Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bill Badke on Wikipedia

Last week I finally got around to reading an article on Wikipedia which many information-literacy librarians had read months ago. On the Information Literacy and Instruction listserv they talk about it rather extensively. It stirred up discussion to say the least. Anyway, the article is titled "What to Do With Wikipedia" and it highlights the main arguments for and against using this web2.0 reference source. Many professors reject outright, but the fact of the matter is that a majority of today's web generation goes to Wikipedia for basic reference information.

Badke encourages information professionals and professors to use Wikipedia as a learning tool--writing skills, editing, fact checking, etc. Teachers throughout the academic world have already done so, and Wikipedia even provides pages for helping teachers do it well. It teaches students how to do research. He argues that banning this resource only fosters the anti-academic subculture that seems to thrive on Wikipedia and in the digital realm.

One interesting point he made involves the usage of the terms "analog" and "digital." Academics still reside in the "analog" realm; sure they publish articles digitally, yet they still publish them in tidy volumes and issues. Those in the "digital" realm edit and revise an article regularly, seemingly continuously.

Don't get me wrong. Badke does not necessarily recommend that students cite Wikipedia articles in their research papers. Like encyclopedias these reference materials can give somebody basic background information to launch them on more in-depth research. After all, even Wikipedia articles must contain a list of sources that verify their information.

It's worth reading:

Badke, William. "What to Do With Wikipedia." Online: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals 32.2: (2008), 48-50.

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