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Common Craft on Wikipedia

I just viewed Common Craft’s new video, Wikipedia Explained, and I believe it may be the perfect starting point for my 9th graders’ research intro next school year.

Here’s the Common Craft summary:

Wikipedia is an amazing resource, but it’s not always clear what helps to ensure that the articles are factual and high quality. This video discusses wiki technology and the policies that make Wikipedia work. We worked with the Wikimedia Foundation to ensure that it reflects Wikipedia’s values and practices. It teaches:

  • Why an online encyclopedia is needed
  • The basics of editing a wiki website
  • How volunteers work to ensure quality
  • The two big rules that govern every article

By the way, those two rules are:

  • verifiability–reputable sources must be cited
  • neutral point of view–entries should present all major points of view without endorsing one over the others

This is a clear and fair presentation of Wikipedia’s goals and I learned a lot more about what happens under the reference tool’s mighty hood.

What the little film doesn’t do, it shouldn’t do.

And that is, have those contextual conversations we as educators must have in our own classrooms and libraries–conversations about all sources and the new source buckets they fit in, and how they compare for any particular information task.

Wikipedia and YouTube, and for my kids Mashpedia, are great launching points.

And after they launch, we need to propel them further.

Understanding that it is all contextual, learners must begin to ask questions about their research chops relating to source choice:

When is Wikipedia the very best source for a project or an information need?

When would learners be better off starting with a database, or choosing a book–e or otherwise, a blog post or tweet (which may function as a primary source), a refereed journal article, a magazine article, a newspaper article or post, a film?

What are the best search tool options? For instance, see our search tool page, pathfinders, databases. How might I use Google more powerfully? (See our Google Search Poster)

What does balanced research look like in the given research context?

And sources would your audience (or your instructor) expect?

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Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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