As I have for several semesters now, I once again required my students to create Wikipedia entries and then track them through the semester to see what happened to their creations. Once we reached the end of the semester, they had to write something for our class blog in which they discussed what they learned from the experience.
Reading their posts brings up a number of interesting issues. The first is that a number of the students had a fair amount of anxiety about whether or not their entries might be deleted. Wikipedia’s “notability” standard was something we talked about early on in the semester, and so it is possible that I scared them a bit when I talked about entries being deleted.
Another topic that comes up repeatedly–and the one that really cuts to the heart of why I created this assignment in the first place–is a much greater skepticism on their part about Wikipedia as a source. They don’t plan on abandoning Wikipedia, and that wasn’t the point. Instead, the point was to learn how to use Wikipedia the right way. In other words, to deploy their common sense and critical thinking skills when they use it, rather than uncritically accepting anything and everything they find there.
Oh, and by the way, now that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has labeled teachers who ban their students from using Wikipedia as “bad educators“, I am so relieved to be on the right side of this issue…