Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wikipedia and education

Tonight as I was working on my Economics homework, I needed to look up a definition. As I've gotten back into the academic thought process, I decided I would look it up in the index of my text book. Before I was able to do that, I started IM'ing a friend of mine and while I was at my computer, I looked it up on Wikipedia.

Not surprisingly, Wikipedia had a page devoted to my topic. Surprisingly, it was a very simple definition and told me exactly what I needed to know - in an easier to understand way than my text book.

I'm not sure what this means for the future of my homework. I can find things faster online than in my text book and, in this case, a better, more applicable answer. This is my first time using Wikipedia for real research - sure I've poked around on there and read interesting pages, but this time I was looking for real and applicable information. And I found it.

I'm impressed, but at the same time new questions come up. How do I know that the article is accurate? I guess that is when I compare with my text book. And in the end that is even slower over all.

The web is having an impact on everything we do and this is just one way that web technology is disrupting education, an institution that goes back to the beginning of time.


Mark said...

As someone who's "on the other side of the desk" I also have reservations about mixing Wikipedia with academics. I've gotten some papers with rather alarming "facts" cited from the Wikipedia. That said, you're a much more critical reader than some students I've had and can probably discern whether or not what you're reading is garbage. I use it sometimes when I write my lectures, and it can certainly be a good resource for the quick answer like you were looking for. It seems like a good tool to add to the other ones we use for research. Just keep that textbook by your desk! :)

Beau said...

I've got a post half written about note taking that I'll be really interested in your opinion from "the other side of the desk."

I'll be cautious with Wikipedia, but I've also found it to be a good calculus reference too!