A Wikipedia Assignment

Wikipedia goes to class

Wikipedia is reaching out to universities asking for student labor and assistance to flesh out entries. They’re willing to train professors and provide support to encourage this coordination.

At the MLA Clay Shirky addressed  and pointed out an frightening comparison between the number of hours of television that Americans watch each year (just those of us in the USA) and the number of hours to date that have been spent creating and editing the more than 18 million records in Wikipedia. Not surprisingly, the television hours is much greater.

It struck me as something that could be very interesting for health students. One of the projects I was recently discussing in a College of Dentistry meeting was a “What’s Current in Dentistry” and I wondered why it needed to be internal only, why couldn’t we turn the project outwardly facing, incorporating the research of the students into something that could be beneficial to a much larger audience?  Of course, there’s the obligatory gasp and shock that a professor might be suggesting that the students not only use Wikipedia but create with it.  Shock, horror, yawn. I think that might be a valuable part of the information evaluation process. If they are creating it, they will have a better sense of ownership and knowledge that there can be and often are mistakes on there.  There are mistakes in daily newspapers and in nearly every magazine and book I’ve ever read too, that doesn’t mean we eliminate them entirely. 

I mentioned the article and project in a College of Dentistry resources meeting and I may send it over to one of the curriculum people as an “isn’t this interesting.” We’re undergoing a major curriculum restructuring and that’s got lead at the moment. In time though, I think this could be something interesting to add in.

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