Wales: Wikipedia OK for Students

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has said teachers who refuse younger students access to the site are “bad educators”.Speaking at the Online Information conference at London’s Olympia, he played down the long-running controversy over the site’s authority.He said young students should be able to reference the online encyclopaedia in their work.Mr Wales said the site, which is edited by users, should be seen as a “stepping stone” to other sources.As long as an article included accurate citations, he said he had “no problem” with it being used as a reference for younger students, although academics would “probably be better off doing their own research”.


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3 thoughts on “Wales: Wikipedia OK for Students

  1. Hm. I think Jimbo’s starting to drink a bit too much of his own Koolaid.I’ve been a Wikipedia contributor for a few years now, and I think quite highly of the project. But I have to disagree with this — Wikipedia is great for getting quick access to information and as a starting point for research, but a child of any age should be taught that any encyclopedia — even one as wide-ranging as Wikipedia — should only be a starting point for one’s research, not the beginning and end of it. I made the same mistake when I was in elementary school — I didn’t get in trouble with it, but looking back there was a certain gap in my education that should have been plugged as soon as they started teaching us to do research.I like Wikipedia; I like it a lot. But to hear this coming from the founder — someone who ought to know better — is a little discouraging. Kids develop their habits early, and it’s easier to get them going in the right direction to begin with than to break them of bad habits later. (I once wrote the same thing in an Amazon review of Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Cooking for Kids. You should the flames I got for that.)

  2. Thanks for the comment. In my view, Wikipedia is neither a primary source, a substitute for a primary source, or a classic secondary source. A well done wikipedia article, well referenced, etc. is pretty much what a student researcher (at any level from middle school through grad school) should have in hand after some time (hours, a day) of preliminary investigation. A good idea of the topic, a good list of references, and so on.I thin we have to stop seeing wikipedia in relation to classic modalities of research and realize that it has a special, powerful place.Hey, I should blog this thought…

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