Throughout the four years i spent in high school, no one was allowed to cite Wikipedia. No one was allowed to even think about using Wikipedia as a reference in their research papers. From an early age, I was taught that Wikipedia was a terrible source of information. From everyone of my teachers, I was taught that Wikipedia could have false information because anyone could edit it. Cathy Davidson author of We Can’t Ignore the Influence of Digital Technologies has opened my eyes to the millions of possibilities and opportunities it can serve to students. Although I was not allowed to use Wikipedia for my papers in high school or even college for that matter, I referenced it anyways because I always thought it was a great and easy way to get a general concept on a topic without delving into a load of library books or searching for hours on a school database. By using Wikipedia, I could have an idea of what I would write about for my papers and it guided me through what I should look for in a book or database; it simplified my searches. Cathy made a great point, “Wikipedia was prone to error. So are encyclopedias, I countered. So are referenced scholarly books” (167). As a student, I never pondered on the idea that even published books, that are considered “real sources,” could be wrong. I was mind blown that published books could be wrong. This leaves me wondering why Wikipedia is seen as a bad source of information. As Cathy puts it, “it [Wikipedia] is a knowledge community, uniting anonymous readers all over the world who edit and correct grammar, style, interpretations, and facts” (167). The one thing that college has taught me is that a study group is the best way to learn and in many ways Wikipedia is like an online version of a study group. This gives students and even non students an opportunity to voice their knowledge on a topic that they know very well. A useful skill I have learned is that the best way to learn is by teaching. Wikipedia is a place where students could collaborate and share ideas on various topics, if they believe someone else edited something wrong they have free reign to voice their knowledge. It is a place of expression. I never thought to use Wikipedia as a study tool before reading Davidson’s eye opening article but it is now a tool I could use to study for exams.
A friend of mine had a project in her Anthropology class at Rutgers University and they had to edit a Wikipedia page on an extinct species. It was an opportunity to learn and share the information the students learned and it was an easy way for the professor to see if the students had an understanding of the material. Below is a link to the Golden Toads Wikipedia page from October 30th when my friend edited it. Of course since the October 30th date that it was edited, it has been re-edited by other people but it doesn’t mean that her information was wrong it just means it could have been improved upon. Wikipedia is like a news blog, as more information unfolds, the page gets changed, edited and added to. Each person who adds to the page gives the information a better and deeper dimension then it had before.
I truly do not believe that Wikipedia is a bad source for students because after reading Davidson’s article, my mind was open to new possibilities it can provide to me. Looking deeper into what Wikipedia really is, it is a great place to learn and share knowledge. Teachers and Professors should not look down upon this website but embrace it instead.
*Don’t forget to check out my friends Wikipedia page on Golden Toads! Let’s see if you can learn and maybe you’ll want a chance to edit and share your knowledge on that page too!
Written by: Elena Carrasquillo