So often we hear schools utter distaste towards students using Wikipedia for knowledge, yet we encourage them so often to collaborate and research information. Wikipedia is the largest source of collaborative knowledge available. It’s true that students should not rely on information from Wikipedia as the sole answer to their questions, or as being 100% accurate, but neither should any other page on the internet for that matter. All matter should be researched from multiple locations and be cited so that others can see exactly where that information came from. But once you’ve done all that research, what is to be done with it? If not shared with others, it’s not of much use. This is why Wikipedia is such a powerful tool in education, not just because it’s got a lot of information, but because people can work together to pull their knowledge and resources into a centralized location to help better the world.
In a college Writing class in 2008 I was asked to research and write an article on something that scared me. But there was a catch: The article had to be added to Wikipedia, therefore it couldn’t already exist. After deliberating for a while, I came to the idea of Lawn Gnomes, but that subject already existed, so I had to be more specific, and after searching around I learned about the Lawn Gnome Liberationists, a group of people who feel it’s their duty in life to find lawn gnomes and free them from captivity.
In this article I had to research the information, cite my sources, and present the material in an unbiased way, then in the end I needed to submit it to Wikipedia.
This project meets the requirements for Standard 3 by:
- Modeling effective use of digital tools to support research and learning
- Communicating a message effectively using digital tools
- Collaborating with community members (in this case, Wikipedia users) using digital tools
- Demonstrating the ability to transfer information into a new medium (from paper to Wiki)
Though I did not collaborate with others on the original article, since it was published it has received 203 revisions by 83 different people (As of 5/14/2014) scattered throughout the world. It is now referenced by 11 other Wikipedia pages, has been viewed over 130,000 times (averaging just under 2,000 views a month), and was even brought up for debate as to whether or not it should be removed from Wikipedia altogether. This project truly shows the power of collaboration and stepping outside of the normal education box to create a project that impacts society.
Most up to date version of article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_gnome_liberationists
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