Reading Assignment 6

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.

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19 thoughts on “Reading Assignment 6

  1. I thought that the article called Harvard Educational Review was very interesting and beneficial to read. The main topic of this article was about the website Wikipedia. From my experiences with this website is that teachers that I had in the past always told me that I should never trust any information that is on Wikipedia. The reason why I shouldn’t trust any of the information is because anyone can access that website and write anything they want no matter if the information is accurate or not. The only websites that teachers advised me to go to is anything ending with edu, org, and so on, because those are websites that only certain people can access and write information on. When researching a topic, I have never used wikipedia to gather different information. However, if I need to quickly look up a definition of a word, I usually use wikipedia because it is fast and it gives you the definition right there, instead of having to search for it. In this article, I realized that the teacher was very good at observing his students because he noticed that they were not working on their research project that was due in just a couple of days. As he was walking around the class, he observed that most students were on the website of wikipedia. From his observations, I thought it was interesting how he developed a lesson for the students to do, dealing with wikipedia. I think it would be a great lesson and beneficial to the students to allow them to research something on wikipedia that they are very knowledgable about. For example, if a student was very knowledgable about soccer, they might choose that topic to research. The students then had to go to wikipedia and see how accurate the information was. This allows the students to realize that they shouldn’t always trust any sentence that they see on a website. For the students final, I liked how they were able to evaluate a website on wikipedia based on a topic that was very knowledgeable to them, and then, make the website accurate. I never realized that wikipedia came out in 2001. For some reason, I thought wikipedia was here before I was even born! In the future, I can see wikipedia becoming more of an accurate website!

    • “The reason why I shouldn’t trust any of the information is because anyone can access that website and write anything they want no matter if the information is accurate or not. The only websites that teachers advised me to go to is anything ending with edu, org, and so on,”

      Teachers have been saying this for years but it is flat out WRONG. There is nothing in a domain name that guarantees reliability. I find it ironic that teachers try to say a .org is somehow reliable but wikipeida.ORG is not.

      We will discuss a lot of this in class next week (this week is time to work on your digital stories) after reading the next article.

      PS The journal is called Harvard Educational Review. The article is “High School Research and Critical Literacy – Social Studies With and Despite Wikipedia”.

  2. “High School Research and Critical Literacy – Social Studies With and Despite Wikipedia” by Houman Harouni was a very interesting article to read. I thought it was interesting how the teacher came across the idea of creating his Wikipedia research project. While his students were working on their normal research projects, he noticed that they were all on the Wikipedia website gathering information. He had heard that Wikipedia was not always a valid source to use, so in turn he decided to create the project of his students finding flaw in the information on the site. With this new project he found his students excitement and their want to search and research their topic. They were now inspired and were questioning the truth in what they read which is very important. I read that Wikipedia is the most popular website. They draw in nearly six times more traffic than the second most popular website. Wikipedia is playing a huge role in research today. I personally do use Wikipedia often. Every time I need to look up some random fact, Wikipedia has the answer. I do not stop and wonder if it is true or not usually, even though I have heard it is unreliable. With the amount of people that use it as a source I do believe that it is going to play a huge role in the future. The answers provided by Wikipedia are simple and easy to understand. They are stated right in front of you and that is more appealing than searching for long periods of time for the same answer on a “more reliable source.” People are going to continue to take advantage of the easy accessible information on their site. If there is invalid information then I hope it can be removed. Maybe with the future, the Wikipedia site has to approve the information being placed on it before it is allowed to be viewed. If they are capable of finding a way to make that happen, then the website will continue to be the most popular site out there by far. Everyone wants to gather information as quick as possible and they sometimes do not think twice if it is valid or not. If Wikipedia is still existing, then it is going to continue to be used. Hopefully, there is a way to only allow correct information on there in the future. Then their site could possibly be the only site used to gather information.

    • Regardless of the sites we use, what criteria are we (or students) using to determine if it’s reliable? There is no magic formula.

      Wikipedia is no longer number one and I’m not sure how he came up with that. Need to check his reference. Google is number 1 and Facebook is number 2 and Wikipedia is currently 6th though it and other sites tend to move around a bit.

      http://www.alexa.com/topsites

  3. Like most students I grew up hearing “absolutely do not use wikipedia. It is not a credible source and will not be accepted as a source.” I have heard about how “anyone” can edit it and put any information on there so you can’t really trust if it is correct information. I never really understood how teachers could say that everything you look up on wikipedia is false information. I have looked at wikipedia because I find it to be a little easier to understand sometimes but I also find other sources that say the same thing to make sure that I am getting the right information. I thought this article was informative but it would be interesting to read more current information about Wikipedia since this is a few years old. (I’m sure we will get there next week) I thought it was really cool that he showed the students how easy it actually is to change information because it led into a great discussion with the class. I also liked that a checklist was provided of questions to ask ourselves when researching information. I have heard of some things to look out for but its helpful to have them in 5 general rules written out. Even though they aren’t the rules that always work for every website to ensure correct results, they at least help make sure we are on the right path usually.

    • Are you referring to his five questions for determining verifiability? If so, be sure to note that he is critical of these. He argues that such an approach is mechanical and students generally fail to use them unless told to do so. In other words, he is arguing that an alternative approach is needed to teach students how to develop the skills needed to evaluate resources. We’ll go into this in more detail after the next article.

    • I too grew up hearing that Wiki was unreliable. But what I did like that was pointed out was the fat that it’s ability to be edited is a GOOD thing. I would much rather use a website that makes sure to correct it’s errors than a website that permanently has incorrect information on it. As students and researchers, it is our job not to believe everything we read. So as teachers, we need to teach the skills for students to be able to evaluate their resources.

  4. Growing up, I definitely remember every teacher forbidding us to use Wikipedia. So naturally, I just never really used it and, in my head, thought it was unreliable. After reading this and what the professor wrote, I definitely see the other side. Talking about how so many other sources out there on the internet are not published by real authors or edited by editors puts it in perspective for me. I somewhat knew all this, but never put the pieces together and fully processed it. I think Wikipedia is a good source and hopefully students will use it in school.

    • That’s really the key thing people need to understand.It’s not that any one particular site is unreliable – it’s that most of them are until you can demonstrate otherwise.

      It’s very easy to put anything on the web. We are doing it right now. If I post right here that “scientists have discovered that the sky is actually yellow and we only see blue due to newly discovered blueons particles” it’s now on the web. Some poor 4th grader might find this and write a paper about blueons and the yellow sky.

  5. When I was in middle school, we did our first research project. My teacher was not specific on what database we could use. So the first thing that would pop up on the screen was wiki. I thought it was reliable and the teacher did not taught us about what resources were reliable. I did not know the true story about wiki. I did not know that it will change all the time, and the information was a mix of fact and false stories. I will copy and paste the information in wiki to my paper. Of course I will get a bad grade because the information was wrong, and I was copying somebodies else’s work. I can relate to the author in the article. My teacher never knew what was going on, and why were we failing our assignments. Teachers should talk to their students about what resources are reliable. When I need to do a research paper, my teachers always tell me do not use wiki. Expect for one teacher told me to use it. She told me to use it because it could be a good source to help find other articles. I think wiki is useful to an extent. The information might not be reliable but the references on wiki can be.

    • Given the mixed reactions to Wikipedia, it sounds like the lesson you learned is that teachers are clueless. That might actually be the case. Most certainly don’t understand the nature of web content. Consider how many teachers will tell you a .org is somehow magically reliable but not wikipedia which, wait for it, is a .org site. Is demandprogress.org less biased than foxnews.com? Actually, demandprogress.org is an interesting site. It has a clear agenda but it’s a people-centric bias. How should students (or adults) use that information? Being able to answer that is key to being information literate.

      I would argue that the current downward spiral of politics in this country is at least partly due to a general lack of information literacy skills among adults. The web has given every idiot that wants one a voice and many people can’t seem to distinguish between idiocy, ideology, inaccurate and accurate. This means that we teachers have an even harder job. How do we teach students to be critical consumers of information? How do we ensure that teachers even understand the issue and are knowledgeable and able to develop lessons to teach this?

  6. Wikipedia is a tricky website to use sometimes. You don’t always know whether the information is correct or not. However, my experience with Wikipedia has been great. Whenever I want to look up something fast and I just need a short description, for one, Wikipedia is almost always one of the top sources when something is Googled. And for two, it is extremely easy to navigate and find information. I think that if other websites were that easy to find and navigate then we would use them just as much. But with Wikipedia, you only have to look up a couple things and all of your information is there for you. And even this article said that Wikipedia is surprisingly accurate. I think if you give people the freedom and option to change information in something like a website they don’t use it to change the information. They would rather use it to gather information rather than change it.

    • “You don’t always know whether the information is correct or not.”

      Couldn’t you say that about most any site on the web? How do we, or our students, determine accuracy, reliability, bias, etc. when reading sites we are unfamiliar with on topics we know little about?

  7. I was always told that Wikipedia was something that we could never trust because anyone could get into it and change information. Honestly I think that’s what makes Wikipedia great! There are plenty of experts that leave great information on Wikipedia and just through browsing through their topics I have found a majority of the information to be accurate. The other great thing about Wikipedia is that the information is constantly being updated. The pages rarely fall behind date and when they do there is always a message saying that it has been a while since anyone has updated the information. Even if the information that students are taking is not directly from Wikipedia it usually gives a great idea of where to start researching in a really easy to understand format. They even include the resources where the information was found at the bottom of the page. I think that teachers should learn to trust the site a little more and encourage students to look at the page as a starting point for research projects. Then as they do additional research, if they find information to be inaccurate then they can go back in and revise it. I personally believe that it is a fantastic tool!

  8. In any of my classes in high school and even as early as middle school, I was told not to use Wikipedia. I was told it was not a reliable source and that I needed to find different ones. I think my teachers said we could use it to get background information on our research topics but that in our works cited page, it was not allowed to be included. And it’s been a while but I kind of remember in middle school, they had use do a reliability test to use on Wikipedia to see if what we were looking at was really correct information. I personally think that Wikipedia can be a good place for students to start their research process if they are unsure or if they just don’t know basic background information. From there, students can expand upon that basic research to get the more important aspects about it that they should be including. Even today, when I want to look up something and I just want the basic facts about it, chances are when I Google it, the first option is Wikipedia and that is more often than not the one that I will choose. I like Wikipedia as a starting place but that should not be the extent of the students research.

  9. In school I can remember being told not to use Wikipedia. The reasons were because anyone could get on this site and edit it any way that they wanted to, somehow making this “wrong” information. I am now learning that this is not the case. It surprises me to know that many of the articles published online are not what we have been told, reliable sources. Even though we were not really supposed to use Wikipedia as a source in papers or projects, I have always used it in some way or another in school. I think it is a great place to find background information or facts on whatever topic is being researched. There are many minds that have gone into those articles maybe making it more reliable than many other articles online.

  10. Going back to high school I remember being told that Wikipedia is not a resource that should be used. I was often told that it was not realiable other students changed information and that it shouldn’t be used at all. I was always told that the information was wrong but after this class and alot of the readings about the website that the information can actually be used to our advatnage as students and as teachers. I think that its important to think out the resources we use and that we have to understand that any website used can give wrong information and that we need to teach how to find realiable information rather than writing off websites completely.

  11. Throughout school I remember teacher, in both high school and college, forbidding the use of Wikipedia as it is not a reliable source. After reviewing this article I feel that those teachers, themselves, may not have been knowledgeable on the truth of Wikipedia. I feel that, if used correctly, Wikipedia could be an excellent source in which students could gain knowledge and information from.

  12. After hearing how not all .org,.com’s and other website can be created with anyone that wants to buy the rights to the site. I think that Wikipedia can be used and should be used as a reliable resource just as long as the person using it can do more research on more than just Wikipedia. As most people I was always told that Wikipedia should not be used because it is not a reliable source.

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