Databases of information created by and for a community with a common interest are becoming common. These information sources are replacing traditional repositories of information—such as encyclopedias, textbooks, and peer-reviewed journals—as the source of instructional materials. In this transition, Wikipedia has emerged as the most readily available compendium of information and is accessed daily by both teachers and students to inform learning and instruction. Despite this intense use in schools, the general impression of many teachers is that Wikipedia is not a credible source of information and should not be cited in school assignments. This opinion is prevalent in K-12 education and all through academia.
But let’s find out.
The purpose of this project is to explore the processes by which the community of users creates and edits Wikipedia. First you will review external evaluations of Wikipedia’s credibility. What is the purpose of Wikipedia? What level of credibility does Wikipedia claim? Then review the external evaluations of Wikipedia’s credibility. Does Wikipedia meet its own level of credibility? How does it compare to other encyclopedias?
Once you get oriented to Wikipedia’s past and present standards of credibility, you’ll register to become a Wikipedia editor. It’s free.
Next you’ll select five unique articles you want to edit. One of the articles must be on a living person, as Wikipedia has specific standards for these entries. Explore your chosen articles in depth, analyzing the change record for each of your five unique topics. Will you be allowed to edit the articles, or are they restricted to a category of editor with more experience? Tip: You will be more successful editing an article on the history of your High School than you will be adding a section to the history of the National Football League. The high visibility articles are highly scrutinized by Wikipedia editors and changes are rarely accepted, whereas if you are an expert on an area of the country or a little-known event in history, you may write a whole article yourself (
not required) and all your work be accepted.
If you are restricted from one of the articles you intended to edit, choose alternatives until you have a total of five articles you can edit. One article of the five articles must be on a living person. Examples:
Now edit the five articles. Any type of edit is acceptable, from minimal proofreading corrections to substantive content addition.
What happens? How long does it take for your edit to be reviewed? Is it accepted or dismissed? Evaluate the response of the community (if any) to your edits.
Finally reflect on the experience, and the implications of what you learned about creating and evaluating the credibility of other community-created wikis.
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