Reading Assignment 7

You’ll probably think I have Wikipedia on the brain, but it’s mainly coincidence that these two authors focused on Wikipedia. Or is it? Anyway, our next reading is called What It Means to Ban Wikipedia. While the author focuses on Wikipedia in particular, the overall argument is more about the research process and how, in his view, it’s being undermined by teachers focused on the final outcome. It is directed at a higher ed audience, but I think the overall pedagogical ideas are applicable to all grade levels.

One thing we should probably attempt to address is ways in which research is handled in early grades. Elementary teachers often have lessons where students are expected to “find information on…” and then use it in some way (often just filling in worksheets or similar). What is often overlooked is the process of how they are supposed to do that. Also worth considering is the benefit of “looking stuff up” and repeating it. That is NOT a 21st century skill. So how can we meet the needs of younger students while still recognizing their current cognitive development? Your reflection is due by October 22.

As part of your reflection consider a couple CDE standards for social studies – 3rd grade standard 1.2.d and 2.2.b. These can be found on the CDE site and are copied below.  Both of these require students to use historical or geographical/cultural (respectively) information in some way. How should students access and use this information? Do we give them pre-selected sources? If so, are we missing opportunities to teach how to find, access and evaluate information? If we let them find their own do we confine them to textbooks and encyclopedias? It will be increasingly common to use the internet for this type of work. Do we ban, allow, encourage Wikipedia? What about other sites? While you do not need to address all these questions in your reflection you should consider them and, perhaps most importantly, what sort of lesson would you design for this (heads up – your final project will be very similar to this). It would be tempting, but not very 21st century, to use a worksheet to “identify the factors…” Also tempting, but not transforming, is to have students make a nice PowerPoint to “describe the history…”

3rd Grade Social Studies
1.2.d – Describe the history, interaction, and contribution of the various peoples and cultures that have lived in or migrated to a community or region.

2.2.b – Identify the factors that make a region unique including cultural diversity, industry and agriculture, and land forms.

In addition, changes to state tests are on the horizon. The 2013-14 school year should see the first online assessments in science and social studies. You can view practice tests on the PearsonAccess site. Click “support” and choose one of  the ePAT tests. These are designed to run as they will in a test environment so they will sort of “take over” your computer until you exit. I have not tried them all, but the 7th grade SS test seemed pretty telling of where things are going. How we approach research based projects will likely influence how well students do on these types of tests.


20 thoughts on “Reading Assignment 7

  1. I thought the reading called, What It Means to Ban Wikipedia was very interesting. Something that caught my eye while reading the article was when it talked about how it seems like professors or teachers put too much emphasis on the source rather than the information itself. I think this is very true because on every research paper that I have had throughout my high school and college years, the teachers always let us know that we could not use wikipedia as a source. My teachers and current professors still think that the best sources are either edu, org, and many other websites that they think are reliable and the best sources out there. After reading this article, I have changed my perspectives about wikipedia. Yes, there might be some information that is not fully accurate on the website but I think that is something that students should have the chance to find out on their own, without the teacher telling them that they are not allowed to use wikipedia. When students are given the opportunity to look through different sources on their own, they are going to learn more in my opinion. However, with younger children I have a different perspective. When teachers give their students a research project to work on, where the children are able to look up information on the computer, I think the teacher should provide the students with a variety of resources that she gathered together. This is not telling the students what source they have to use, instead, it is giving them a little guidance to start the project. They can also use different resources that the teacher might have not initially included in the resources that she gathered together for them. If the students choose the source wikipedia and are researching about something that they are pretty familiar with, then I don’t think there is any problem because the students would be able to determine if the information was accurate based on their knowledge that they know. However, if the students were researching about something that was new to them and they knew nothing about, then wikipedia might not be the best option for them. Every teacher is going to have their own opinions about wikipedia and based on their opinions, it will determine if the students will be able to use it as a resource in their classrooms.

    • Well said. Be sure to read the info on website evaluation. The whole idea that domain names are meaningful ways to evaluate is wrong and teachers need to better understand how the web works instead of spreading false information. I think you are right on track with your approach to younger students. Give them some good sources to start and let them go from there. I’m not sure Wikipedia is a bad option for students who don’t know much about a topic. Wouldn’t pretty much any site be equally suspect? In fact, Wikipedia might be the best place to start for those students knowing that one source isn’t sufficient and they would need to expand.

  2. The article “What it Means to Ban Wikipedia” was very insightful. It allowed me to recognize that some sources just need to reviewed a little before trusting them completely. I do not believe that Wikipedia should be banned as a source for any student. It does provide lots of helpful information. It start out as background information and allow the student to build from that point on while finding other reliable sources. Wikipedia can be a reliable source depending on the article being read. I read that Wikipedia has a 2.9 on the credibility scale which 1 is considered highest out of 7. So that is pretty good. Wikipedia also has 87% of articles without error. This source should not be ignored just reviewed. This article I read allowed me to realize that any source can have error in it. The researcher just needs to be aware that it is a possibility and if an idea seems to be questionable, then find another source to read instead. On another note, I do believe there are other ways to assess students besides giving them a worksheet or having them create a quick power point. They could create poster boards, make a diagram, take a field trip and write a response paper, or even class discussion. A little worksheet is not very engaging assessment but other ideas can still allow the teacher to see the students grasped the information given. When younger students are working on research assignments, I do believe that the teacher should provide a list of resources for the students to look at. They should not be given only one resource to use but a few would be good. With those sources the students have the freedom to find the information themselves without worrying if the source is credible. At this young of an age, it can be difficult for them to know what is credible and what is not. They can be provided with a little help while still being researchers on their own.

    • I would modify your initial statement to say “most” web sources need to be reviewed/evaluated before trusting them. I like your thinking about alternative assessments. I think we can take a leap of faith and say that worksheets have no place in schools anymore. I’d rather see students tackle projects and problems and how they approach, solve and present IS the assessment.

  3. Wikipedia has its ups and downs. It is very easy to use and find information. However, it may be used as the easy way out. Students, myself included, like to use the easiest way to find information. They don’t want to spend a ton of time searching for information when they can find it all in one website. I also find it almost more difficult to find what the teacher is looking for online. There are a lot of times when I’m more worried about the standards that the teacher has set for the proper kind of website than I am about the content in which I am finding. Maybe it would be better and we would have better results in the student’s researching if we required them to use books instead of websites. If they couldn’t use websites at all maybe they would be forced to actually look up information rather than just typing in a search engine and choosing the first website that comes up. Also, they wouldn’t have to worry about them not being a reputable source because almost all books are reputable sources. I also believe that as a teacher you should not only use books. There should be a nice mixture of both internet and books. You should not result to just one medium all the time. The students would get bored with that. Speaking in terms of the third grade CDE standards on the website I think I would have them do their research from books but have them learn a new 21st century tool such as Prezi to present their research. This way their research is hopefully done well and they actually had to search for information without it being too hard yet I am not keeping 21st century learning out of it because they still have to learn how to use a new 21st century tool. I think also once the students have given me their topics I could help them with their research by pulling some good resources for them but they would not be limited to using only those. And maybe I could have a rule that they could only use one of the books I pull and have to find others by themselves which would still give them the opportunity to do the research on their own.

    • You are right. Students will look for the path of least resistance. I think teachers often set students up to fail by creating assignments for which the path of least resistance is precisely the most obvious and the one teacher wants to ban. If a trip to Wikipedia is sufficient to do an assignment then the assignment isn’t very good.

      Teachers sometimes have a backlash against the web and want to steer students towards books. I think books still have their place and students will use them when the school has decent ones that are up to date and provide the information they need. Too often, however, the school doesn’t have useful books. I don’t think the web should ever be banned. There is simply way too much useful information out there. It’s just hard to find and students need lots of practice learning how to find it.

      Be careful of seeing a new tech tool as a way to get students to think at a higher level or engage in the way you want. Tech usually doesn’t guarantee any of that and when implemented without much thought ends up being the exact opposite – a distraction or something that lowers student thinking (remember cloud books?) Rather than having students use any one particular tool, have them think about their audience, their information, their goal and let them choose the right tool for the job.

  4. I’ve done my share of research, and I’m sure it’s no where near over. Wikipedia has been a staple for laying the base of some of my research papers. “What it Means to Ban Wikipedia” is an interesting article. A lot of the information on the encyclopedia has allowed for many well thought out research papers. Jimmy Whales’ quote, “Readers should consult [encyclopedias of all kinds] early in the writing process and follow their pointers to more definitive sources”, shows insight into why encyclopedias are a great stepping stone into understanding a specific subject. Online encyclopedias can lead to an abundance of information, and although Wikipedia isn’t a credible source it has claimed to be 87% accurate. Throughout out careers in public education we have been told to never use Wikipedia as a cited source. Although this may be the right thing for teachers to do, having the students jump through specific hoops for fear of punishment may not be the best way to go around this issue in education.
    Printed material can be just as false and outdated as the website the students are using, so I don’t believe that disallowing the use of online material would solve any problems. Some of the problems could be solved by using search engines for peer reviewed journals, such as EBSCOhost. Being future 21st century teachers, we must allow our students to make their own hoops to jump through. I don’t believe that Wikipedia is the answer, but its a great place to start, laying the ground knowledge of a subject, and allowing the students to think critically for themselves. The tools that are available to us are nearly endless, I’m sure we could help our students become critical thinkers and let them decide what is the right thing to do.

    • The 87% number comes from a somewhat old study – especially in terms of the speed at which tech changes. All these studies also are based on samples. A sample of science articles might show a higher level of accuracy than the site as a whole simply because contributors to science articles may be more educated about the topic. In fact, that is what I found in my own student of Wikipedia which did focus on science articles. I didn’t attempt to measure error rates, but looked at authors and found evidence to suggest the authors are more knowledgeable than what is typically assumed.

      EBSCO can be a great tool for research but I’m finding that it is a lot less useful in elementary and middle school and even high school than teachers have assumed. The articles are usually too specific and too advanced for the types of research k-12 students usually do. I think even a switch to a 21st century approach to research won’t change that. Students accessing useful web resources and experts via email or skype is probably a better approach than mining articles.

  5. This article really brought up a few great point. The first I have seen stated in a couple other comments and it talks about the teachers putting too much importance on the source rather than the information itself. The other great point was, where did this idea that Wikipedia is bad come from. When I started really thinking about it I started to find a couple reasons that this idea could have taken shape. The first has to do with the lessons that the teachers are giving. When a teacher assigns a report or a worksheet they expect that the “learning” comes from the students looking in multiple sources so that they can complete the assignment. If all of the information can be found in one place then the children are not seen as doing any learning. Although through school teachers always said that we could not use Wikipedia because it contained unreliable information I was never shown or have never found one case of the information being incorrect. I always loved the explanation that someone would wright that the sky was green and everyone would believe it. There are so many people that regularly inspect and update the site that it is a great source of information from a number of sources. I think that teachers are just afraid that it will make the research project too easy for students. Personally I think that Wikipedia is a great starting place because all of the information is in one place and is well organized. The content should no longer be an excuse for teachers to ban Wikipedia. It is time for teachers to create projects where the learning takes place in the creation not the content.

    • Great insights. Teachers have tended to see learning as looking stuff up but if students can look it all in one place then where’s the effort? The problem isn’t Wikipedia but bad assignments. Looking stuff up isn’t learning. Learning HOW to find information is different.

      As to where the idea that Wikipedia is bad came from, I believe it’s largely the result of teachers not understanding it or even the internet in general and being reactionary. How many times have you heard a teacher say that Wikipedia is unreliable and students should focus on .org sites. Wikipedia IS a .org. Too many people simply don’t understand how information gets on the web.

      There was an interesting study done a while back where a college student added false information to a Wikipedia article about a person who recently died and found that many newspapers essentially plagiarized that info in Wikipedia. In fact, Wikipedia cleaned up that info but it persisted on those news sites.

  6. Reading this article, I feel like some kids use Wikipedia as just the first resource. Most kids who use Wikipedia will go on and get the background information they need for their topic then go expand on that using more reliable sources. I do not think Wikipedia should be banned. I think in schools, students should at least have access to using it but then they need to get more research and information from other sources. As far as teachers giving students a list of sources they are allowed to use, I’m in the middle. That would be the thing to do if a teacher is very against using Wikipedia in their classroom but if it is a third grade class, then they are just getting starting with the whole idea of doing a research project/paper. Unless it has been made clear in the classroom by the teacher that Wikipedia is not allowed to be used because of the unreliability, then I think students that young will still need to get the background information on their topics before going in depth on it. On the other hand, I don’t think teachers should tell their students that they can use these sources but not Wikipedia because it almost seems like that may stunt the progressiveness from the students. If they need to look at Wikipedia, they should be allowed to.

    • What teachers really need to understand is that Wikipedia isn’t any less prone to error, misinformation, bias, or outright false information than many other sites on the web. In fact, it’s probably less prone due to it’s open nature where anyone can fix problems and most other sites are locked and only editable by the owners who may actually want to spread lies and misinformation.

  7. As a student, I have to admit to using Wikepedia a couple of times for papers or projects. Wikepedia is a site that can be used to get a lot of background information on a topic. I do not think that any student actually use it as a reliable source, but it is nice to have to get a topic started. Banning wikepedia would be silly in my opinion. It is a site where multiple can get online and edit information that they might think is incorrect. There are so many articles out there that would be considered a reliable source and we’re only getting one person’s point of view. I believe the only thing that could be bad about Wikepedia is the fact that students can get on here and get so much information. It is like taking the easy way out on your assignment.

    • People often want to do precisely the things they are told not to do. Telling students they can’t use Wikipedia is one way to almost guarantee they will use it. Tell them they have to use it, read the whole article and related articles, summarize it and develop 5 guiding questions for continued research and they will quickly decide Wikipedia isn’t worth it. However, I actually think that would be a great way to get students to build necessary background before delving into a research project. May be a bit much for elementary but probably a good place to start for middle and high school students.

  8. As a student I’ve found that even knowing that wikiepedia isn’t the best resource to use, I still do. Its definitely a website that I fall back onto when I can’t find information anywhere else. I think this is a problem because it doesn’t challenge students, including myself, to look else where. Even if it is giving accurate information we still aren’t expanding our knowledge by looking else where. I do think that it can be a useful website to come up with basic info but once you find the information you are searching for it would be important to then do further research on the wiki information you found. Because it is editable a lot of times we jump to the conclusion that its not reliable but I think that maybe more useful because then the wrong is also changed. Over all I think that it can be a useful website if used in the correct way.

    • Students (and adults) really need to learn the importance of using multiple sources. The internet has become the soapbox of every group with an agenda. Focusing on any one source is a surefire way to end up with a very skewed view of the world.

  9. After our discussion in class about Wikipedia and reading this article I have gotten some answers that I needed as to why I could never use Wikipedia. I think it is a good place to gain background knowledge on a topic. Why do educators dislike the sight so much? Almost all of English 122 we are taught to question the facts we are reading and to decide whether or not an author and source is credible…so why not give Wikipedia the same criteria for resourcing credibility instead of dismissing everything it have to say right off the bat.
    I think that kids need to do their own research and not be handed all of it because it is fun and stressful to find all the information but they will feel so good about what they created when they are finished. I think it is important to help kids learn to do research and different places they can find information.
    I worry when we are told something by teachers that is opinion and they make us believe that is fact. That brings up integrity issues with me for teachers. They can not “teach” their opinion as fact. If they do how many subjects are they doing that with? How many lies have a been made to believe throughout school. We are taught that your teachers are right-that IS why they are teachers. We all have been told the Wikipedia is a bad place to get research and look it turns out that it is not all that bad.
    I think part of 21st century teaching is creating an environment where children can be free to think their own opinions and instead of shooting down their opinion show them it might be wrong using facts instead of just saying it is wrong. Children should not be taught that their opinions are wrong because they differ from their teacher.

    • Excellent. Very well put. I don’t think teachers have a monopoly on knowledge. As adults, we have more experience which has value, but one thing we should have learned is to respect the ideas and opinions of others as well. Some of the best teachers are those who challenge students to develop and defend their own opinions and ideas.

  10. After reading this article, I still believe that Wikipedia could be a useful source for many topics. I keep going back to where it talked about how professors and/or teachers put a major emphasis on the sources used instead of the information within. Throughout my education teachers continually said that the “best sources” are .edu, .org, and scholarly journals pulled from academic cites. Never did I have a teacher say that Wikipedia is acceptable as a source. I feel that the use of Wikipedia allows for the basis of researcher and students should be able to use this. Most students would branch off and continue to do research past Wikipedia to expand on the topics in which are being researched.

  11. Just like most research sites Wikipedia has its ups and downs, it is a good thing that not everything that everyone writes on there gets published. But like most research sites not just one should be used, whenever someone is doing research they should compare more than one source to make sure that the info. they are getting is correct.

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