Wikipedia and Media Literacy

(As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I have long considered the American Federation of Teachers quarterly magazine, American Educator to be a credible and edifying periodical that includes useful research for teachers. Recently, it ran this excellent article on the problem of fake news in the United States. My school’s mindless ban on Wikipedia, I think, represents little more than an unwillingness to recognize the opportunities Wikipedia offers for students to learn how to evaluate evidence judiciously. In this short quote, the authors of the aforementioned article make the case for using Wikipedia for just that purpose.)

“You heard right: Wikipedia. Fact checkers’ first stop was often a site many educators tell students to avoid. What we should be doing instead is teaching students what fact checkers know about Wikipedia and helping them take advantage of the resources of the fifth-most trafficked site on the web.

Students should learn about Wikipedia’s standards of verifiability and how to harvest entries for links to reliable sources. They should investigate Wikipedia’s ‘Talk’ pages (the tab hiding in plain sight next to the ‘Article’ tab), which, on contentious issues like gun control, the status of Kashmir, waterboarding, or climate change are gold mines where students can see knowledge-making in action. And they should practice using Wikipedia as a resource for lateral reading. Fact checkers, short on time, often skipped the main article and headed straight to the references, clicking on a link to a more established venue. Why spend 15 minutes having students, armed with a checklist, evaluate a website on a tree octopus ( when a few seconds on Wikipedia shows it to be ‘an internet hoax created in 1998.’”

McGrew, Sarah, et al. “The Challenge That’s Bigger Than Fake News: Civic Reasoning in a Social Media Environment.” American Educator Fall 2017 (4-10). Print.

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