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Wikipedia as an Educational Tool

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Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia. At the moment, there are more than ten million articles in over 253 languages. Encyclopaedia Britannica only has 500,000, although it has a long history. Anyone with an Internet connection can add or edit articles on Wikipedia, so mistakes and poorly supported information appear. As a result, university professors generally don't let students use Wikipedia for term papers and essays, or at least, until now.

At the University of British Columbia, Jon Beasley-Murray permitted his students to write articles for the online encyclopedia instead of a term paper. One student said it was very difficult at first because anyone could watch. But she found the assignment more exciting and meaningful than a term paper. Another student updated his article 1,000 times. And a third student regularly stayed up all night to work on the assignment.

Beasley-Murray's class did quite well. Of the students who took up the assignment, three entries worked on by nine students made featured article status. Unfortunately, a few students had their work instantly deleted by other users. Overall, though, most agreed that it was a great learning experience.

Preview some of the lesson material:

Do you agree or disagree?:

  1. I often write for blogs and forums on the Internet.
  2. I would like to write an article or a blog on a topic I know very well.
  3. The Internet is my main source of news and information.
  4. There's a lot of interesting information on the Internet, but it's not good for school.
  5. The Internet will become an important teaching tool in the future.

True or False?: Guess (before the article) or answer (after the article) whether the sentence is true or false. If false, correct the sentence.

  1. Anyone with an Internet connection can write an article on Wikipedia.
  2. Wikipedia and Britannica have about the same number of articles.
  3. Students at universities can now use Wikipedia.
  4. Some students had their articles become featured on the encyclopedia.
  5. Some students from Beasley-Murray's class had their work deleted.

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. What do you know about Wikipedia? Do you use the site often?
  2. Would you ever consider (or have you considered) writing for Wikipedia? Why/not?
  3. Would you ever consider (or have you considered) writing a blog for others to read?
  4. Do you think Wikipedia is a useful tool for teaching? Why/not?
  5. What will education be like in the future?

Google Search: Type "Wikipedia" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.

Download the lesson:



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