Monday, March 2, 2015

Reflections on Wikipedia and Youtube

First, I want to comment on how you would determine what is reliable information on Wikipedia and what is not. I usually look at the references. There is usually a a link you click on to take you to the reference. You can then click on the reference and determine if it is reputable. When you are linking to someone's blog, that is much different than looking at a peer reviewed article. Even magazines and the news do this with bias and manipulate facts to get people to watch.  "See how you can avoid dying with this one simple trick, watch at 6...."
That being said, I think since news has become so mainstream on the internet, new sources are becoming too lazy, or too eager, to get the story out first without checking sources. I have read about this too often over the past two years. Writers creating fictional human interest stories, CNN (generally thought to be a reputable source) reporting facts that end up not being 100% factual...You have to consider what the source is, who the author(s) is, the organization and whether they have some sort of agenda. Too often a single incident becomes "a nationwide epidemic".
I would not tell my students that wikipedia is bad, but I have told them to be careful of using wikipedia as a sole reference. I tell them to double check and make sure that the facts are in another reputable source, for example check the reference. I tell them anyone can post anything on the internet. They do believe everything they read on the internet is true, "but I saw it on the internet" which becomes a whole new conversation about Youtube and evidence of ghosts and UFO's.
I hear often "yes, it's true, I saw the ghost, UFO, lights, werewolf etc. on Youtube. There is evidence." Then I have to have to explain about editing tools and software and how anyone can create a video or picture to show anything they want. The Lochness monster has been proven fake by the man who did it yet they believe it because The History channel is has shows on it's schedule that are not true but appear to be with a fine print disclaimer. They had a similar show on mermaids. I spent way too much time explaining that the mermaid show was not real. :But it was on the History Channel!"  It's very difficult to make them understand this. Yet,  I give them a National Geographic and they bring it to me and ask if it's true.
I do think telling students Wikipedia is bad would taint the experience, and not always necessarily true. There are some very valid resources and unbiased information there. One of the reasons I like to also check Wikipedia is the seemingly lack of bias. That's why I would give them the facts, the warnings and tell them to  validate with another reputable source. I think you would need to give them a list of reputable vs. non-reputable sources as well as a discussion educating them on cross referencing.


  1. I think it is so important to make sure all of our students dig all sources of information to find where there might be bias. News sources are often owned by corporations that have other interests. So we need to teach students to look at all information with a critical eye.

    1. I have found that many of the students I have taught do believe all information on the Internet to be the truth. As educators it is our role to help them learn to be discerning about what they read and the resources they are gathering. Deters et al, 2010, point out that students surveyed found that wikis were helpful to engage students and improve communication. I think it is important that educators provide examples of wikis that are good and bad. Show examples of what makes a wiki a good resource and why. Providing our students with models establish a strong foundation and allows them the confidence to create a wiki of their own. Who knows perhaps one of our future students will design a new platform similar to a wiki only better.

  2. Karen,
    I understand what you are saying and what I would like to add to your posting is that
    we live in a world where the truth or source is gray. I have read peer reviews and scholar materials where it was later identified as not true, tainted, not accepted as reputable evidence, etc. The news media is so dramatic about building ratings that they will report stories hoping the truth don't backlash, again we have all experience this too. Looking at reliable sources on Wikipedia, I too do not allow my students to use it as a primary source, but they can read it and gain ideas from Wikipedia. What I would like for my students to learn from Wikipedia is that they can create a meaningful and reliable that will provide information for themselves or others. As a internet source, I realize that Wikipedia traced, I feel this is a important asset students need to be informed about. As stated by Deters, when Wikis are used in instruction, it can be used to encourage collaboration among students by allowing them to read and edit each other's work. With this concept in mind, I believe we can help alter the practice of publishing negative or incomplete information.

  3. Just a head's up, Karen, about the .com/edu/org issue, which is not as reliable as it was once thought. Remember, .orgs are non-profits, so both Planned Parenthood and Right-to-Life have .org domains. Regardless of your views, you could probably argue that neither is without bias and may portray information under the guise of that bias. Political Action Committees can also form under a .org domain. Enough said.

    Further, go check out It's owned by Stormfront, a white supremacist group. It's rather shocking.

    Finally, consider Arthur Butz, a professor from Northwestern. He is a mechanical engineering prof who runs a Holocaust denial site on his domain, which ends in .edu.