Wikipedia is particularly important in relation to knowledge networks. It is a microcosm of a knowledge network, albeit on a large scale.

The Great Book of Knowledge, Part 1, podcast (Paul Kennedy, Ideas, CBC Canada) is indeed a fascinating discussion about Wikipedia from varied perspectives. The statements from the various people interviewed that really resonated with me were:

  • It is only 10 years old
  • A cultural force to be reckoned with.
  • Sum of all knowledge is the sum of all us. We all know something.
  • People as gatherers of information.
  • Understanding how it is made is just as important as the content
  • A dynamic medium and a knowledge commons
  • But someone has checked it out. Check out history tab.
  • The system forces you to talk to people from people of different perspectives.
  • You cannot escape your time and place – question of reliable sources – products of time and place they were created – still draws on the cultural heritage around us – we don’t know everything – question of authority – who gets to say –
  • Information is not neutral. It has social effects. It is shaped by people.

Wikipedia is an important learning tool. I do find myself frustrated when teachers ‘off the cuff’ tell their students it is not a website to be trusted, not to use it and while I have not as yet incorporated it specifically within my own information literacy sessions, it is a source that I would like to use in greater depth for the upper elementary, to show the breadth and nature of Wikipedia, and accompanying issues of perspective, bias, citations etc.

I really enjoyed reading the set reading by Carrington and Robinson (2009) as it situated Wikipedia within its historical context. Wikipedia continues in the tradition of the first encyclopedia – “as much a political act as a literary one and reflected new patterns of thought and participation along with available technologies” (2009, p.69). It is furthermore situated within what Jenkins et al (2006) (as cited in Carrington & Robinson, 2009, p. 76) calls the ‘hidden curriculum’ of effective participation. As Carrington & Robinson (2009, p. 68) (in our course readings) note:

…learning to be literate – to participate in contemporary culture in ways that are effective – requires practices with technologies and text that are qualitatively different than those attached to print literacy and the moral economies that surrounded it.

  However, I think it is most beneficial for secondary, and is actually a text that was (is?)  part of the NSW Higher School Certificate Standard English: Society and Text – The Global Village.

In this elective students explore a variety of texts that deal with the ways in which individuals and communities experience and live in a global context. Students consider the positive and negative aspects of the global village and the consequences of these on attitudes, values and beliefs. Students also consider the role and uses of media and technology within the global village and different attitudes people may have towards them. Students respond to and compose a range of texts to investigate how and in what ways living in a global village may influence the ways we communicate, engage and interact with each other.

When undertaking a single subject course in CSU  Secondary English in 2012, one of my major assignments was based on Wikipedia:

For anyone interested, I still have the lesson plans that I developed as part of the unit, which I am happy to share – perhaps my first move at using creative commons myself!