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Wikipedia as a Learning Resource

James is a Primary Teacher working through Protocol Education in Nottingham.Today he debates the pros and cons of Wikipedia as a learning resource!

Wikipedia as a Learning Resource

Wikipedia is the largest online encyclopaedia in the world. I have used it for years, both as a student and also as a teacher. With a seemingly  endless bank of information it can be a valuable tool in finding out masses of information about a topic. That said, nearly all universities, schools and colleges do not accept Wikipedia as a reference. I am often asked by parents and students what I think of the website as a tool for learning and would love to hear your thoughts too. Here are some of mine...

Positives

First of all it's free! So many educational websites are charging (either the individual or the school) for their services now and the fact that Wikipedia doesn't is a big plus.

Secondly, you can almost guarantee that the item you would like to research will be listed. Wikipedia is growing all the time and currently has over 30 million entries!

Another positive is that, even though some articles may need some editing, the majority are extremely accurate and useful (in my opinion). Even the ones with only a little information can give a learner a quick background to a new topic. Since 2010 the site has also vastly increased its number of editors, in each specialist field, in order to keep the site as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

Negatives

As with any website Wikipedia is not perfect. As I mentioned previously, even though the site does a great job to edit pages it is impossible to maintain the accuracy of 30 million pages! The fact that most pages can be edited by anyone (regardless of age or knowledge) leaves Wikipedia vulnerable to ‘vandalism’ and/or inaccurate information. An editor may not know as much as they think they do on a topic and many pages can be very subjective – especially if they are of a political nature. It may take an official Wikipedia editor days or months to find any corrupt pages, meaning thousands of people could view inaccurate or offensive material.

Another drawback is that some learners become reliant on Wikipedia, reducing the amount of time they spend researching genuine academic papers in favour of a ‘quick-fix’.

I would love to hear what other people think of Wikipedia as a learning tool. I definitely feel like the website as a whole is a positive thing. Nine times out of ten you can find accurate information on virtually any given topic.

That said, I do believe that its use should be limited in the classroom and in essays. In my opinion it should be used to gather basic information on a topic and not to provide all the answers.

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Tags: James, Wikipedia, Primary Teacher, Supply Teaching, Technology, Protocol Education

Category: Australian Teachers


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