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WIKIPEDIA @ 10
and a proper research tool have been continually challenged
since it gained popularity, with some colleges going so far as
toban studentsfrom usingitasaprimary source. “T he official
English professor ideology is that Wikipedia is bad,” says
associate professor Jean Goodwin of Iowa State University.
Not all teachers are anti-Wikipedia. Cabell Hankinson
Gathma n, lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,
feels it necessary to go further with her students when
explaining how Wikipedia should be used. “I f we tell [students]
that they can’t use Wikipedia because it’s a ‘bad source,’ that
doesn’t really mean any thing,” she points out. “Most of them
just assume it’s like Cliff Notes and that’s why we don’t want
them to use it—because it will let them avoid real work.”
Original sources are what students should be after, and
Wikipedia articles need to have citations and sources to be
considered credible by the community editors. Most of these
sources are on line, which allows students to directly access
them and addstransparency. “You can’tdowhatgrad students
infamously do in a pinch and invent a citation and a page number
knowing that no one is likely to go check on it,” Ryan says.
One of the things students are supposed to learn at the
college level is how to develop a nd use critical thinking skills.
Ryan feels that Wikipedia can actually help in this regard.
“A fter I started using it many years ago, I’d find myself read-
ing a magazine and thinking ‘Cite, please!’ Wouldn’t lack of
references and bias be a great thing for students to recognize
more easily?” This won’t happen automatically, and students
have to first learn to not take what they read from any source
at face value. Gathman finds that her students have little sense
of which sources are more credible and why. “It’s an old
problem—students tend to think that the plural of anecdote is
Veronica Schanoes, assistant professor at Queens College,
City University of New York (CUNY), argues that the Internet
as a whole has been making it easier for students to be lazy
since long before 2001. “W hen I assign resea rch papers, I
have to specify that by research I mean peer-rev iewed journal
articles or books published by academic presses,” Schanoes
says. “Otherwise, it’s all random websites, all the time.”
Whether Wikipdedia is adding to the problem or provid-
ing a useful solution remains to be seen. Gathman believes
10 Years of Wikipedia
Wikipedia.com launches. 20,000 articles
are created in the site’s first year.
Contributors to the Spanish language Wiki-
pedia split off to form Enciclopedia Libre.
Wikimedia Foundation estab-
lished to serve as a non-profit
host for Wikipedia.
The first attempt to block
Wikipedia is made by China.
Wikipedia becomes the most popular
reference website, according to Hitwise.
The domain for German Wikipedia (de.
wikipedia.org), the first non-English Wikipe -
dia, is created.
Co-founder Larry Sanger
The current jigsaw logo is first
introduced. The concept and
design is chosen after being
voted on by Wikipedia users.
september Worldwide Wikipedia articles reach the 1
million mark with an article published on
the Hebrew Wikipedia.
The Seigenthaler incident involves an
anonymously written hoax biography that
goes uncorrected for four
months. The resulting
discussion (and backlash)
leads to a number of
policy changes, user guidelines, and new
software developments to combat such
abuse in the future.
inclination to make big edits.
Beyond making editing easy, the MediaWiki software
also simplifies the task of controlling and monitoring the site.
It logs edits, collects IP addresses, facilitates users who work
ingroupprojectstokeeptrack oftheirpettopics, and makesit
easy to flag, change, or tag questionable content. The software
keeps a record of every edit and discussion on the site, maki ng
Wikipedia an extremely transparent encyclopedia project (if
you know how to use it).
As easy as MediaWiki now is to negotiate, the Wikimedia
Foundation continues to adva nce its development in order
to make it even simpler and more accessible. However, this
simplicity and ease of use has its drawbacks, according to
Wikipedia’s detractors. After all, if just anyone ca n come in
and edit, how can the site possibly be reliable?
Wikipedia vs. Teachers vs. students
If you were to get a group of teachers together in a room and
ask them how they felt about Wikipedia, you’d likely get a range
of responses, butyou’d rarelyfind an educator without a strong
opinion. Clarissa C. S. Ryan, an ESL teacher and corporate
tutor, related that she’s encountered teachers who literally got
red in the face when the topic of Wikipedia came up.
Since the site’s i nception, there has been a pa lpable
tension between Wikipediaand educators, withstudents asthe
primary battleground. Wikipedia’s value as an encyclopedia
“Most students just assume
Wikipedia is like Cliff Notes, and
that’s why we don’t want them to
use it—because it will let them
avoid real work. ”
— Cabell Hankinson Gathman, lecturer, at University of
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