The Upside Downs of Wikipedia in the Classroom

The controversy about using Wikipedia as a source and the debate about whether this is a reliable source of information seems to have calmed down over the last few years–in Norway and probably most other places as well. Instead of banning Wikipedia, most teachers nowadays, I believe it is fair to say, encourage critical thinking and judging sources, whether these sources are online or offline. (Please correct me if I am wrong.)

The question I would like to address in this post, however, is whether teaching the students how to make proper use of information on Wikipedia is the natural end station, or whether we as teachers should prop ourselves up to go further. Is time ripe for looking seriously at the upside downs of Wikipedia in the classroom?

In his book Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and BeyondAxel Bruns details the recent (and ongoing) transition in human web-based culture from usage to produsage, the idea being that in a wiki like Wikipedia, and in other web applications, anyone can make the choice to take part in the collaborative process of adding, revising and improving content. (For a short introduction, see the produsage website.)

In this environment, what does it really mean to ‘involve digital literacy in teaching’? (Cf. the subtitle of my blog.) For my part, I have decided to use Twitter, blogging, wikis and even Wikipedia editing in class, in the sense that I will teach the students how to do this and have them use such channels or tools in their projects and in text production and publishing.

In order to be able to do this, I have to master those applications myself, obviously. Thus, I am now embarking on a journey during which I hope to become more digitally literate and able to meet the challenges of making what happens in the classroom more relevant for the student who wants to learn how to use the web for something meaningful.

My goals in doing this are quite ambitious:

  • Create better learning results in my students
  • Work more efficiently and thus save time (that can be wisely reinvested)

Along the way, I will share information that might be useful and helpful for those who choose to follow this blog, including classroom assignments. And who knows, maybe most of us will eventually turn the use of Wikipedia upside down in the classroom from time to time?


2 responses to this post.

  1. I agree this is a very important issue. Students are massive users of Wikipedia but know relatively little of how it is created and maintained. In my opinion, a good way to teach media literacy (or whatever you want to call it) is to bring Wikipedia actively into the classrooms – by having students write and edit Wikipedia articles themselves. I’ve tried it out, and it works:


  2. Thank you for your comment and the link. And I must say, I look forward to your workshop next week!


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