?

33 comments
j-mart
j-mart

If you read encyclopaedias 60 t0 10 years out of date half the fun is in seeing how much is still considered correct today. Its also a good indication of how much differently we think about many things today, it can all be enlightening.

Nodisalsi
Nodisalsi

.. to assist in keeping the Wikipedia accurate and up to date. Distortion of the facts presented to school pupils is nothing new - history education in schools has always been notorious for being politically tainted. And the most widely used method for distorting history is obfuscation. I do not believe that blandly ignoring a point of view presented by a heretic is productive - this just encourages everyone to accept the conventional wisdom which may equally be wrong. So I agree that lazy reliance on facts which are not backed up by evidence should be discouraged by the school curriculum - but students should be trained to challenge the facts rather than to dismiss them.

normhaga
normhaga

I see complaints about the inaccuracy of Wikipedia and suggestions that it only be a starting point. After that, I see suggestions that 'real' or actual research be posted. I guess people are strange because they complain about the inaccuracy of Wikipedia but become downright indignant when real research destroys their cherished opinion. So, what is it that you really want.

CavalierX
CavalierX

Using Wikipedia for scholarly research is the internet equivalent of using the National Enquirer to keep abreast of current events. It's great for entertainment and extensive detail on unimportant subjects like old tv shows, but can't be trusted where accuracy is essential... like research papers.

ThirdWorldPatriot
ThirdWorldPatriot

A lot of Wikipedia is not bad. However, it appears to have no policies on scholarship - or even personal integrity. Flat-out lies and total ignorance are no bar to editing, some of the practitioners are protected by admins. The easiest way to prove this to yourself is by checking articles on the Israel-Palestine conflict. At every turn you'll see "information" from the Israeli army or "attack-dog" pro-Israel sources such as CAMERA. You'll see nothing whatsoever from any Palestinian sources (several of which are substantially more credible than either of the above) - or Middle Eastern media generally (Al-Jazeera is a top-class "reliable source"). Appalling bad "historians" are widely used and the accounts of outside observers are systematically excluded or misquoted.

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

I have to admit I was dismayed that my school doesn't allow using it as a resource. I still use it, however I rely on the references available at the end of the article, so indirectly it helps me with my research papers.

metalmonkey
metalmonkey

IMHO completely banning wikipedia won't help much. Teaching kids to always doublecheck their sources would be a much more valuable lesson for them as they're going to be able to apply it throughout their lives instead of just learning that wikipedia is evil (which is not).

brian.mills
brian.mills

While I find Wikipedia to be a great quick reference for looking things up that I'm curious about, I would be very hesitant to cite it as a source in an academic paper, unless those facts can be verified by another source, which would then make the site redundant. The site could possibly be used in a case where the facts have been verified against a more reliable source but are presented in a more interesting way, but that would pretty much be restricted to direct quotes of the material. Wikipedia is a great tool for quick reference, but true research should be performed in either printed form or web sites with information that is not as easily edited.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]While it?s too much to expect all students to verify the content of sites, perhaps an initiative on the teachers front could add more truth to the facts.[/i] I vaguely remember learning that relying on a single source was not acceptable research technique and would earn me an F. Two sources were OK, three were good, four or more was best. The expectation was that I would cross-check between those sources to verify facts. Don't they teach this any more? With the on-line and hard-copy research tools available at most schools today, Wikipedia should be the research choice of last resort. Edit: type, post, proofread

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"...all sources of information be it books or websites are liable to contain some inaccurate data. But the advantage with online sites is the ease with which corrections can be made." Other traditional sources may contain inaccurate data that slips through the editing process. However, no one is able to casually change those materials as a prank. The advantage of easily correcting on-line sites is also the disadvantage of easily inserting bogus data, or of removing correct information. Say Joe Student reads the falsehoods in the period between posting and editing. If he's new to the subject, he may not spot the incorrect data. Wikipedia's policy of allowing anonymous changes makes it difficult to determine the poster's background and level of subject knowledge. Someone may post what they feel is correct, but they may not have done the research to verify the accuracy.

pr.arun
pr.arun

Do you side with the ban on Wikipedia from Schools?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]...students should be trained to challenge the facts rather than to dismiss them.[/i] And just which facts should be challenged? Should we challenge that June 6, 1944 was the D-Day invasion of Nazi Europe by the Allied forces? Should we challenge that the sky is blue? That John F. Kennedy was President? What? The important thing is not to challenge the facts, but to know which "fact" to challenge.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If I remember correctly, they where looking at ways to do just that a year or more ago. One of the sudgestions was to use donations to support experts who would then proof read and correct posts. If you could somehow get validated research posted it would be even better. Maybe even a certified/non-certified identifier on documents so both vetted and publicly written information could both be hosted.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

normhaga, if you weren't addressing comments I made, you can ignore this post as paranoid ramblings on my part. I'm not sure I understood your post. I've commented about possible inaccuracy. I've also suggested what I consider an improvement: a formal accreditation, approval, or screening process of those allowed to edit content. I don't see the two as opposing positions, although I'm open to discussion. I don't even think we need to restrict editing on all topics. Accuracy is more important in some areas than others. The life cycle of malaria-carrying mosquitoes is far more important than the history of the X-men. (Well, maybe not, bub.) I wouldn't mind seeing Wikipedia evolve into a resource worthy of being cited in research papers, but I don't see that happening with the current "anyone can edit" model.

dodrc001
dodrc001

I use wikipedia as a quick reference regularly. It is especially useful as a way to refine searches - I can find related topics on wikipedia and move on from there.. I have never heard of wikipedia being acceptable as an academic resource. At the universities I have attended, they would just laugh and fail me if I referenced wikipedia. I can't imagine schools accepting it either. I think that wikipedia should be accessible from schools, but that the teaching staff have a responsibility to inform the students that it is not an academic reference site, and that its exclusive use is unacceptable. One final thing - thousand and thousands of people look at the site every day. Many of the errors/pranks are cleaned up very quickly. They also lock users from changing pages that are often attacked.

CavalierX
CavalierX

No. It might make the stupid feel... well, stupid. Might even lead to competition and striving for excellence. Can't have that in schools. Everyone gets a gold star just for showing up, and an "A" for turning in anything at all. Or not, in some cases. After all, refusing to do work might be a "statement" of some kind.

pr.arun
pr.arun

Given the time, wikipedia will grow into a very authentic source. Getting everything right the first time is a rarity in the tech industry.

davidbteague
davidbteague

Prior to 2004, when I was still teaching University, I demanded that any information they found must be supported by at least two, preferably three sources. I did not allow the Britanica as the only source. Wikipedia articles that were supported by other sources were allowed. At that time I found too many Wikipedia articles with questionable and unsupported "facts". Today, Wikipedia is quite different. Articles are are marked if statements do not have sufficient references. The articles are read by knowledgeable readers who correct the articles. Access is controlled to pieces that otherwise would be subject to malicious change. With these policies what is the concern?

twilde04
twilde04

It's not like the kids won't have access to Wikipedia outside the school system...so they ARE going to use it. What educators need to do is EDUCATE and teach their students the role Wikipedia has in the information research world. It is a great place to start but probably not the place to be cited in a formal reasearch paper.

lyonk
lyonk

Our students must be taught how to use the tools that are used by real people in the real world. Too often, the classroom is treated like a sterile separate place. Wikipedia IS used by many adults as a place to START research. Teachers must teach students how to be critial users of information. The future is going to owned by those who know how to locate information effectively and use that information creatively. When we don't require our students to think - we set them up for failure in their future.

$dunk$
$dunk$

While it is true that wikipedia does often contain incorrect information. That is not the reason for the ban. The real reason for the ban is because it allows kids to have sources to conservative (the american version) ideas. Thereby causing kids to question the liberal public education indoctrination that is so prevalent.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

While Wikipedia may not be appropriate for quoting in papers and the like, IMO it is quite often an excellent starting place to arouse curiosity on a topic. I am a teacher at the Community College level. I am always amazed by the lack of curiosity about anything on the part of far too many students. I often point students to Wikipedia as a launching point for their research in the hopes that the plethora of links provided there will fire their curiosity. I also hope that once there, they will search out all sorts of other things and begin to see that it is indeed a big, wide world out there. So... let students use Wikipedia as a launching point, but not a legitimate reference.

normhaga
normhaga

You are not guilty of this. My post was, in fact a carry over from another topic where I conducted research using the U's proprietary database to find current information on a topic. When I announced that I had completed the research, summarized it, and asked how people would like me to make it available, I was firmly told to F*** myself. I assume the response was because it challenged the persons view of the topic. This is what the post referred to.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

General education may pass out A's at the drop of a hat, but while I was teaching at a high school career center, neither I nor any of the other teachers there ever GAVE an A. I had students who earned them, but I never GAVE one. If you want to see competition in schools, call your local career center and ask them about SkillsUSA (http://www.skillsusa.org) or check out this page at the PA Dept of Ed: http://tinyurl.com/2ppmut

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"...wikipedia will grow into a very authentic source." It may grow, but unlike controlled sources, how can it remain accurate without restricting the editing process? I don't see how it won't always be a target for some smart a$$ who wants to insert nonsense or remove content.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Some information is very accurate, other information is completely whacky but Wikipedia is still what it's always been; a good startign point. You check pedia for the general information and direct to authenticated sources for further research. The real news story I see here relates to teachers banning something because they do not understand it and/or do not bother to teach thorough research skills. If Jimmy has Wikipedia in his footnotes as the only source for information, Jimmy doesn't get an A. If Jimmy lists Wikipedia as a source but also includes all the original sources that it lead him too, Jimmy has a fighting chance.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

This discussion was active in late 2007. As you noted, Wikipedia has changed a lot, and many objections (including some of mine) are no longer relevant. That's what happens when you dig up a 'Zombie' discussion.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Under "Public Education". It's as authoritative as anything else on the site.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"If Jimmy lists Wikipedia as a source but also includes all the original sources that it lead him too, Jimmy has a fighting chance." I'd only list the sources it led me to. If you aren't citing material directly from Wikipedia, there's no reason to list it as a source.

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