National Writing Project

Wikipedia: Friend, Not Foe

By: W. Scott Smoot, Darren Crovitz
Date: January 2009

Summary: Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project teacher-consultants Darren Crovitz and W. Scott Smoot teach students to approach Wikipedia not as a source of truth but as a springboard for inquiry. In this article, they describe Wikipedia-based lessons that develop this approach.

 

Excerpt from Article

What makes Wikipedia seem so dangerous to some teachers—its inherent malleability—is also what makes the site a dynamic and authentic demonstration of the research process itself. Granted, if students use Wikipedia as just another reference source (or their only source), then they will get no more from it (and possibly less) than a traditional encyclopedia in the school's library. But if they can learn about how entries on the site change and how each change is debated in arguments open to anyone's inspection, then Wikipedia can demonstrate to students the process, importance, and excitement of real scholarship. Here is an authentic demonstration that knowledge isn't settled, that there are always more questions to ask and always differing perspectives on the answers. Students can see that opinions and facts aren't always easily differentiated and that uncontested facts can be used to support opposing conclusions. And they can learn that no piece of knowledge can be understood separate from its connections to other topics in a multifaceted web that, on Wikipedia, is accessible at the click of a mouse.

About the Authors Darren Crovitz teaches in the English education program at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. W. Scott Smoot teaches middle school history at The Walker School in suburban Atlanta. He earned his Masters in Professional Writing at Kennesaw State University in 2000, where he joined the National Writing Project as a Teacher Consultant.

Copyright © 2009 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Posted with permission.
Crovitz, Darren, and W. Scott Smoot. 2009. "Wikipedia: Friend, Not Foe." In English Journal 98 (3): 91–97 . Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English.

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