Wednesday, February 21, 2007

History Department Bans Wikipedia as a Reference


The History Department of Middlebury College, Vermont, banned Wikipedia, following an incident in which several students cited inaccurate information for an exam. The students' exams inaccurately reported that the Jesuits supported the Shimabara Rebellion in 17th century Japan based on information found in Wikipedia. However, any Jesuits in Japan at the time were in hiding and not in a position to support a rebellion.

When the History Department faculty asked students why they used Wikipedia, they claimed their high school teachers condoned the practice. As a result of a series of incidents in which students used inaccurate information found in Wikipedia, the department enacted the ban.

The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has publicly stated that students should not cite Wikipedia, or any other general encyclopedia, including Encyclopedia Britainnica. One objection to Wikipedia is the collaborative nature by which articles are composed and the lack of credentials of the authors. As a wiki, just about anyone can enter and edit an entry.

To teach students how to create wikis, some college professors have students author articles for Wikipedia. At Oberlin College, students edited Wikipedia entries for a Middle East and an Ancient Rome course. At Columbia University, graduate students created a bibliograpy project on Japan critiquing library references, newspaper articles, and books, posting the project on Wikipedia.

Whereas professors find fault with citing Wikipedia as a reference, they do not hestitate to have their students author on the site, claiming the practice helps develop consice writing skills. Students posting to the site claim their ability to author and edit entried on the site has contributed to their ambivalence about the veracity of information found on the site. Although steps are taken to monitor submissions, vandalism of the site occurs. The error regarding the Shimabara Rebellion persisted on the site even following publicity about the error.

Do you believe schools should ban Wikipedia as a source students cite in papers?

Information for this posting was gathered from a The New York Times, Feb. 21, 2007, article, found on p. B8, entitled "A History Department Bans Citing Wikipedia As a Research Source," author by Noam Cohen.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree that students should not use Wikipedia as a reference. Not all information on it is accurate.
Students need to be aware of whether or not their sources are credable.
~Sarah

Anonymous said...

It seems that technology is always ahead of the regulations that may follow. The internet is so vast and such unchartered territory that often times we need to recover after the fact.

Still students should always be aware of quoting a source Internet or otherwise. Many sources may represent slants in the views they are presenting. Students should also be critical readers. Jeanne

Anonymous said...

I find this blog to be very interesting due to the fact, in public school law we have been discussing books getting pulled from the shelf at libraries. Parents were becoming discouraged with the selection of books, so teachers and librians are taking books off the shelf.
At the same time we shouldnt have to pull information away from any source, we need to teach students to look for credable sources all the time. There is a lot of information out there but not all of it is accurate.
Angela

Sandy said...

About two years ago there was a news story about a man who had worked for Bobby Kennedy in the U.S. Attorney General's office. Apparently there was a false biographical entry in Wikipedia claiming that this man was part of the conspiracy to assassinate RFK. This man's son found the entry, and it took Wikipedia three months to remove the false information. In the meantime, this info appeared on answers.com and one other source that borrows heavily from Wikipedia. It's frightening to consider the amount of blatantly false information that must be out in cyberspace. Needless to say, I absolutely refuse to allow my high school students to use Wikipedia, or any online encyclopedia, as a source for research. Encyclopedias in general should only be a starting point for background information.

Stacey B said...

I believe students should only use Wikipedia if they can provide a credible reference to supply the same information. The teacher would give the students references they could cite to double check information. Wikipedia should not have people posting information and having the capability of editing it whenever they want to. Too many students in school don't know some websites don't provide information that is credible. As a grad student and soon to be teacher, it is very frustrating to have to make sure the cite is credible to give correct information on papers or projects. The internet is a great place for information, but it is also capable of giving false information that looks professional.

Anonymous said...

Prior to using online encyclopedias, students need to be aware of the sources and whether or not they are credible. I think teachers should be aware of the online sites that may be questionable in regards to correct information and let the students know to stay away from these sites. If a student is to use this type of technology as a source, they need to be responsible to cross-reference the information to check for credibility. If the sources are not matching up then they should consider not using the online information.

Jill

Anonymous said...

I believe that Wikipedia should be available to students. They need to be taught that all the information found on the computer might not be credible. They also need to learn to check the resources that they are using to see if they are accurate. If you ban this website, there will probably be another one that students will try to use. I think it is important to teach the students how to conduct research so problems don't arrise. ~Erin

Anonymous said...

Personally, I found this article to be very interesting because I as an undergraduate I referenced information from Wikipedia not realizing the type of website that it was. Fortunately, I found out that the information cited on the website was inaccurate and quickly found alternative sources. As an educator, I don't think online encyclopedias should be banned from schools. Rather, teachers should teach students how to conduct accurate research and present them with strategies that will help them identify whether or not their sources are creditable. If I had been taught how to identify creditable sources at a younger age I would have been able to recognize immediately that the information presented in Wikipedia isn’t accurate and in the end it would have saved me a lot of time.
Lauren

Anonymous said...

Personally, I found this article to be very interesting because I as an undergraduate I referenced information from Wikipedia not realizing the type of website that it was. Fortunately, I found out that the information cited on the website was inaccurate and quickly found alternative sources. As an educator, I don't think online encyclopedias should be banned from schools. Rather, teachers should teach students how to conduct accurate research and present them with strategies that will help them identify whether or not their sources are creditable. If I had been taught how to identify creditable sources at a younger age I would have been able to recognize immediately that the information presented in Wikipedia isn’t accurate and in the end it would have saved me a lot of time.
Lauren

Megan Pilch said...

I think that Wikipedia is not a reliable source of information. If anyone can post information on this site, it is not credible and may not be accurate. Many of my professors have deterred the use of Wikipedia for that very reason. Banning the site may be necessary for academic purposes. I would not use Wikipedia as a source after the numerous warnings I've had about the content of the site.

Bryan said...

Good for The History Department of Middlebury College! Wikipedia is an excellent source of basic information;however, information that can not be verified is useless in any academic setting. There needs to be some kind of accountability when posting information, especially when that information is inaccuarte as it was in this case. As part of the conceptual frameworks in teaching History, it states that as a result of learning History students should be able to expose bias and bogus information. Allowing students to utilize information that is not verified and cannot be verified does a grave injustice not only to the student but to the educational system as well. As a teacher I would never allow a student to use Wikipedia as a viable source of information; however, I would encourage students to use wikipedia as it does provide hyperlinks to other sites that may be more credible then the article in wikipedia itself. Wikipedia can be a useful tool when used correctly, just as a hammer is a useful tool when as it was intended.

Christina M said...

I agree with this college with banning Wikipedia as a source. Anyone can go on to it and edit or change information making it inaccurate. As a student in college I would be pretty disapointed if I researched a topic using wikipedia and then went on to write a paper on it. If information that I found out was on Wikipedia I would not want to go through the trouble of rewriting a paper or if I did not catch the error it might be too late when a professor does and the result would be getting a bad grade. By banning the website the college is saving the student alot of time and aggravation if they were to site someting that was inaccurate from the site.

I do like how the college is having students go on the site and edit information if it is incorret. I think this is a great excercise and will help students realize how inacurrate some of the information can be.

Jacquelyne B. said...

I have seen a lot of students try to use Wikipedia as a source for college research papers. I tell my tutees that it can be a good starting point in the research process. I encourage students to explore the links at the end of the article to find the sources that were used to write the article. It can be a slippery slope if students rely on false information for a paper.

Daniel Hoffmann said...

I love Khan Academy's educational video.

Steve Wilshare said...

Banning Wikipedia is just ridiculous! Let's ban every education platform out there! Or paraphrasing services! That's crazy and makes me so mad..

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