More on Wikis and WIkipedia

David Parry bio photo By David Parry

Inside Higher Ed has a piece on educators who are using wikis in class. For the most part the article simply rehashes the “Wikipedia is good, Wikipedia is bad” argument, but this time with a pro-wikipedia spin. The article discusses several instructors who use Wikipedia in their classes, either as source material or editing Wikipedia as an assignment. The problem with the article is that it does little to separate out the idea of a wiki, from Wikipedia. To be sure Wikipedia is the most prominent example of a wiki, but wikis are used in various contexts above and beyond authoring encyclopedia articles (academic job wiki anyone?). In fairness the article mention other wikis at the end of the article, like Scholarpedia and Citizendium. The problem here is that this limits the argument to a “wikis as legitimate encyclopedia” argument. Never mind that wikis are used in a variety of other contexts, or that Wikipedia has already passed the “is it accurate test,” this just plays into the red herring argument of whether or not students should use Wikipedia as a source for their papers (this is a false criteria, one shouldn’t use Wikipedia not because it is a wiki but because it is a secondary source). The more important issue here is that wikis constitute a different type of writing and archive structure, one which students need to learn to read and write in . . . oh well at least several of those who commented on the article picked up on this. Maybe the debate is shifting.