Wikipedia – one encyclopedia to rule them all…or just a great place to start?

The debate about Wikipedia and its role in education continues to rage.Just last month, Brian Proffitt, a  Lecturer at the University of Notre Dame wrote a well reasoned piece on why he believes Wikipedia has no place in the tertiary classroom. This was followed up with another, equally convincing article a week later by another practising academic, Jonathan Obar, explaining why he believes strongly that Wikipedia plays an essential part of education in the 21st Century.

Both articles raise valid points. Proffitt focuses upon the fact that by crowdsourcing information, there is no guarantee that the information is quality, and that Wikipedia is a major source of plagiarism, as students find it easier to copy text directly from a site that almost always appears in the first ten hits of any Google Search. Obar counters by arguing that the fact that the knowledge is crowdsourced provides an excellent opportunity to teach students not only critical literacy, but also a study in how knowledge is (and always has been) created – through debate, opinion and argument.

Currently, it is the decision of individual educators as to whether or not they encourage the use of Wikipedia in their classroom. It remains an immense resource of information – with William Cronon, the President of the American Historical Association stating that ‘Wikipedia is the largest, most comprehensive, copiously detailed, stunningly useful encyclopedia in all of human history‘.

One way that teachers commonly suggest students use Wikipedia is as a place to begin their research. While it may not be the source of information that students actually cite, it is often a useful starting point, for students to get an overall introductory understanding of a topic, and to use some of the articles cited in the Wikipedia article as a jumping off point into more scholarly literature.

An excellent tool to assist at this stage of research is the WikiMindMap.

Wikimindmap takes a search term, and creates a mind map of related topics, which are either directly linked to Wikipedia pages, or which open up into further refinement.

An example, based on the search term ‘Sustainability’ is below:

The best search results currently appear to be derived from en.wikipedia.org. When sustainability is entered into the search box, the following results appear:

Hovering over the term Sustainability in the centre brings up a useful definition, and direct link to the Wikipedia page.

When you click on the topics with the green arrows, a further search using these key words occurs – the topics in rectangles with the plus symbol indicates a further tree, with a narrowing of the topics focused around that general area. A blue arrow out symbol points to an external website.

This tool is terrific for students who are facing research on a broad topic, and need to narrow down their focus, or for students who simply don’t know where to begin their research. Since the Google Wonderwheel was discontinued, WikiMindMap might prove to be a useful research tool for any student’s kit.

For those using mobile devices, the app Wikinodes provides a similar search tool, but with the added functionality of note-taking and the ability to share articles via email, Twitter or Dropbox. The note-taking feature is particularly interesting, with students able to add text, visual or audio notes. These notes are then able to be added to a ‘presentation’, so that they may be shared with others.

These tools are useful no matter what your opinion is on the quality of the content in Wikipedia – even if only to teach the concept of drilling down from a general topic to more specific keywords that will shape searches more effectively.

Don’t write off Wikipedia – using it creatively could be the key to more effective research by all students of every level.

Cronon, W. (2012, February). Scholarly Authority in a Wikified World. American Historical Association. Retrieved October 8, 2012, from http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2012/1202/Scholarly-Authority-in-a-Wikified-World.cfm
Obar, J. (2012, September 20). Why Wikipedia Does Belong in the Classroom. ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved October 9, 2012, from http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/why-wikipedia-does-belong-in-the-classroom.php
Proffitt, B. (2012, September 12). Why Wikipedia Doesn’t Belong In The Classroom. ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved October 9, 2012, from http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/why-wikipedia-doesnt-belong-in-the-classroom.php

Successful Searching – an update to a valuable resource

The Successful Searching wiki has now been updated!

This useful resource has been designed for teachers and students, and aims to provide easy access to a range of strategies, information and tips about how to search effectively.

Why is such a resource important?

We live in a world of information overload. Whereas once students needed to attend school in order to access knowledge, they now have every fact and every source in their pockets via their smart phone.

Simply entering a word into Google does not guarantee a good search result. Students need skills in creating effective search terms, they need to be aware of the range of search tools available and the types of information these tools provide, and they also need to know how to then critically evaluate and reformulate what they find in order to solve the problem at hand.

This wiki will provide a starting point on this journey. It is hoped that complementar resources exploring the development of critical literacy and effective ways to search for re-usable, Creative Commons licensed materials will be available in the near future.

Successful Searching

The wiki is divided into four parts:

Searching Library Catalogues and Databases

Searching the Internet using Google – Google Tips and Tricks

Going beyond Google – Search Engines, Directories, the Invisible Web & More

Additional Information and Printable Resources

 

The skills to conduct successful searches is a literacy that all students must develop in order to manage information effectively. As CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt could be said to know something about searching, and he sums it up thus:

Search is so highly personal that searching is empowering for humans like nothing else; it is about self-empowerment; it is the antithesis of being told or taught. It is empowering individuals to do what they think best with the information they want. It is very different from anything  else that preceded it. Radio was one-to-many. TV was one-to-many. The telephone was one-to-one. Search is the ultimate expression of the power of the individual; using a computer, looking at the world and finding exactly what they want, everyone is different when it comes to that (Friedman, 2005, p.156).

Take a look at our site, and let us know how you might use it in your teaching context!

Friedman, T. L. (2005). The world is flat: a brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 Reasons Teachers should use Diigo

What is Diigo?

Diigo stands for “Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff.” It is a social bookmarking program that allows you to save your ‘favourites’ online, so that they can be accessible from any computer with an internet connection. However, Diigo does much more than this.

As you read on the web, as well as bookmarking websites, you can also highlight parts of web pages that are of particular interest to you. Or, you can attach sticky notes to specific parts of web pages. These highlights and sticky notes are persistent – whenever you return to the original web page, you will see your highlights and sticky notes superimposed on the original page, just what you would expect if you highlighted or wrote on a book!

The ‘social’ part of the bookmarking program is also very useful. With every Diigo user tagging and annotating pages online, the Diigo community has collectively created a wonderful repository of quality content, filtered and annotated by the community, on almost any subject you may be interested in.

For example, if you would like to find popular resources on e-learning, searching Diigo can probably get what you want in less time than using search engines, and you may also gain insights from other users.

For more information, go to http://www.diigo.com/about , or dive right in and sign up. After reading the reasons here today, you will definitely be convinced of the productivity and time-saving power of this great online tool.

So…onto the 12 reasons every teacher should use Diigo.

  1. Diigo provides a free, efficient, effective and reliable way to save and organise your favourite websites, online articles, blog posts, images and other media found online.
    How do I bookmark? Go to http://help.diigo.com/how-to-guide/bookmarking  for a short video tutorial. The first thing you need to do to begin bookmarking is either download the Diigo toolbar, or if you don’t want a full toolbar, download the Diigolet.
  2. Diigo provides a lists feature that allows you to share carefully selected bookmarked websites with your students.
    Adding bookmarks to lists is easy. When you save the bookmark, you are able to allocate it to any list you have already created, or create a new list as you go.
  3. Diigo has tools that encourage students to collaborate with others to analyse, critique and evaluate websites.
    Take advantage of the Teacher Console to manage student accounts – with no student email addresses needed. Create groups for your students to work within, and have them share and review resources as a part of their research.http://help.diigo.com/teacher-account/faq
  4. Diigo provides opportunities for students to apply higher level thinking skills while researching and gathering information.The table below is taken from Choosing Web2.0 Tools for Learning and Teaching in a Digital World by Pam Berger and Sally Trexler.Buy Pam Berger’s and Sally Trexler’s book here.
  5. Diigo allows you to gain access to the ‘collective intelligence’ of the internet.By joining groups of like minded users, you are automatically able to access all of the bookmarks that other members of the group have chosen to save. The many, many users of Diigo all saving to their accounts adds up to a lot of great websites identified, tagged and reviewed – much more than one single person could ever identify in a reasonable timeframe!
  6. Diigo allows you to develop your own professional learning network (PLN).
  7. Diigo provides a forum for teachers and students to discuss areas of share interest, or a particular online website or resource using the ‘topics’ function within groups.
  8. Use Diigo to provide visual access to websites you have collected using the built in program ‘webslides’.http://slides.diigo.com/widget/slides?sid=36866
  9. Use Diigo’s advanced tools to link its power to blogs and RSS. Lists of similar websites that you have created can easily be posted onto a blog by using the ‘post to blog’ button.

  10. Use Diigo tools to enhance professional reading and save time creating summaries of online posts.
  11. Access your information from any computer, or even your iPhone or iPad!
    The free Diigo app can be downloaded from the iTunes store and you can be saving as you go!
  12. Enjoy the spare time you save through your increased organisation of online resources and the power of Diigo!Image with thanks to: http://www.dianechamberlain.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/sleeping-dog.jpg

Want to learn more? The following links may help…

Getting started with a Teacher Account:

http://help.diigo.com/teacher-account/getting-started

Introduction to Diigo:

http://21ctools.wikispaces.com/Diigo

From TeleGatherer to TelePlanter with Diigo:

http://www.edsupport.cc/mguhlin/share/index.php?n=Anthology.Diigoway