Wikipedia

I’ve been thinking about Wikipedia this morning. Partly because I used it yesterday, and partly because I’ve been doing presentations on evaluating information and the use of Wikipedia has been a part of those presentations. The truth is as a teacher-librarian I understand why students shouldn’t be using it, and if they do use should not rely on it. It has proven to be fairly easy to vandalize the information and in my experience some entries are heavily biased and have yet to be edited. But as a teacher-librarian and an someone who is fascinated by the nature of information I am coming to the conclusion that Wikipedia, and sites like it are pretty much the coolest thing since sliced bread.
Information and knowledge has always been limited by how we shared it. In order to create information from knowledge it was often a two person transaction – the transmitter through books, or articles, television, movies, speeches, class lectures, and the receiver. Even in public forums it was one person presenting the information unless it was a panel, and even then numbers are limited. And while multiple people may be receiving the information therefore creating multiple understandings it really just came from one place. This is not necessarily the case with Wikipedia. With open source, Web 2.0 applications like this the information comes from multiple sources, creating a whole different knowledge. Everyone with access (and registered) has the opportunity to add their knowledge to the entry – you don’t need to be the writer, teacher, or “expert”. The concept of collaborative knowledge is actually in action on Wiki sites. And what is really cool is that with the editing history you can view the evolution of the entry. It is my thought that this adds to the depth of one’s understanding of the subject. One can see how the data has changed, or how the bias of the writers has been changed by others with a whole different bias. You can compare selected versions, seriously if that isn’t the coolest thing!! as a way to increase your understanding. Ok I am getting a little geeked out, and truthfully I hate word-smithing but just spend some time with the intelligent design entry and you see what I mean.

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