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Posted at 05:00 AM ET, 09/07/2011

The Daring Librarian: Wikipedia is not wicked!

This was written by The Daring Librarian, otherwise known as Gwyneth Anne Jones, who works as a teacher-librarian in Laurel, Md., and who writes The Daring Librarian blog. She was named a “mover and shaker” of 2011 by the Library Journal, and is on the board of directors of the International Society for Technology in Education. A version of this post about Wikipedia, the Internet’s free and open-access encyclopedia, appeared on her blog.

By Gwyneth Anne Jones

My name is Gwyneth and I use Wikipedia every day.

There, I said it. Somehow that’s pretty freeing! Wikipedia is NOT a dirty word.

We’re doing a disservice by not teaching our kids HOW to use it and how to cite it selectively and with forethought. Sadly, I don’t believe teachers and college professors are ready to wrap their mind around or admit a study by Nature magazine that showed Wikipedia to be only somewhat less accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica.on selected topics (see below for more on this study, which Britannica contested and Nature defended**).

Much like the Internet in general, many educators look upon Wikipedia with suspicion, sometimes derision, and occasionally, with fear.

But who are we kidding? It isn’t going away, folks! Wikipedia is here to stay... It’s an Internet Wonder of the World! And for gosh sakes, it comes up in the top three of just about any Google search you do.

What? Ignore a good entry for a query? Really?

Can you admit that you use it, too?

So how do we teach kids to use it?

Teaching Wikipedia in 5 Easy Steps:

*Use it as background information

*Use it for technology terms

*Use it for current pop cultural literacy

*Use it for the Keywords

*Use it for the REFERENCES at the bottom of the page!

Here is a comic tutorial on how to teach Wikipedia use.

Further reading on the subject:

Should I use or cite Wikipedia? Probably not.

4 ways to use Wikipedia (hint: never cite it)

Teachers: Please stop prohibiting the use of Wikipedia

20 Little Known Ways to Use Wikipedia

Study: Wikipedia as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica

Schiff, Stacy. “Know it all: Can Wikipedia conquer expertise?” The New Yorker, February 26, 2006

And:

Yes students, there’s a world beyond Wikipedia

**Several years ago, Nature magazine did a comparison of material available on Wikipedia and Brittanica and concluded that Brittanica was somewhat, but not overwhelmingly, more accurate than Wikipedia. Brittanica lodged a complaint, and here, you can see what it complained about as well as Nature’s response.

Nature compared articles from both organizations on various topics and sent them to experts to review. Per article, the averages were: 2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia.

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