Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free content encyclopedia project. The name Wikipedia is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a type of collaborative website) and encyclopedia. Wikipedia's articles provide links to guide the user to related pages with additional information. (Wikipedia:About, retrieved 15:55, 10 October 2007 (MEST).)
See the wiki article for some information about wikis in general and a little discussion about wikis in education.
The Wikimedia Galaxy
Wikipedias are just one kind of websites that Wikimedia sponsors. In addition to these best known encyclopedias, there are other services, including:
Some of these are in principle of great interest to education and the "greater public" is not always aware of their existence. Most services exist in several languages and some in many. Language versions are sometimes not just translations, but present information in different ways.
However, Wikiversity seems to have trouble getting of the ground. Many courses a seriously underdeveloped and we wonder if a decentralized approach (e.g. various institutions hosting various topic-specific mediawikis) couldn't do a better job. In other words, Wikiversity might just become a clearning house instead and maybe a mirror. Also read Is the Wikimedia Foundation going to close Wikiversity? (March 2010). As for myself (Daniel K. Schneider), I prefer Wikibooks.
Wikipedia is the object for many types of research, such as social networking analysis, wiki dynamics, visualization. See the Wiki metrics, rubrics and collaboration tools article for some interesting pointers.
There are two major uses cases: Use wikipedia as a resource or have students learn by contributing to Wikipedia.
Wikis such as Wikipedia can be sucessfully used as content resource in various subject areas (in the same way that one use paper encyclopedias and other on-line resources). Mileage a teacher can get from Wikipedia and similar web sites varies a lot. In some areas, cover of Wikipedia is very good, in others it is not. As an example, coverage of color is very good. A lot of debate concerns the question whether one can trust Wikipedia articles. For graduate teaching this is rather irrelevant (Daniel K. Schneider thinks). Students should be able to figure if a wikipedia article is based on refereed scientific articles or technical literature such as standards. They also should follow up these links and be able to come up with their own assessment. Wikipedia is just an entry point! Finally, in the social sciences in particular, even peer-reviewed articles do not necessarily contain knowledge that one can transfer from a research context to pratices. Just recall all the big ongoing debates, e.g. the the media debate or compartive analysis of major instructional design models.
Studies show that writing-to-learn activities in Wikipedia can be beneficial for learning. E.g. Carver et al. (2012), Patten et al. (2012) and Chiang et al. (2012). See the Wikipedia Education Program for more information about the the Wikipedia's initiative to have “professors around the world assign their students to contribute to Wikipedia for class assignments.”
An other issue concerns research and debate. Teaching at university level (in particular in research universities as opposed to some teaching universities) also exposes students to research and debate. Contents that refer to current research are not allowed in Wikipedia and debates only a little bit. This is the main issue Daniel K. Schneider has about Wikipedia: Authors don't sign and there is no debate. Encyclopedias are an illusion, most knowledge is not safe nor universal.
Finally, there are alternatives to Wikipedia for teachers afraid to expose students to the world of the wisdome of the crowds, e.g.
- Global: Citizendium
- In EduTech: Orey, M. (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology, University of Georgia. HTML
Software developed for Wikipedia can and is used for many different purposes. This Wiki is just one of the many examples. Portalware, i.e. wiki technology used is redistributed under the label of MediaWiki. So this wiki is not a wikipedia, but a mediawiki. Btw. you can trust this wiki even less than wikipedia. First of all it's a place to collect thoughts and opinions and to link them. It's a place to make you think and to help you exploring, not a place to copy/paste knowledge into your head ...
Overal, we (Daniel K. Schneider) think that the task of creating a universal encyclopedia that pleases everyone is not possible and for various practical, economic, political/ideological and epistemological reasons. Since there must be some control over contents - just image billions of junk web pages that spammers would create - there must a set of clear editing rules and a body who exercises control. It now appears that various Wikipedia communities are in the hands of a clique or several cliques that enforce editing policy in way that some people don't like. For example, Points of Views (POV) are not allowed, i.e. most Wikipedia editors in power believe that truth should universally accepted, can be accepted as neutral point of view (NPOV) and be backed up by serious sources. From a philosopher's point of view, this stance doesn't make sense, since every knowledge is contextualized and that includes POVs. Of course, it gets worse when Wikipedia editors enforce their own non-neutral POV, but then we can find such bias in any publication ...
Another difficult rule is notability. Now what is notable ? Is for instance, that company notable ?
Another often heard critique is that some contents are weak or plain wrong (whatever that means). What some people criticizing Wikipedia's accuracy do not understand is that any source of knowledge must be questioned (including refereed academic literature). The difference is just that you'll have to a bit more careful and critical in some cases than in others....
A good example of a known critical website is Wikipedia review. Read some discussions and follow up links. Also read our editing rules for a different approach that is more tolerant, but that also takes the stance that EduTechWiki readers are mature enough to have their own judgment.
- Carver, B., Davis, R., Kelley, R. T., Obar, J. A., & Davis, L. L. (2012). Assigning Students to Edit Wikipedia: four case studies. E-Learning and Digital Media, 9(3), 273–283. PDF
- Chiang, C. D., Lewis, C. L., Wright, M. D. E., Agapova, S., Akers, B., Azad, T. D., Banerjee, K., et al. (2012). Learning chronobiology by improving Wikipedia. Journal of Biological Rhythms, 27(4), 333–36. HTML
- L. Endrizzi, L'édition de référence libre et collaborative : le cas de Wikipédia, INRP, Dossiers de la veille scientifique et technique, 2006 (HTML).
- Giles Jim (2005). "Internet Encyclopedias Go Head to Head." Nature 438 (15 December 2005): 900-901. The Web version includes Britannica's rebuttal and Nature's response. HTML
- Fister, Barbara (2007). Wikipedia and the Challenge of Read/Write Culture, Library Issues 27 (3). HTML (Access restricted).
- Hogg, J. L. (2012). Wikipedia: How Instructors Can Use This Technology As A Tool In The Classroom. Worldcomp’12. PDF
- Liu Alan. "Developing a Wikipedia Research Policy." Kairosnews. 29 June 2006. A proposed policy for student use of Wikipedia, reprinted from the Humanist discussion list. HTML
- Lessig Lawrence (2004). Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York: Penguin, 2004. Website and PDF - HTML at Ebooks.
- Patten, K., & Keane, L. (2012). Integrating Wikipedia Projects into IT Courses: Does Wikipedia Improve Learning Outcomes? AMCIS 2012 Proceedings. PDF
- Poe, Marshall (2006). "The Hive: Can Thousands of Wikipedians be Wrong? How an Attempt to Build an Online Encyclopedia Touched Off History's Biggest Experiment in Collaborative Knowledge." Atlantic Monthly 298 (September, 2006): 86-96. http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200609/wikipedia
- Rosenzweig. R. (2006). Can history be open source ? Wikipedia and the future of the past, in The Journal of American History , vol. 93(1), pp. 117-146, juin 2006. HTML Reprint
- Sanger Larry (1006). "Toward a New Compendium of Knowledge." Citizendium. HTML (describes the rationale behind Citizendium).
- The great failure of Wikipedia (2006), by Scott ?.