I find it very interesting to read articles from years ago that are centered around technology and see how they differ from the opinions of today. It’s usually articles from the early 2000s ranting and raving about technology “ruining our children’s lives!” or how technology is making us stupid. However, Cathy Davidson’s article from 2007 about why Wikipedia is actually not harmful for students was very relatable to me as a college kid.
Ever since middle school, kids of my generation have been told never to use Wikipedia as a source because it can be edited by anyone, the facts on it are not to be trusted, and it’s not a worthwhile source. Davidson’s approach on this subject was really appealing, and an argument I’ve never heard before. The main arguments as to why Wikipedia is unreliable were all countered by her, stating that encyclopedias can also be prone to error, as well as scholarly books, and that “errors in Wikipedia are not more frequent than those in comparable print sources.”
Her reasons behind why Wikipedia isn’t totally useless were a fresh new approach, and seemed very relatable to the blogging community – “Wikipedia is not just an encyclopedia. It is a knowledge community, uniting anonymous readers all over the world who edit and correct grammar, style, interpretations and facts. It is a community devoted to the common good – the life of an intellect. Isn’t that what we educators want to model for our students?”
Even more on that point, isn’t that just the same as a blogging community, but with a more scholarly focus? Blogs are used to display information, inform readers, or as an outlet for the author. Readers comment on the blog, make suggestions, participate in debates, and form a community all their own. Isn’t that what education is all about? Connecting with our peers in a way that ignites passion and a craving for change within us. Schools should be striving to make their students so well-educated that they themselves feel the need to edit pages on Wikipedia with new information or new perspectives; striving to make students who are passionate about their knowledge.
Now what does this all have to do with the mention of dated articles? Well, I did some research to see if Wikipedia may have been put in a better light since this article was written in 2007 (although I had a feeling it was not, seeing as I am currently a college student and still to this day am told not to use Wikipedia to source things). I found a video on YouTube from last year that talks about how although Wikipedia isn’t necessarily “scholarly,” it does still show about the same amount of errors as the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Watch the video here.
How do we get Wikipedia to become scholarly, you ask? The founder of the website, Jimmy Wales, says that getting experts to contribute to the website will do just that. Now, medical students from the University of California will be given grades towards correcting the website. What does this mean for us and future college/high school/middle school students for the future?
Hopefully, within the next few years, school boards will change their minds on the use of Wikipedia as a source, and who knows, maybe one day blogs will be considered solid sources as well!
Written by: Megan Murray