As discussed in class, the phenomena of Wikipedia.org, the online encyclopedia we use is being challenged as a viable source of information by many institutions. Wikipedia is the ninth most popular website used by internet users and has almost five million articles available. Need to know when Napoleon Bonaparte decided to embark the Napoleonic Wars? Or maybe you need the list of filmography for Anthony Hopkins. You can easily use Wikipedia to look these things up. Wikipedia’s layout allows the reader to read an aesthetically pleasing and easy to read, glorified summary on subjects such as important figures in history, music groups, and the synopsis of your favorite horror movie.
Wikipedia uses citations to verify its information and resources. Despite the somewhat ludicrous idea that just about anyone can edit a Wikipedia page, these claims are false. To edit a Wikipedia page you must sign up for a Wikipedia account, and then go through a semi-long process of actually citing your information and formatting it. These common editors are actually dubbed the “Wikipedians” by the site itself. In addition, Wikipedia has admins or moderators who patrol sites, to ensure the validity of certain claims written using guidelines. If a “random” person decides to edit a page, without citing their information, Wikipedia alerts readers by using a red question mark annotation above the claim. Even then, there are some pages that are actually locked; no one can edit these type of pages as they are under Wikipedia’s protection policy. Many instructors refuse to accept any information cited from Wikipedia, despite the fact that most pages have reputable sources sited at the bottom.
Middlebury College recently made a public statement about banning the use of Wikipedia, as many higher learning institutions are. After much debate and negative criticism, Middlebury College retracted its statement and proceeded to state that the college as a whole does not ban the use of Wikipedia, just certain professors. Students should be encouraged to edit Wikipedia pages in classrooms, as a way of collaboratively learning; fusing technology and education, not barred from using a site based on its editing procedure. Many innovators are investing in enhancing learning and education through technology, with sites like Wikipedia.¹
The reason why Wikipedia is so popular is because of its convenience. It is very accessible, and its fast. Instead of using a standard encyclopedia that is outdated, one can use Wikipedia to get the latest information on a particular subject. Using Wikipedia can also save you a trip to the local library, granted you have access to the internet. And lets not forget the main reason everyone uses it: it’s free information. The purpose of Wikipedia is to have a free encyclopedia that is constantly improving in its service and information.
I find that Wikipedia is one of the most useful sites available today. Its safe to say that if you use the internet, you’ve used Wikipedia one time or another. The future of technology and learning lies in the arms of sites like Wikipedia, who provide unlimited information to the public for free. The war on Wikipedia as some institutions seem to declare, has very little ammunition for a site that has already transcended the outdated Encyclopedia Britannica. Hopefully Wikipedia will be less criticized as the opponents of the site are more informed on the editing process.