Saturday, February 28, 2009

Using Wikipedia

Do you trust Wikipedia?

Last week, one of my religious school students told me that he did not trust Wikipedia because anybody could put anything up on it. So, I challenged the student to change an article on Sandy Koufax on Wikipedia. All of the sudden, after a simple edit, it said that Koufax was born in 2005. You can see the edit here. My student, Henry and I wanted to see how long it would take for the entry to be fixed. The next day, I went back to see if the article had been changed yet and indeed it had been fixed, as you'll see here. Though I didn't check until a day later, the history tab of Wikipedia said that it had been changed the same day.

So many teachers preach against Wikipedia because anybody can add to it or change it. But, did I do anything wrong in challenging Henry to think about the accuracy of Wikipedia? Of course, if this wasn't in the middle of a lesson that should have been discussing Judaism, I could have challenged Henry to determine if Koufax was really born in 1935, as the article first said. I could have encouraged Henry to triangulate this information by finding it in other sources.

But, hopefully Henry's language arts teacher is pushing him to do this. Hopefully, Henry's teacher is teaching his/her class that no single source of information should ever be considered fact.

Are educational publishing companies, and those that service these companies, considering how to develop lessons that challenge students to consider the accuracy of web-based information? Are these kinds of companies considering how these lessons would best fit into existing curricula?

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