Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Here, John Udell takes a look at one wikipedia entry from its very beginning over a span of a year and a half. The website follows the screenshots of the entry of Heavy Metal Umlaut. I just can't get over how interesting it is. I think I have watched the presentation three times. I am not interested in Heavy Metal at all, but I have seen This is Spinal Tap, so there is that.
But my real interest is in how this teaches me things about wikipedia and how this will affect my future in education. These are my very jumbled thoughts.
- I was in the library a few weeks ago when an English teacher came in with her students and asked the librarian what she thought about Wikipedia. Her students were working on a research paper and some of them wanted to cite Wikipedia. I was standing there and I couldn't help jumping in. I can't remember now if the librarian was even familiar with what Wikipedia was, how much she knew, or if she had just heard nasty rumors and was following them. But anyway, the teacher and librarian were both against the students citing wikipedia. Which I can understand. First of all it is new. People are scared of it. "Did you know that anyone can change the information!" ooooh. And secondly, teachers have a hard enough time getting students to use paper books, journals, and databases that they now feel frustration with another thing that seems to have all of the answers. Third, some people say that you don't know if it is factual, it is not reliable. So even when I said to the teacher and librarian that wikipedia has so much potential, I could understand why they resist.
- But I know the counterarguments: Sure it is new. Many things are new. Get over it.
- Yes it is a new form of writing. But that's what makes it so exciting.
- Factual/reliable/tested argument: I could argue that this is even more tested then some books out there. If something is in paper form, we regard it as something that has been researched or proven. The thing is, these wikipedia entries COULD BE monitored and revised by those same people who are writing those books. The experts have the ability to write what they know and correct any thing that is wrong. If they get involved, that is.
- I am not in the classroom yet. All I know comes from my library courses, my teacher certification courses, and what I see when I am at my library internship or subbing and what I read on the internet. So I don't really know if what I would do if my students were charged with researching and wanted to use the wikipedia. My options
- Saying yes or no (with no strings, explanations, or complaints)
- Teaching them how to judge for themselves if what they read makes sense according to other places they have found information. (ha. Is this possible?)
- Making them back up their facts with another source. (Is this fair?)
- Making them print out the wikipedia page from which they get their info. This seems to make sense, because even if the information is correct, there is the possibility that it will change on the website. Of course, maybe they could just note their time of access so the history page would show what they accessed. Oh! Need a new citation format for wikipedia entries.
- Treating the students like guinea pigs to show how factual wikipedia is. Have students pair up and choose a subject to research. One student must use only wikipedia, while the other student can use anything but wikipedia. Then the students read each other's papers, compare what they found, and write a paper about that.
- The fascinating thing about watching this website was how it showed how fast vandal's profanity was taken off of the website. About 6 minutes into the video, Udell looks at a period of time when a vandal filled the article with a repetition of vulgar words. One minute later the words were removed. This addition and removal occurred a few times over the next few minutes. Then Udell remarked how he thought maybe the vandal was removing the comments himself. How else could the comments go away so fast? But after looking at the history log, it was proven that these were two different people. So perhaps some certain words or huge revisions raise flags for someone somewhere who can then go in and delete?I don't know this but maybe it is a possibility.
- these articles are monitored and read and changed. Over time, the best explanations and articles are formed. But what about that one second in time where there are facts that are indeed incorrect? How often does this happen and how quickly are they changed? Does this happen more at the beginning of an article's lifespan or all through time? All questions that are interesting but I do not know.