Blogs > HNN > Teaching Wikipedia

Jun 13, 2006 9:20 am

Teaching Wikipedia

A Chronicle articlereported yesterday that, at a conference Friday, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales warned college students not to use the free online encyclopedia as a primary resource for research. Wales discussed the emails he receives from distraught college students about their low marks due to inaccurate information on Wikipedia. Among other things, Mr. Wales and his cohort have thought about composing a “fact sheet” to give professors about the uses and misuses of Wikipedia. But shouldn’t we have this kind of “sheet” already? Shouldn’t professors already be teaching students how to critically evaluate sources, on the web and in print?

I’m teaching a section of History 120 (introduction to US history) at George Mason University this fall, and one of my first lessons will discuss the strengths and weakness of digital resources such as Wikipedia. Historians cannot and should not simply ignore Wikipedia, as Roy Rosenzweig’s recent article “Can History Be Open Source?” in the Journal of American History reveals. With regard to our students, we need to do more than simply say “You cannot cite Wikipedia in your research papers,” or worse, say that students can only use one or two internet sources. Instead, we need to explain how to properly use Wikipedia, and other digital resources, to enhance learning and help develop critical thinking skills.

This latest article in the Chronicle, Dr. Rosenzweig’s JAH article, and the observations of a fewotherbloggers have made me think about how best to present Wikipedia to my students this fall. So, this post is the first in a series about some thoughts I’ve had about using Wikipedia as a teaching tool. The next few articles will discuss, respectively:

  1. Anatomy of a Wikipedia article
  2. Discussions on Wikipedia Articles
  3. Histories of Articles
  4. Comparing Wikipedia to Printed Sources

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

David Davisson - 6/16/2006

For several reasons I don't have access to the new issue of JAH either in print or online. I probably won't have access until the middle of August at the earliest. Is anyone aware of a copy online and not behind a wall?

Jeremy Boggs - 6/16/2006

I don't mind at all!

Jeremy Boggs - 6/16/2006

Heh, this is funny. Thanks, Josh, and Finn!

Josh Greenberg - 6/15/2006

Funny - those are notes from a presentation I just gave two days ago. I'll have the slides up online later this week...

David Davisson - 6/14/2006

Here is an outline of scholarly collaboration that might be of interest.

Finn Arne Jorgensen

Ms. Cornelius - 6/13/2006

I will be looking forward to the next posts. I hope you doon't mind if I use them in my high school classes.

Jeremy Boggs - 6/13/2006

Agreed. I'm researching the idea now, and will gladly welcome suggestions from others, especially from folks who have engaged students in a critical evaluation of Wikipedia.

Manan Ahmed - 6/13/2006

This is quite timely and needed. I think that if we can hash up a "How/When to read/cite Wikipedia" cheatsheet to use in class syllabi, it would find wide circulation.

Looking forward to the rest.