In this post, I am investigating the use of Wikipedia in the classroom.
Wikipedia is a web-based, free encyclopaedia. It combines the words wiki (a shared website, of which anyone can edit) and encyclopaedia (Wikipedia, 2009). This site is written and edited collaboratively by anyone who joins Wikipedia. Therefore, care must be taken before referencing this material. Each article provides links at the bottom of the page to sites where the information was sourced. It is useful to then check whether these sites are credible before referencing in assessment documents.
However, Wikipedia is a great tool to provide background knowledge on a topic before further exploration is undertaken. The Wikipedia site is continually updated; therefore, information can be more current than print articles (Wikipedia, 2009).
I decided to conduct a search on the topic that I will be exploring with my Prep students. We have been looking at various job occupations within the community. We have explored Paramedics, Fire Fighters, Doctors and more recently Police Officers. A local Police Officer visited the class and discussed with the students the role and responsibility of his occupation. The students were able to view a police vehicle and try on police uniforms.
I now have the opportunity to conduct a follow-up lesson to this visit. I decided to look on Wikipedia to search for the page on Police Officers. This site was at a level above the Prep students; however, I decided that I could still use it for general information. Here is the link to the Wikipedia site - Police Officers. I have come to the conclusion that I can use the site in the following ways:-
- Place the website on the data projector and show the students the pictures of the Police Officers. Discuss the similarities and differences between the Police Officer that visited and the pictures.
- Selectively read to students the role of the Police Officer. Activate students’ prior knowledge and ask them to link the information that they gained through the talk to the website.
In the older grades, the Learning Manager needs to explain to students that Wikipedia is a good starting point; however, the following questions need to be asked when using this site:
- Are the references credible? Discuss how to determine credible sources.
- Does it support the views of other researched material?
Before allowing students to use this site, it would be advisable for the Learning Manager to censor references at the conclusion of the page to ensure that the links are appropriate for students to access.
The use of this learning tool can be viewed through a connectivist perspective (Siemens, 2005). This theory has been developed specifically for the digital age. The focus of connectivism is that decisions are made based upon the continual acquisition of knowledge (Siemens, 2005). Accurate and current knowledge is one of the main principles of connectivism, which may occur through the use of technology. Students need to understand how to decipher between important and unimportant information. Wikipedia is currently updating information; therefore, students need to understand that information is not static but is ever changing. Although information may be correct one day, due to societal changes, it may be revised in the future (Siemens, 2005).
The use of Wikipedia in the classroom is helpful as a beginning reference point, provided that the Learning Manager scaffolds students’ understanding of the use of this resource.
Until next time,
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved July 16, 2009, from http://wwww.elearnspace.or/Articles/connectivism.htm
Wikipedia. (2009). About Wikipedia. Retrieved August 13, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia
Wikipedia. (2009). Police Officers. Retrieved August 13, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_officers