Trusting (or not) the Wikipedia

As I began thinking about my Google presentation I plan to deliver on Wednesday at EdTech 2011, I also thought of the Wikipedia, that other website some teachers don’t like. (I think the case against Google is far less plausible than the one(s) against Wikipedia.) So, why don’t teachers like the Wikipedia? This blog post outlines at least 10 reasons why students shouldn’t rely upon, or cite, the Wikipedia.

While they do admit there’s a place for the Wikipedia in education, I’d like to be the advocate for what’s right with the Wikipedia.

  1. It’s free. The adage goes, “you get what you pay for,” which would imply the quality here isn’t good. In fact, I often find the basic information I am looking for when visiting search results that point to Wikipedia. That’s a lot of value, despite the cost.
  2. You can see what people were thinking. The discussion tabs along the top give insight to what people where thinking in terms of edits. You don’t get this in other media (things like encyclopedias).
  3. The Wikipedia really reflects the true nature of knowledge. There are few static facts in life. Perspectives are always changing, as does the concept of knowledge. The fact that articles are changing, morphing, and are being massaged by different biases and viewpoints is more authentic.
  4. It’s open. Cases about difficulty in changing content, or control by all white graduate students aside, the wiki format is an open one. And despite being open now with locks and other safeguards, the corpus of the Wikipedia is remarkable when you consider it was created by donated time and talent.
  5. It’s broad. What other resource is as broad and wide as the Wikipedia?
  6. It’s multimedia In addition to graphics, some article contain animations, and others musical examples.
  7. It challenges our understanding. I agree, the articles shouldn’t be taken at face value. All knowledge is messy. We should be questioning a lot more in life, too.
  8. Articles link to other sources. In some cases, the articles supporting what’s written are of a quality that deserves our attention.
  9. You can make it better. You don’t have to only be a Wikipedia consumer.
  10. It’s popular. What better way to attempt to keep content honest than to have a large audience? The more eyes, I say, the better.