Language, Literacy, Teaching, Technology

A New Era in Research: Embracing Wikipedia…RIP Encyclopedia Britannica Print Edition

Wikipedia image courtesy of Creative-Commons wiki-logo

Encyclopedia Britannica 11th Ed

By Matt, miyagisan on Flickr, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic The photo was taken on July 18, 2009 using a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi.

Infographics- we all love them!  Drool…infographic of “Wikipedia, Redefining Research”.  I’m a research nerd. Ask my husband! Being that I’m a research nerd and that infographics provide visual representations of research, Jenica from Open Site garnered my attention yesterday when she sent me this infographic to see if I would share it with my readers. After viewing the infographic, I have decided that I definitely need to share it and share a bit of my personal experience that relates to it. As an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, who teaches writing classes to college-age students, this infographic really strikes my attention.

The infographic below compares the impact Wikipedia has had on research, how Wikipedia is becoming more accepted as a reference tool by high school teachers and universities, and how the growth of Wikipedia has caused the demise of Encyclopedia Britannica‘s printed editions after 244 years. The web page that Open Site has featured this infographic on states, “Wikipedia provides a wealth of information with over 26 billion pages of content”. Amazing!  My students would love this infographic; they love Wikipedia. I have told them it is okay to use it as a source as long as they use the information accurately and site the source correctly.

I remember when I first became a teacher in 2001, Wikipedia was a baby, new to the internet. During professional development training and our new teacher induction program, we were told not to allow our students to use Wikipedia as a research source because it was not academia-driven and was inaccurate. We were told that anyone could upload and edit anything on Wikipedia.  And, it was opinion-driven instead of accurately research-driven, such as encyclopedias were.  As a new teacher, following direction of my teacher mentors, I did not allow my students to use Wikipedia for research.  Times have changed!  Back then, I believe educators were scared and uneducated about the GOOD of Wikipedia.

I’m a research nerd, so although I did not originally let my students use Wikipedia for research, I did use it to educate myself for pleasure reading.  As a child, I was never into reading Encyclopedia Britannica like my husband and my brother were.  Thinking back, I remember the Encyclopedia Britannica commercials I saw as a child, how intriguing they made the encyclopedias look. I was one of those children who were captivated by the commercials, but when I actually opened the encyclopedia, I was bored. I envied my brother who loved to read them for fun. As, an adult once I met my husband, I too looked at him and jokingly said, “Oh, you were one of THOSE kids, like my brother was.”  I was joking but serious.  Truth is, I wanted to be one of THOSE kids, but the type and print in the encyclopedias just turned me off.  I was an inward research nerd that was waiting to be set free.

As a young adult, Wikipedia unleashed my inward research “nerd-ness”. Yes, I opened my computer, signed onto the internet, clicked on the search window, typed in and began to read…read….and read. Learning was at my fingertips, at the click of my mouse, at my own time and own pace. Anything I wanted to research and learn about as a new teacher, I did. Anything I ever wanted to know, like the beginning of Australia becoming a country, I searched and read. (That is true, I really do remember searching that). Wikipedia allowed me to read about linguistics, English dialects, what has influenced the various American English dialects and more. Dialects were broken down into regions and I could click on links that would teach me more. I remember thinking, “Why were my brother and husband so intrigued and able to read Encyclopedia Britannica, yet I wasn’t, even though I wanted to?”  I had curiosity, but just found it boring. Yet, Wikipedia captivated me, engaged me and taught me.  It was my muse.  How could this be? Truth is, I am a very visual and tactile learner, so what Wikipedia did for me, what Encyclopedia Britannica could not.  My curiosity in Wikipedia actually also taught me better  computer skills. Before reading Wikipedia and interacting regularly with it, I stunk at using computers. I was one of THOSE unlucky people who TECH was AGAINST!  Well, supposedly, as I thought back then!

So, as the story goes, since Wikipedia taught me so much, I began to change my mind about its lack of usefulness towards research. To top it off, I began to work on my masters degree and Wikipedia became very useful during that time in my life. Also, influencing me was the interacting with other educators who began to accept Wikipedia as a research tool. All of this combined began to encourage me to reconsider my thinking and to eventually allow my students to begin to use it. I remember thinking, if I don’t allow them to use Wikipedia, then I would be a hypocrite.  I could not allow myself to use it, yet not allow my students to use it. I could not do this and devalue my integrity and being. My conscious would get to me if I did this. Staying true to oneself is one of the mottos I live by, so I openly embraced Wikipedia use by my students.

I am, for the most part, not surprised by the statistics cited on this infographic. The statistics compare to my experience with Wikipedia; the change in my thinking over the years. It has allowed this former research nerd want-a-be to unleash into research-driven career paths. My curiosity for knowledge by using research on Wikipedia actually has helped me learn valuable tools that I apply toward my work production and ethics. All of this has sprung my career path towards dreams that I thought were years away. I now do research and apply research for my job. I even am a research junkie here on my blog at times. (If you view some of my more encyclopedia-like blog posts, you’ll see what I mean. I don’t just blog even though I love blogging.  I want my blog to be a resource and knowledge community. I think that is what it has become.)  Jenica did catch my attention with sharing this infographic, which has led to the inspiration for this post.

I will forever miss the Encyclopedia Britannica commercials, RIP (Rest in Peace)! Welcome to the world of academia, Wikipedia. What are your thought about Wikipedia, its direction and the loss of Encyclopedia Britannica’s print editions?



About adaptivelearnin

I am an educational professional who is passionate about needs analysis and materials creation to enhance student learning of all ages. I hope the content I share here will be of value to you in some way. Opinions are my own and are not those of my employer. Join me at my session for the 2013 TESOL International Conference, "ESL Instruction: Developing Your Skills to Become a Master Conductor", March 21 10:00 AM in room C144. My presentation focuses on listening, speaking and pronunciation music teaching techniques incorporated with ESL teaching. This is not your typical music/ESL presentation with chants and songs. Be prepared to use your vocal chords, diaphragm, lungs, mouth muscles, and arms like you have never used before in pronunciation, speaking and language instruction. Learn how to use music conducting skills in the language classroom to better facilitate language acquisition. Learn how to use music performance skills (vocal and instrumental) to better facilitate language learning. Be prepared to laugh and have fun. I look forward to meeting you and working with you.

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