To use, or to not use… that is the question

If there is one thing I have learned from any of my classes growing up, it was to never ever use Wikipedia for anything school related.

And to be honest, I guess I don’t really understand why. I think Wikipedia is a great source, at least to start with.

The website provides people with the basic information about almost anything or anyone. I have heard from numerous people how easy it is to use and that the layout is extremely convenient.

Yeah, yeah…I realize anyone can edit a page to make it say anything they want, and I suppose that is a valid concern for teachers.

However, in the last few years Wikipedia has updated the way things are run. Now-a-days, there are people who work specifically for Wikipedia who check all of the updates that users add on each page, meaning anything inappropriate that is posted will stay up for a few days, tops.

Obviously, there is the chance a student will read and take to heart whatever the 23-year-old cat-lover posted on the ‘cat page,’ but if that’s the case, shouldn’t it come back on the student?

Many of the pages on Wikipedia are in some way protected by the administrators. This type of system makes editing a page much more difficult than it used to be.

There is an option on the top of every Wikipedia page that says “View History.”

If that button is clicked, users are able to see every edit that has ever occurred on that page. I mean, I don’t think it could be any easier to look at the changes that have been made and determine if they are absolutely ridiculous.

Another reason I think Wikipedia could be a great source, if used properly, is the list of references that are posted on each page. You can clearly tell if an article is accurate based on the sources and references listed.

A lot of the references are posted in hyperlinks, allowing the user to simply click on the link and be taken to that page. Hopefully then, a person can determine whether the information is coming from a credible source.

Either way Wikipedia, if nothing else, is a great starting point. Again, the references listed can provide a student, or user, with websites that provide accurate information and ones that most teachers don’t completely despise.

If a student knows very little about a topic, the basics can be read in easy-to-understand phrasing. At that point, it would be smart to double check the information learned with other sources and websites.

Like I said above, Wikipedia can be a great source if used correctly. Make sure to double check the information you’re reading. I would not advise using it as the only source, or citing it in your English class.