User-Generated Content in Education/Wikipedia

Wikipedia in Education edit

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia where anyone can add or edit articles. Wikipedia is an example of what has been called social software. This type of software is used to enhance collaboration, connection and communication (THE Journal, 2007)[1]. Students can develop their skills as consumers of information, so that they may compete in the global marketplace (Curtis, n.d.)[2].

Wikipedia T-Shirt

Wikipedia is less an unregulated free-for-all of misinformation than an open collaborative in various stages of development, depth, and sophistication depending on where one looks.” (Crovitz, D. & Smoot, W. S., 2007)[3]

How Should you Approach Wikipedia? edit

John Lee (2009) [4]states that "by approaching Wikipedia as a context for developing critical skills and dispositions for using information, teachers are embracing conditions that are a real part of their teaching world and enabling students to be better prepared to use information in productive ways." Cathy Davidson (2007)[5] offers this summary: "Wikipedia is not just an encyclopedia. It is a knowledge community, uniting anonymous readers all over the world who edit and correct grammar, style, interpretations, and facts. It is a community devoted to a common good, the life of the intellect."

I edit Wikipedia

Pros and Cons of Wikipedia edit

Although the use of Wikipedia continues to grow, in certain areas caution needs to be exercised. In a recent study the researchers found. "Based on the opinion of the medical experts, Wikipedia entries were reasonably concise and current but failed to cover key aspects of two of the topics and contained some factual errors. Each reviewer found Wikipedia unsuitable for medical students. Wikipedia was the most accessible resource and the easiest resource in which to find information because the relevant topics were retrieved immediately upon searching. The other resources required the searcher to select from lists of entries"(Pender et al, 2008) [6]. A second study "does support the claim that Wikipedia is less reliable than other reference resources" (Emerald, 2008) [7]. However, in other fields such as history many have found Wikipedia to be " the most important application of the principles of the free and open-source software movement to the world of cultural, rather than software, production. Despite, or perhaps because of, this open-source mode of production and distribution, Wikipedia has become astonishingly widely read and cited. More than a million people a day visit the Wikipedia site. The Alexa traffic rankings put it at number 18, well above the New York Times (50), the Library of Congress (1,175), and the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica (2,952). In a few short years, it has become perhaps the largest work of online historical writing, the most widely read work of digital history, and the most important free historical resource on the World Wide Web" " (Rosenzweig, 2006)[8]. Comparison studies of Wikipedia and the Encyclopædia Britannica have shown little difference in the number of errors between science related materials. “Experts in the specific fields found some factual errors, omissions or misleading statements. In the end, Wikipedia had 162 such problems, while Britannica had 123”(Terdiman,D., 2005)[9]. It appears that no matter what resource you are using, you may still encounter errors. The question is not if you should use Wikipedia, but how should you use it. “Students should never use information in Wikipedia (or any other online encyclopedia) for formal purposes (such as school essays) until they have verified and evaluated the information based on external sources” (Wikipedia, n.d.)[10].

Advantages of Wikipedia edit

According to Doug Johnson, Mankato Public Schools Director of Media and Technology, there are good reasons to use Wikipedia over other encyclopedias. They include the following:

  • It has a wider scope with far more articles than traditional encyclopedias.
  • It has more up-to-date information on timely topics.
  • It presents information in a manner familiar to its Web 2.0 generation user.
  • Conventional and undocumented information is included but is noted as such (Johnson, 2006)[11].

How to use Wikipedia in the Classroom edit

  • Wikipedia, like any encyclopedia, is a great starting place for research but not always a great ending place (Wikipedia, n.d.)[12].
  • A Wikipedia entry should not be “used as a source of truth but as a springboard to further inquiry” (Crovitz and Smoot, 2009)[13].
    • Students can search Wikipedia for information that interests them, look for gaps or missing information within a page, propose questions, find research, and finally make editing or addition contributions to the Wikipedia page.
    • With this process, students will be actively engaged in material that is interesting to them, they will take a turn teaching the world, and they will increase research and writing skills.
  • When elementary and secondary students are researching history, Wikipedia is a decent place to start. When they or others are researching education policy, or other controversial topics, tapping another resource is in order (Petrilli, 2008)[14].
  • Wikipedia can teach students about authorial credibility. (Blackwell, K., 2008)[15]

External Links edit


Andy Carvin's "Learning Now" blog entry (2006) quotes key educators.

Maine educator Richard Byrne's technology blog post on Textbooks, Wikipedia and Primary Source Research (2010).

Alexa Garvoille, The Rebellious Reader, blogs on Writing Wikipedia Pages in the Constructivist Classroom (2009).

Bob Sprankle, TechLearning Advisor, blogs on Starting Small with Simple English Wikipedia (2011).


Wikipedia entry: School and University Projects

Wikipedia entry on its own accuracy and reliability: FAQ/Schools Papers:

English Teaching Forum journal article by Christine M. Tardy: Writing for the World: Wikipedia as an Introduction to Academic Writing


TED Video: Jimmy Wales on the Birth of Wikipedia (18:40 minute mark)

The Telegraph (Jimmy Wales Talks to Matt Warman): Jimmy Wales on the Future of Wikipedia (5:57 minute mark)


Using Wikipedia in the Classroom (2006)

Are We Ready to Use Wikipedia to Teach Writing? (2009)

Professors should Embrace Wikipedia (2008)

Wikipedia or Wickedpedia? Assessing Wikipedia’s Impact on K-12 Education (2008)

Using Wikipedia in Social Studies (2009)

Trusting Wikipedia as a Resource (2009)

Wikipedia Celebrates 10 years (2010)

References edit

  1. THE Journal (2007). Online collaboration: curriculum unbound! Retrieved March 1, 2011, from
  2. Curtis, P. (n.d.). Pupils to study Twitter and blogs in primary shake-up. The Guardian. Retrieved March 1, 2011, from
  3. Crovitz, D. & Smoot, W. S., (2007). Friend, Not Foe. Retrieved March 1, 2011 from
  4. Lee, J. (2009, February 21 ). TPACK vignette - Using Wikipedia in the social studies classroom . New Literacies Collaborative. Retrieved March 2, 2011, from
  5. DAVIDSON, C. N. (2007, March 19). We can't ignore the influence of digital technologies. Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory. Retrieved March 2, 2011, from
  6. Pender, M. P., Lasserre, K., Kruesi, L., Del Mar, C. and Anuradha, S. (2008). Putting Wikipedia to the Test: A Case Study. Seattle, Washington, USA, (1-16). June 16, 2008. Putting Wikipedia to the Test: A Case Study
  7. Emerald, 2008. Comparison of Wikipedia and other encyclopedias for accuracy, breadth, and depth in historical articles. Emerald. Retrieved March 2, 2011, from
  8. Rosenzweig, R. 2006. Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past. Journal of American History. Vol. 93 Issue 1, p117-146
  9. Terdiman, D., (2005). Study Wikipedia as Accurate as Britannica. Retrieved March 1, 2011 from
  10. Wikipedia:FAQ/Schools. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved March 2, 2011, from
  11. Johnson, D. (2006). 21st century information fluency. Retrieved March 1, 2011, from
  12. Wikipedia:FAQ/Schools (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved March 2, 2011, from
  13. Crovitz, D., & Smoot, W. S. (2009). Wikipedia: Friend Not Foe. English Journal, 98.3, 91-97. Retrieved March 2, 2011, from
  14. Petrilli, M., (2008). Retrieved March 1, 2011 from
  15. Blackwell, K. (2008). Retrieved March 2, 2011 from