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ED 3350/ED 3362 - Teaching Reading in the Secondary Content Areas and Teaching-Learning Secondary Methods

Guide for students in the education "block" course

Using Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia created by its readers. While it has editors that can monitor the site and make corrections, it should not be used as an authoritative source. Before deciding to use Wikipedia as a resource for your students, you should take the time to discuss with your students how Wikipedia articles are created. There are several helpful pages within the encyclopedia which can help you work with the resource such as a page that explains how Wikipedia is created and a page that shows Recent Changes.

You might even consider having your class create or edit Wikipedia pages to give them a better idea of how entries are created! See Piotr Konieczny's article Wikis and Wikipedia as a teaching tool: Five years later

Strengths of Wikipedia

This page is adapted from "Wikipedia: Strengths and Weaknesses." 17 Jun. 2015. pitt.libguides, University of Pittsburgh. Web. 17 Jun. 2015.

  • Wikipedia is freely accessible, providing information on millions of topics to anyone with Internet capabilities.
  • Wikipedia is constantly updated by the hour. In comparison, subscription encyclopedias might only be updated annually or less frequently.
  • Wikipedia might be a starting point, providing background information on your topic and possible keywords to help you conduct more in-depth research through library databases and other sources.
  • The sources cited can provide more pathways for further investigation into your topic.

Weaknesses of Wikipedia

  • Anyone can create, edit, or delete Wikipedia articles.
  • Articles are works-in-progress, meaning changes are constantly occuring to the information.
  • When an article is first published, the information might waver back and forth between viewpoints before achieving a neutral tone. Viewing the behind-the-scenes discussion can be a valuable way of learning about those varying perspectives.
  • Sometimes articles are vandalized, whether for fun, as a hoax, or because the subject is controversial.
  • The intended audience can vary-- some articles are written from a insider's view, with highly technical language, while some are written for a more general audience. This can be both frustrating and valuable depending on what one is looking for, and either way is a warning sign that the information can be inconsistent.
  • Wikipedia articles cannot be considered scholarly, because we don't necessarily know anything about the contributors. See What is a Scholarly Journal?