Whilst conducting the task for Day 20 of the challenge (what of Days 16-19? I hear you ask - more of these in later posts!) which was a task called 3 links out (following blog links from other's blogs and stopping at 3 clicks and seeing where you land!) I came across this blog which was talking about the use of wikipedia and gave links to an article by William Bladke. This article really spells out the debate that has been going on for some time re the use of wikipedia in academic writing - with many academics refusing to see it as a resource of any respectability and/or reliability. He describes the situation as reaching an impasse and suggests that academia is being elitist in believing they have the monopoly on information provision. He goes on to offer a potential point of solution to move forward from this and that it to embrace the "world of wikipedia" by a number of activities. The specific issue that caught my attention I reproduce here:
3. The most daring solution would be for academia to enter the world of Wikipedia directly. Rather than throwing rocks at it, the academy has a unique opportunity to engage Wikipedia in a way that marries the digital generation with the academic enterprise. How about these options:
• A professor writes or rewrites Wikipedia articles, learning the system and improving the product.
• A professor takes his or her class through a key Wikipedia article on a topic related to the course, pointing out its strengths and weaknesses, editing it to be a better reflection of reality.
• A professor or information literacy instructor assigns groups of students to evaluate and edit Wikipedia articles, using research from other sources as an evaluative tool.• A course takes on specific Wikipedia topics as heritage articles. The first group of students creates the articles and successive groups update and expand on them. In this way, collections of key “professor approved” articles can be produced in many subject areas, making Wikipedia better and better as time goes on
Here at Salford we have set up a learning technologies special interest group within the directorate of OT with members drawn from both the staff and the student groups. One of the tasks we have set is to look more closely at wikipedia - it is clear that this could be a very useful challenge to set ourselves. If you have any hints or tips on how you've used wikipedia in the academic setting then we'd love to hear from you - please post a comment and let us know. We'll keep you posted on how we get on!