Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A wiki by any other name...

I dislocated my pinkie last week. I know that sounds kind of pathetic, but it really has a serious effect on one's ability to type. Particularly the letter p, the semi-colon, question mark, period, and any capital letters made by the left hand. I'm a pretty fast touch-typist, and this has slowed me down big time. I have gained a great appreciation for the benefits of being able to type as fast as I think, and also for the importance of the pinkie! O.K. enough complaining, on with the blog.

Seventh graders started a wiki project in science class this week. They are working in groups researching a genetic disorder and publishing their findings on a class wiki website. You can follow their progress here. This is a first for all of us, so we are all figuring this out as we go. So far so good. What I like about the wiki is there aren't many formatting options. Students have to focus on the content and can't spend all their time choosing fonts and colors.

Speaking of wikis, most people are only familiar with the wiki, Wikipedia, around which there is a lot of controversy about using it as a source. Here is a video titled "Why Wikipedia Sucks" that does a good job of summarizing that sentiment.



Personally, I am not an anti-Wikipedian. I believe, as with all web sources, all information found on the web is suspect. As researchers, we need to be diligent about using more than one source and checking the reliability of the sources we use. Chris Harris cited a great rule for research in his blog, infomancy:
One is none, and two is one. This rule comes from a variety of sources, including the maxim for flashlights in serious situations like caving. If you have one tool, then you effectively have none because of the source for failure. If you have two, then you can hopefully count on one, but one is none. This is why, among other very silly reasons, that I tend to have three flashlights on me at any given time. In the world of library research, the same is true. Having one source is as good as having none. I don’t care if the source is Britannica or Wikipedia, one source has no validity.
With more than one source to confirm the information you find, Wikipedia can be a great place to start. What do you think?
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