Sorry for not posting this sooner. I started it and forgot to publish. It’s due 10/15 so you still have a week.
For your next reading assignment, read the article “High School Research and Critical Literacy – Social Studies With and Despite Wikipedia” by Houman Harouni. This article provides us a lens by which we can start to discuss transforming approaches to instruction as well as a solid pedagogical approach to research and developing information literacy skills. Although it discusses high school students, the challenges of research and critical literacy skills span all grade levels. The article highlights challenges we face as teachers and how one teacher responded.
One activity he does is to have students evaluate a Wikipedia article. I’ve done my own modified version of this for 3 years now with 6th graders and the outcome has been very interesting and it seems to help students develop some evaluation skills (one of the 21st century skills). I would encourage you to try this. Pick an article on a topic you feel well informed about and see if you can identify and verify errors. One of the basic skills this teaches students is to use multiple sources.
Before you assume otherwise, let me explain that I am not one of the teachers who tells students that Wikipedia is unreliable and should not be used. There are issues surrounding Wikipedia that students should be aware of, but they are not unique to Wikipedia. The web as a whole is filled with unreliable and highly biased information that was not written by professionals, vetted and edited by editors, and selected and pre-approved for display to students. The idea that Wikipedia is less reliable than anything else because it “can be edited by anyone” is simply false and the result of misinformation purveyed by those who do not fully understand the nature of the site nor the web in general. While the ability to be edited by anyone has the potential to introduce errors and misinformation, it is also the one thing that guarantees that the information there will improve with time and such errors and bias fixed. Consider a counter-argument. A hate group posts information on their personal site and makes it look official even going to length to cite sources, it is attractive and appealing to students with simple language, references to pop culture and may even include games or other fun activities. Because it is a private site no one can correct any of the information or even take it down. It persists and remains available for students. Its attractive nature and simple language appeals to students looking for quick and easy answers. On the other hand, any such information that is added to Wikipedia by the same group would be short-lived. If not removed immediately by the automated vandalism filters, the millions of well-meaning contributors and editors would eventually revert or repair. Students told they cannot use Wikipedia may easily end up using alternative sites that are much less credible and even damaging. Students need to develop the skills necessary to ferret out suspicious information (regardless of sources) and check the history of edits in Wikipedia.
Keep in mind that this article is a few years old now and Wikipedia continues to develop. What role do yo see Wikipedia playing in the future of education and even the broader collective intelligence – particularly as it continues to grow and develop? Wikipedia began in 2001. We will have a follow-up reading on research and Wikipedia, but for now also consider what message is sent to students when we dictate the types of resources they can or cannot use.