The combination of prolificacy and inattention to accuracy that characterizes this process is highly suggestive of the modern pedagogic technique known as “journaling.” For decades, (following, we are probably meant to assume, some breakthrough research at a school of education somewhere) young students have been not merely encouraged but required to fill pages of their notebooks with writing. Not stories, nor essays, nor any other defined genre of writing; just writing. The writing is judged solely on bulk: So many pages are required per week or semester, but the writing on those pages need not be grammatical or even intelligible. Even the “talented and gifted” program at my own sons’ school employed journaling as a principal activity, merely raising the quota over that of standard classrooms. It may well be that the practice of journaling in the schools, along with the acceptance of “creative spelling” as a form of personal expression not to be repressed, underlies much of the success of Wikipedia. —Robert McHenry —The Faith-Based Encyclopedia (Tech Central Station)
I tell my students that they shouldn’t cite Wikipedia in their academic papers, but I find its coverage of certain cyberspace issues to be current and useful. Accurate? Not always. Free? Very.
I’ve also edited a few of those articles, and my Writing for the Internet students were required to start a new “topic” on Wikipedia and see what happens.
Wikipedia won’t and shouldn’t replace traditional sources of information, but rather than tell my students to stay away from such sources completely, I’d rather they develop the critical skills to use the digital resources that are available to them. Students should know how easy it is to alter a Wikipedia document, so they will understand how easy it would be to plant false information. And the majority opinion isn’t always right — history is full of scientific discoveries that were laughed at and silenced by the majority.