In case you need a reminder about the glacial pace of innovation in #highered, here’s a news story that some professors are learning to use Wikipedia.
Wait, what? This article should have appeared in 2006.
Indeed, it is wonderful to read about enlightened faculty, such as Duke’s Susan Alberts, a biology professor who told Washington Post reporter @caitlindewey: “It’s so much better than a term paper, from a student’s perspective…this way, when students write something, someone besides their teacher actually reads it.”
What a great idea: getting students to add to publicly-available knowledge! I’m all for it! In fact, that’s my gripe. I’ve been for it since Wikipedia became a major factor in our daily lives MORE THAN TEN YEARS AGO, as article after article demonstrated its authenticity and importance as a way to start research, whether you are an undergraduate or a lifelong learner. And now? “According to a May 2016 Knight Foundation survey on mobile-phone use, Wikipedia is a more significant destination for news and information, in terms of monthly audience reach, than CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today and BuzzFeed.
I use Wikipedia all the time. And I admire it, despite being a library hound, someone who is never happier than when I am in front of a dusty, unexplored archive with a useless finding aid. Primary sources R us: I get it.
But why so slow in universities, the place where knowledge entrepreneurs roam? How much is concern for intellectual property, plagiarism, good research habits, and how much is reliance on peer-reviewed, hierarchical sources of knowledge — because that’s just how it’s always been done?
That said, I do know Wikipedia at its worst. I wrote my second book on Josephine Marcus Earp, LADY AT THE OK CORRAL. She was the Jewish common-life wife of Wyatt Earp, and they lived together for nearly 50 years, from Tombstone to Alaska and Hollywood. Her Wikipedia entry is awful. Factually incorrect. Badly written. I refuse to link to it here. This does drive me crazy….but I admit, I gave up on editing it and I still avoid doing so. Wikipedia is still too hard to use. However, I realize that I should take my own advice and make this my next writing project.
On a brighter note, this article sent me back to the one I wrote in 2006,Adventures in the Land of Wikipedia, and to my first and only Wikipedia entry. Ala Gertner was a heroine of the only armed uprising at Auschwitz. I probably know more her than anyone else does, despite lacking a PhD in history or Holocaust studies. (Too boastful? If you know more about Ala Gertner, please write to me!)
Think Wikipedia could be better? Write for it!