Sometimes when I’m working on a project, I wonder to my self, “Where would I start if it wasn’t for Wikipedia.” Wikipedia is a great tool and makes my life as well as many others lives easier. But how has Wikipedia changed how students go about research and learning? I’m not an expert, but I would like to share my experience with the site and what I have benefited and learned from many years of use.
My first introduction to Wikipedia was my freshman year of high school. At my high school, every student was issued a laptop and had access to the web without limits. I remember one of my friends walking into my computer science class carrying his laptop and saying “Look what I changed on Wikipedia!!! I put [Teacher’s Name] picture under dictator!!!” Everybody in the class was amazed that our English teachers picture was the main picture for the dictator article on Wikipedia. After a forty-five minute rampage of students editing articles and changing pictures, our school’s IP address was blocked from editing. The picture for dictator as well as some other major changes that we had made lasted on the site all of ten minutes. Some minor changes, like misspelling words lasted a couple of days, but overall, the rampage was deleted off of Wikipedia altogether.
This little story took place late in 2003 and as you can see, even then Wikipedia was on top of our little attack. For my most of my high school life, teachers would not let us use Wikipedia even to a point that it was blocked for about a week because of the abuse of the technology from the student body. But as Wikipedia progressed and expanded teachers slowly let the use of Wikipedia into the classroom.
Todays Wikipedia has even more official editors as well as more peer review editing. This is benefiting the site because the accuracy and the level of the content is getting better everyday. Wikipedia has established guidelines that guide the editing and who and who can’t edit articles. For high profile articles, only certain people can edit, but for smaller articles, almost anybody can edit articles.
Part of class this week was to find an article that I knew a lot about the subject matter. Then to search through it and either add or edit the article. I picked the article about the Dallas Stars. I noticed that the information about where their minor league team was located was rather vague. I edited the article so it more accurately described where the team was located. This isn’t a big change, but I enhanced the accuracy of the article just a little.
If everybody can just further make little parts on articles more accurate all the time, Wikipedia could end up just as well respected as book encyclopedias. If the community keeps this trend, the amount and accuracy on the site will be great. It will turn in to a great tool for future generations to use and to further add and change.
It’s neat that Wikipedia seems to be always progressing and that it contains fresh and new material. When you go to an article, you know you are getting the most up to date information about the subject matter.