My name is Claire and I was a long term Wikipedia hater but then I realised I needed to change. Wikipedia has been in
existence since 2001 and is still going strong in 2015. I used to say things like:
“You can’t trust Wikipedia
because anyone can go in and change it”
“It’s leading to a lot of cut and paste from Wikipedia to other websites or vice versa.”
“Even comedians use the wrong information in their Wikipedia entries as material for their shows.”
Last year was when I started to change my mind. It was another unit in my master’s course that got me thinking. My first reaction was to still be a hater, but then a more reasoned approach took hold.
I started to think should I just embrace it whole heartedly or look at it with a view of what use can it really be to the “digital natives” within the school I work in? Let’s admit that we know that many of the
students we see each day will look at Wikipedia. Rather than telling students not to rely on Wikipedia isn’t my role as the school librarian to show them how it can be used?
With this is mind I went on a quest to find out more about Wikipedia and I have to admit I was surprised at the amount of work that Wikipedia is putting into making their sources and information more credible. This includes a guide to evaluating articles and an article
explaining how articles are graded. I now include these on my school
library webpage along with a short explanation of how Wikipedia can be used as a good basic digital exploration tool, just like a print
encyclopaedia and how the sources Wikipedia articles cite can be used to cross check the information or as a further resource in their own right. There are also a number of independent resources that are
exploring and evaluating Wikipedia including Wikipedia by
In this book a whole chapter is dedicated to assessing a Wikipedia
article and devises a rating system using a 0 – 5 scale for ten
1. Length and Structure
4. Grammar and Style
5. Generalisation and Neutrality
6. Discrepancies, Repetition and Gaps
7. Links and Internet References
8. References to Print Sources
If both the Wikipedia resources and an independent evaluation tool are introduced to students and used by them to evaluate a Wikipedia article isn’t this a better outcome? We have provided students with new skills to help them in their use of Wikipedia that can be adapted to their use of other new media tools.
I admit that I now hang my head in shame that it took me so long to stop judging and start evaluating. Now my next challenge is to not only provide opportunities for students to improve their evaluation of Wikipedia but to also see if I can impart this change of view to the
colleagues in my school and to start a constructive professional conversation around the use of Wikipedia.