Wikipedia is one of the most controversial information sources on the web today. It serves as a socially edited database source for information on virtually any topic. A wiki is a type of software that allows users to make edits to pages collaboratively and easily. Whether in schools, businesses, or independent study, Wikipedia has become a staple of understanding. It seems reliable to any common web searcher but the question remains. Can Wikipedia be considered a reliable source of information in education? Are wiki’s in general reliable sources of information?

Wikipedia is gaining an increasingly bad reputation in schools all over the world. Teachers will argue that Wikipedia is not a reliable source with credibility to be cited in a formal essay or term paper. Teachers believe that due to the multitude of anonymous updates, there is not enough reliable information to base ideas upon. Even if Wikipedia can detect obvious errors such as in the Einstein page case (mentioned earlier), there is no way that it can monitor every single error. Teachers are urging their students to stay clear of this wiki for such reasons. Nate Anderson blames the “ease of use” of Wikipedia as the reason why teachers feel it is not a reliable source of scholarly information. Wikipedia is easy to use and therefore any normal person can make anonymous edits. Schools are in constant debate over whether Wikipedia should be considered a “scholarly source”? Many college professors believe that Wikipedia should not be used as a scholarly source due to the fact that students have been taught extensive research skills up to that point and should use them to their advantage. Students should have the ability, by the time they reach university, to research more reliably published information and develop a coherent argument. Younger children, however, may need extra encouragement to develop their arguments (but not necessarily their researching skills). The fact that articles on Wikipedia are not written in a complicated manner certainly may encourage its use among younger children.

Many teachers will agree that banning Wikipedia may not necessarily be the best decision for reducing or prohibiting its use. (Anderson 2007) Denise Gonzalez of the Seattle Post blog believes that Wikipedia should be used as a learning tool rather than a concrete research tool. “It’s a shame that teachers [don’t] take advantage of the situation.” Wikipedia creates an open atmosphere to introduce ideas in a more liberal manner than a traditional encyclopaedia would. What is published on Wikipedia is not necessarily fact but viewpoint. It is a tool, which has the ability to aid in encouraging children and adults to develop a platform of ideas and beliefs. In some instances, teachers ask students to make their own independent edits to the content on Wikipedia discussing their individual viewpoints.

In my opinion, Wikipedia is acceptable to a certain extent. I do not believe that it is a “scholarly” source of information in context. There are many sources on the Internet with much more reliable information. I believe that it is the student’s responsibility to realize responsible researching. Wikipedia is a good source of information to begin with. Students can research with Wikipedia to gain an understanding and then branch off into further topics and queries. Wikipedia does not answer all questions. Nor does it encourage deep analysis of a topic. Most students that I know realize that Wikipedia is only a starting point for further research because they have been educated. I do believe that Wikipedia is beneficial in schools to an extent. Teachers can use Wikipedia to their advantage by encouraging students to use Wikipedia as an educational tool. I do not believe that it should be banned.

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