Friday, December 07, 2007

Students should use Wikipedia, says its creator

This one, from BBC News, is likely to generate a bit of comment:

Students 'should use Wikipedia'
By Alistair Coleman
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has said teachers who refuse students access to the site are "bad educators".

Speaking at the Online Information conference at London's Olympia, he dismissed the long-running controversy over the site's authority.

He said he now thinks that students should be able to cite the online encyclopaedia in their work . . . .

. . . . Since the controversy, in which it emerged that the "free editing" policy had allowed articles containing inaccuracies and bias to appear, the site has introduced a system of real-time peer review, in which volunteers check new and updated articles for accuracy and impartiality.

Despite advances in technology, there are no plans to automate this process. "There is no substitute for peer critique," Mr Wales told delegates.
As I have mentioned in previous discussions of the issue here, I am not in favour of citing Wikipedia as an "authority", if by this we mean using it as a means of establishing points without any further discussion. I encourage my students, who are preparing for examinations at the moment, to engage critically with a range of secondary sources, one of which may indeed sometimes be Wikipedia.

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