Wikipedia and the classroom

I have been following an interesting discussion about the use of tools such as Wikipedia and YouTube in the classroom.

I’ve just finished listening to a BBC Scotland after Ollie Bray posted a link on Twitter. Interesting that the programme was biased (as most forms of media are) in that there was no right of reply for the mysterious ‘Deputy Head.’ This was mildly amusing to me, as the main thrust of the interview was to prove that other sources of information are biased and unreliable.

This bias is the very reason why teachers should be using wikipedia and co in the classroom. But, for the record:

  • Wikipedia is a tool. It is not the future of learning, nothing ever is. To my knowledge, no teaching is advicating the use of Wikipedia, or any other tool, as the ‘Official Answer to Everything, ever’
  • A lot of the criticism assumes that Wikipedia is being used to source information. This is not necessarily true. For example, I use Wikipedia in order to introduce pupils to the critical examination of all forms of media. Printed encyclopedia are a great source of information, and I love books big style. However, the moment they appear on the shelf, they are out of date. Are some parts of the UK arguing that pupils should rely on the population and development data of a book that is 10 years old? Or should they use addition sources of information?
  • A classic quote, which I think needs adding to my wall of fame, went something like ‘We need to be teaching pupils to critically assess the internet’. I thought that was the point of using sources of information like Wikipedia.

It’s also interesting that most pupils probably do not have instant access to a huge, very expensive, set of printed encyclopedia. At home, they have instant and low cost (relatively speaking) access to the resources of the World Wide Web. Surely we should be allowing our pupils to access this huge, often free, resource while being able to critically assess?

The ‘debate’ today has provided some rich learning resources on the reliability of the media!

If the BBC are reading this, I invite you in to my classroom to see how effective using these tools can be.

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