Wikipedia has certainly altered the world in the last few years. It seems people have a love / hate relationship with the upstart encyclopedia. I'm not going to try to change anyone's mind, but to point to a few sites that contribute to the discussion and then share an activity.
Background & Reading
- Two great articles: from The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker.
- The hullaballoo fom Nature magazine.com: Internet encyclopaedias go head to head, including the list of the peer-reviewed encyclopedia entries revealing 162 and 123 flaws in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively.
- Some fun - Colbert has a go at “Wikiality” and Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence from The Onion
Class Activity for Middle - High School
Of course everyone knows about the main Wikipedia site. It's the one that always comes up in Google when you search for just about anything these days. Most people also know that Wikipedia is translated into heaps of different languages (see the bottom of this page).
What a lot of people don't know about is the Simple English Wikipedia. Designed for people with different needs: students, children, and adults with learning difficulties or of limited English ability. Take a look at some sample topics with links to both the regular Wikipedia and the same topic in the Simple English version:
- Steve Irwin in Wikipedia & in the Simple English Wikipedia
- Thanksgiving in Wikipedia & in the Simple English Wikipedia
- Culture in Wikipedia & in the Simple English Wikipedia
- When studying a topic, either model or have students compare the "en" and "simple" pages. This is a good way to represent the range of learning possible on the topic. Also, reading the Simple version can help students set up their cognitive schema, to see the "big picture" of the subject, before getting into the details.
- The real problem - as I see it- with Wikipedia is that students and schools largely see it as a source to learn from, not a knowledgebase to add to. How about having your students contribute to the Simple English Wikipedia? Simplifying a complex topic can be a good exercise. Especially when trying to stick to the Basic English. Why not give it a go?